We’ve all done it: felt the ache of sickness coming on in the early morning hours and forced ourselves out of bed and into our classrooms despite knowing that it’ll only get worse througout the day. We alter assignments so we don’t have to talk too much through sore throats or waning voices and we push on, hoping upon hope that a sharp glance from behind our desks will be enough to keep students from straying too far off-task or fooling around too much.
As you read this, I am doing just what I described above. I knew all yesterday that I shouldn’t be at school today, but I made myself get out of bed and get to school mostly because I couldn’t cancel our second play rehearsal after school, but also because it was easier than writing sub plans at 5 AM and trying to figure out a way to get them on my desk for the substitute by 8 AM and, frankly, because I feel bad being sick.
There is a stigma that surrounds teachers and sick days. Lots of people (and, dare I say, politicians) believe we get too many of them, especially considering we have all that time off in the summers and over holidays and, when schools need to cut their spending, often some of the teacher sick days are one of the first things to go.
Now, I’ve never been worried about using all of my sick days or having them cut. I don’t ever come close to using them all every year (and I hope I’ll never have to), and have probably banked quite a few to hold me over in a bad situation. However, I feel bad using more than a few a year. I know that my students rarely get great instruction from a substitute and rarely ever turn in the assignment I intended for them to complete when I was gone. I’m not knocking substitute teachers here – it’s a really, REALLY hard job, and they’ve saved me many, many times. However, I also know that much of what happens in my classroom happens because I’ve developed a relationship with my students. Just the fact that I could shoot them a sharp glance to keep them on task – and they know that means business – instead of yell and wave my arms around speaks to the fact that my students are probably more on task when I’m here than when I’m not. Not to mention that if we finish something early, I can move on to the next task whereas a sub could only ask them to work quietly on some other homework or, if they are really creative, play some sort of educational game.
Plus, I’m invested in what happens in my classroom, and it makes me a little sad to miss out on the implementation of a lesson I’ve worked so hard to plan.
This on top of the fact that I am on a number of committees in my school that meet during the day, and am subbed out for them, makes me feel really bad about calling in sick, even if it’s best for my health. Like many of you, I need to get pretty run down before I’ll even think about calling in, and I’ll agonize over the decision.
Unfortunately, though, the only workplaces with more germs than schools might be hospitals, and even an obsession with hand-washing, hand-sanitizing, vitamins, sleep, and never EVER touching my face still leads to a massive sickness about once a year. Like today. And every year I try to talk myself out of calling in sick. And every year at around 3rd hour I wish I had.
You can bet that, as you read this, I’m agonizing over whether or not I can make it through tomorrow, and I hope this sickness subsides soon so I can get back to being the enthusiastic teacher I want to be.