Some teachers don’t pay attention to their school’s health insurance benefits until they get sick, their retirement package until they are preparing to retire, and, in my case, their maternity leave policy until they are pregnant with their first baby.
Fortunately for me, I work at a public charter school that values educators as people and not just employees.
Having worked 11 years in education, I am currently an Assistant Principal at Digital Pioneers Academy. As someone who loves being on her feet, I always assumed I would be one of those active moms when I had a newborn. I anticipated filling my days with mommy and me classes, lunches with other new moms, and browsing my library of parenting books.
Instead, I spent my maternity leave - all 3 months of it - blissfully laying with Chloe on the couch.
And it was glorious.
Two days before Chloe was born, Mashea said “Ok, it’s time for you to go home.” I thought I’d have a week of rest and nesting, but Chloe had other plans. In the delirium that is new motherhood, she is smiley and sweet and (always) alert and awake. I can’t imagine life without her.
While the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guarantees 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave, we are fortunate to live in a city that provides 8 weeks of paid leave, albeit not at 100% pay. DPA goes well beyond the minimum requirements of federal and city law and offers 12-weeks of fully paid maternity leave.
DPA’s excellent benefits aren’t just words in an employee handbook; they are a promise, a statement of values, and, most importantly, a commitment to support you fully so that you can, in turn, fully support your family and your students.
Do you know how many phone calls I received in the 3 months away from the school?
I even occasionally sent emails or texts because after more than a decade of teaching, I couldn’t quite unplug. And no one on the leadership team ever responded. They were communicating something very loud to me in that silence.
“Focus on Chloe.”
“Don’t think about work.”
“We support you.”
When I was ready to return to work after my leave, DPA helped me slowly transition back to the rhythm of school life. Of course, there’s really no such thing as a routine with a four-month-old child. Turns out daycare is filled with caring teachers, curious babies….and lots of germs!
When I get that inevitable “come get your kid because she’s sick” call, I know that my DPA leadership colleagues will pick up my slack.
That’s just the culture here. When a classroom teacher gets that call, the same thing happens. Someone will cover the class. Sometimes it’s me. The kindness circle comes back around.
It’s important for prospective teachers to look at paid maternity and paternity leave policies at schools. At the very least, all new parents deserve paid leave and a place to pump.
What makes DPA special is the students and culture. But this culture starts at the top. Having a boss that cares about you as a person creates a school that is not only student centered, but one that I want to come back to every day.