Well, it feels like a lifetime since I last wrote a post. So much drama has been going on in my teaching career (more on that in future posts), but for now I’ll start with my biggest news. I am pregnant with baby no 2 and I have just survived the majority of my pregnancy in a pupil referral unit- and it hasn’t been easy.
First thing’s first, I would not recommend getting pregnant while working at a PRU. I know these things can’t exactly be planned as easy as that, but what I’m basically saying is, if you are working in a mainstream school but fancy changing to a PRU and you know that you would like children in the near future, my biggest advice would be to stay put in mainstream until you have had your children.
I found out I was pregnant in mid January this year and my female boss was very supportive and genuinely pleased for me, but she admitted that she did not know what to do next with me. In the 5 years that she has been in charge of the PRU, no one has ever been pregnant. In fact, not one worker- a lot having worked at the PRU for 12 years- could think of anyone who had been pregnant while at the PRU. It soon transpired that apart from one TA, in the whole 15 years of the PRU’s service I was only the second person to get pregnant and the first ever teacher. No one knew what to do. But everyone had an opinion.
It was a very stressful time, especially as I had to inform my colleagues when I was only 5weeks pregnant due to health and safety reasons. At 5weeks, I hadn’t even told my friends and only my immediate family knew, yet here I was telling an entire work force about my personal life. I was constantly worried with every early twinge that I would be forced to tell everyone that I had experienced some bad news and I would have to face everyone’s pity looks. Thankfully, that didn’t happen and I was soon at the ‘safe’ 12 weeks stage.
The next problem was that ALL my colleagues took ownership of my pregnancy. While they thought they were being kind and looking after me, it just made me very uncomfortable. Some wanted to tell the children straight away (‘Oh, they’ll be respectful of you’). I personally didn’t feel that this would be the case- I felt telling the children would make me more vulnerable. Other colleagues would lock me in my classroom (without telling me) if children were ‘kicking off’ in the corridors. They thought that they were protecting me, but there’s nothing like going to leave a room and finding that you are locked in and there’s no one around to let you out to put the fear of God into you! Some colleagues were great, letting me take regular breaks, relieving my playground duties etc. While others would make sarcastic comments ‘look at you sitting down. It’s not a disease, you know.’ Or one particular phrase that a certain staff member said almost daily ‘oh, playing the pregnancy card again, are we?’ Another time, my TA cancelled the educational trip that I had booked, going behind my back to the Head and saying that it was ‘for the best’ as it was too much for me. She ended up taking the class on the trip that she had suggested initially but that I had refused. Angry wasn’t the word.
Speaking of anger- I have never experienced such intense emotions this past year. Working in a PRU while being hormonal is not a good idea. I have let other staff members know when I have been angry with them, I have cried numerous times in the staff room, stormed out of staff meetings and even walked out of work at midday after one stressful lesson. ‘I’m going home,’ I simply stated to my Head. All of these things I am mortified about now, but my hormones have been all over the place.
I worked up until 38weeks in my last pregnancy and even though I am not due until towards the end of September and technically could return to work for two weeks after the summer, I am so over work. I have took my maternity early as I just couldn’t face going back. Even for 10 days.
Below are my quick tips for working in a PRU while pregnant:
- Tell your boss and colleagues as soon as possible so that you can protect yourself.
- Get a risk assessment done for yourself as soon as possible. Make sure you are firm about what you would like on there.
- Don’t be afraid to refuse, yes refuse, to do certain things. I refused to teach PE. The children in my class are very energetic in PE and will deliberately ‘boot’ the ball hard towards members of staff.
- DO NOT restrain children while pregnant. I refused to even go near any children as even a touch on the shoulder can cause a violent reaction.
- Keep the exit route from your desk clear at all times to allow for a quick exit.
- Make sure you take regular breaks. PRUs are worse than mainstream for not allowing teachers time for breaks.
- Be vigilant at all times- know your children- who is struggling to keep hold of their emotions? Who looks agitated? Who may be about to ‘blow’?
- And lastly rest. Make sure you switch off when you get home and get lots of sleep.