Today I am staying home from work. My dumb foot is still aching but really I just needed a day to recharge. A little secret that you may or may not know but often teachers plan their sick days. Unlike a “normal job”, if we wake up feeling sick we usually tough it out and go to work. Why? Because unlike a normal job teachers must PLAN for being sick. What I mean is there always has to be someone in the class if the teacher does not show up. At my school, that means call a substitute or have other teachers cover your classes based on their conference periods, which I don’t like to do because I know how much I hate covering another teacher’s class when I have to do it. Sure there is extra pay for coverage, but for me I HATE it. I really use my conference period to work, work , work, as much as possible so I don’t take work home. Wait, I still take work home even when I work, work, work. Phooey 😛
Anyways, calling for a sub can be a nightmare. Do you remember how your classmates and you acted when the regular teacher wasn’t there? Well imagine that but about 50 times worse. Ever since I started teaching whether low performing, English as a second language, or gifted, ALL students act “differently” when a substitute is in the class, and very often differently does not mean in a positive way. Often when I return from a sick day I’ll get notes about some of the crazy things the students did when I was absent. I suppose I should be flattered that they are so good when I’m there, but more often I’m embarrassed that they are so BAD when I’m not there. I always ask the students when I return to class, “If you had a babysitter would you behave this bad and embarrass your parents?” But most of my students have never had a babysitter, only relatives or older siblings taking care of them.
So yesterday I was feeling iffy about coming to work today. I stayed an extra hour afterschool yesterday to set up a lesson plan that would be easy to follow. This morning at 4:30 A.M. I was singing the Clash song “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” in my head. Finally at 6 I decided to call for a sub. I requested a substitute that I had once before but I won’t know if it will be the one I chose until I see the room tomorrow. It seems like a lot of work for a day off, doesn’t it? Believe me there are a few teachers that I know that don’t call in sick for the same worries. Just last month our Math Dept was offered two days off for a training. No one wanted to leave their students with a sub because they all felt so far behind. Dedication? Absolutely every single one of them. Respect from society? I don’t know anymore. It’s an uphill battle with students who act up or don’t work at all, parents who won’t or can’t help, and a government that thinks this job is too easy and teachers are lazy. Well, my “day off” was spent reorganizing the Science, Math, and History folders in my book bag and researching Science videos about Erosion. Thank goodness for Bill Nye the Science Guy.
So what do you do when you take a day off? Do you worry about what’s happening at work or do you take more of the Ferris Bueller approach?