Yesterday marked my official return to teaching! Though I have taught while pregnant back in April/May (where there were some dangerous episodes of dashing out to puke and fainting in the teachers’ bathroom), this was the first time it’s been… well… obvious that I am expecting. I wasn’t so nervous about what the students would say as much as how I would be viewed by the other teachers. I was a bit of a mess. I worried a little that I would look more like a volunteer mom than a young professional with a Bachelor’s degree and hours of teaching/lesson planning under the wing. I worried that I would be different, that I had changed as an educator after embracing motherhood. Dangerous thoughs plagued my mind as I made my way to the little elementary school I was assigned. I arrived a half hour early and sat in the parking lot, chugged my Pumpkin Spice Latte, and tried to calm my nerves until I deemed it socially acceptable for me to walk in.
As I expected, the first thing the secretary said to me was, “When are you due?” I chose to interpret this as “I know you aren’t that fat in real life”, and it made me feel a bit better. The first grade class I was “guest teacher” for had a teacher my age, who cheerily showed me lesson plans and greeted me. It was an odd moment at first, seeing this lady living what my life could have been had I not gotten pregnant… but I shook off those thoughts and prepared myself to meet my students.
And what do you know, my baby helped me out a little.
The kids loved that I was pregnant. As I walked around class, a girl asked, “Miss Mandy, is there a baby in your belly?” When I smiled and said yes, she shouted, “I KNEW IT!!” (Bless these kids for not yet being aware of social norms.) The whole day rang with, “Miss Mandy, can I draw your baby a picture?” and “Miss Mandy, can your baby hear me if I sing?” Though they were ultimately a great group of children, I couldn’t help but notice that the students took me more seriously when I asked them to do something or called for their attention. Maybe it’s because as my normal self I have to cake on makeup to look older than 15 most of the time, but having a bump seemed to give me more credibility as a teacher- which in turn gave me more confidence.
I only had one awkward question the whole day, and it was “Miss Mandy, how do you get the baby out?” This is a pleasant alternative to “how do you get the baby in”, which I had already prepared answers to, but luckily the interrogator was distracted when her friend called to her from the swings. A group of girls kept approaching me at recess, then running away. They repeated this process three or four times until a bold little girl with a bright purple jacket ran up to me and burst out, “Miss Mandy, can we PLEASE touch your belly???”
So there I was, standing on the playground, letting a bunch of seven year olds touch my stomach.
At the end of the day, I felt pretty pleased (but also very tired). The teacher returned and asked for my number so she could give me a call next time she needed a sub, and the office lady asked me to check the list and try to get in again soon. I felt, for one of the first times, that expecting a child was not holding me back as a professional, but giving me a chance to reach my fullest potential as one.