52. Sick Days, Part Two

My last article concerned children’s illness, and the issues children raised by getting sick when the time wasn’t right. I said there were no rules of thumb. Well, teachers get sick, too, and there aren’t any rules of thumb then, either. Let’s look into the mind of the teacher who wakes up feeling ill.
“I can’t stay home today. Today is the day I have two volunteers coming in to help with the science lesson. I was going to meet with them before school to go over the lesson. And it’s Friday, so the kids will be bringing in money for the book club. And Jason is finally showing some progress. I know that shouldn’t depend on my being there, but at this point, I think it does. It will take a week or more to get him back to where he was yesterday. I have plans in my desk for what to do if I’m out, but they tell what to do on a typical day. We’ve had 107 days of school so far, and only about three of them have been typical. I cannot stay home. That’s final.
But I am really sick. If I go to school, I know it will get worse. And when I’m sick, I’m irritable and ineffective. I should stay in bed. It will take all the energy I have just to call in
sick and explain the plans. In fact, I think going in and teaching would take less energy than explaining the plans. I wish it would snow. I wish they’d call off school. What do people do in other professions? They close the office for the day. Or they have their secretary or some other co-worker cover for them.
I don’t want to take a sick day when I’m sick. It seems like such a waste of a day off. If I get a day off, I should be able to get errands done. I should be able to go to a restaurant and have a lunch hour that lasts an hour and a half. Lying here in bed, watching soap operas, drinking lots of fluids is not my idea of a fun day. When I was a kid, I used to hope I’d get sick so I could stay home.”
Of course, every teacher is different. Some have very predictable days, and always have appropriate plans for a substitute. Some never get sick. There are teachers who only take sick days when they are sick, some who take sick days when their families are sick, and I’ve even heard that there are teachers who take sick days when they and their families were perfectly healthy – to spend good time with their families, or get presents for their children.
I’m quite sure teachers are not the only people for whom this is an issue. Many jobs make it hard to miss a day. But from inside the profession, it sometimes feels as if there is no substitute for us – that children’s world will fall apart if we are not there to hold it together. When we return, unless they’ve had a phenomenal substitute, they are so glad to have us back. And so we partly hope the substitute isn’t too good.

Comments are closed.