482. When the Teacher Doesn’t Feel Good

Some professionals who don’t feel good just stay home. I’ve already written about the difficulties involved in deciding to stay home if you’re a teacher. Because of those difficulties, and/or because of the joy of teaching, teachers frequently go to work when they don’t feel good. They may take medications that control symptoms. They may cough and sneeze. But they show up, set up their classrooms and materials, and teach.
Children aren’t supposed to have to be the main nurturing ones; adults are. Children are supposed to be able to bring whatever problems they have to adults, and get TLC from the adults. Adults can be nurturing to each other, but children taking care of adults, though nice when it happens, is supposed to be an exception to the usual pattern.
Nevertheless, it happens a lot when a teacher obviously doesn’t feel good. Children tend to receive enough care to know how to care, and many care very well. For example, many children quiet down when they know the teacher has a headache. Not all of them, and not necessarily for long, but enough of them quiet down long enough to make it clear that they want their teacher to feel better. And it’s funny how children tend to whisper if a teacher has laryngitis. Actually, that does help, because a teacher doesn’t have to speak as loudly if children whisper. But I don’t think that’s why children do it; they hear the teacher speaking quietly, and think speaking quietly is somehow going to help in a more direct way.
As a retired volunteer, it is relatively simple for me to decide whether to stay home when I have a cold. I don’t have any ultimate responsibility to be in school; if I’m there, I do feel some responsibility for the children, and I also take joy in being with them. But if I think I’m developing a cold, I stay home. I take lots of vitamin C, drink lots of tea and soup, and get lots of rest. If and when I start to feel better, I stay home anyway. I want my recovery to be a sure thing.
That wasn’t true when I was an employed teacher, and I don’t think it’s true of most employed teachers I know. It’s very common for a teacher to go to work with the beginning or end of a cold, and to hope that prevention or recovery will happen anyway. Also to hope that no children catch the cold.
It’s easy for me to sit back, during my easy life (easy, as far as career issues), and say that teachers who are having health problems should stay home and deal with those problems. But I know it ain’t that simple. There ought to be ways for the system to run smoothly while a teacher deals sensibly with his/her health issues. But so far, there’s lots of room for improvement.

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