The Truth About Teachers When We Are Sick

when teachers are sick
You know these funny little pictures you see floating around Facebook and Pinterest, we see them and we laugh and nod our head.  Well I'm hear to tell you it is true and it really isn't a laughing matter.  Think about it- what other profession has to have a substitute when the employee is sick.  If I worked at an office, my co-workers would just have to pick up the slack, or my job just doesn't happen and all my work is still piled up waiting for my return.  If I worked at the grocery store, the lines might be a little longer due to one less checker.  When teachers are sick what happens.?

The truth about teachers when we are sick.  What other profession needs to have a substitute take our place when we aren't feeling well?  What really happens when we are out of the classroom and must rely on a substitute?Stage 1 Denial
First we pretend we aren't sick. We tell people it's allergies.  We then say, I feel fine, I just sound terrible.

Stage 2 The Little White Lie
We tell people we aren't contagious.  We lie and say,  'it's just a cold".

Stage 3 Admitting We Are Sick
There comes a point when we've gone too far.  Our body is shaking because we feel like we are in a freezer.  There is a loud pounding in our head as if we were at a Bon Jovi concert.  Finally we admit it. We say those 2 awful words every teacher can't stand to say... I'M SICK!

What happens next is so different for us teachers than it is for anyone else.  We can't just say those 2 little words and crawl into bed.
Stage 4 Panic
This is when we start to panic. We have to get a substitute teacher and prepare lesson plans.  Sometimes we even have to go to school and set everything up.  I've been there on a Sunday night in my pajamas, almost falling over because the world was spinning, but I couldn't let my kinder kids down. I had to leave plans. #thestruggleisreal

Now if you are lucky, you might have a regular substitute or two that you can depend on.  When I know in advance I will be out, I have an amazing substitute.  It has gotten to where I can literally leave her a post-it note.  I don't have to make special sub plans.  She knows my kids, my routines and how I do things.  To make it better, she even knows to grab my iPad and snap photos of what the kids are doing.

BUT… what happens when she can't come at the last minute.  This is usually when I relapse into Stage 1 DENIAL--I tell myself just go in you can make it through the day, because I know the alternative could be tragic.  Let me paint you a picture of a few options I have.  Option #1,  is me with my head on the desk, begging the kids to not write too loudly.  Option #2 THE SUB FINDER.  This is our system.  We get on the computer, check a few boxes and then it  begins calling the 5 people on our preferred list.  They of course either already have a job or don't want it.  Next, it randomly calls people on our district sub list until someone excepts the job.  

Stage 5 Anxiety
From the comforts of my couch I keep checking the system to see if the job has been filled.  My fear is that no one will take the job.  Then it happens a name appears and you feel even worse because you know your room will be destroyed, nothing will get done and your teaching partners will be texting you all day to tell you what is going on.

Before I go on and tell you my tragic stories of substitute teachers- I will say that I have a lot of respect for those who are guest teachers.  I used to be one, so I know how hard the job is.  After my very first day of being a sub, I went home and cried and said I don't want to teach ever again.  Now that the shoe is on the over foot, I also know how to prepare for a sub. I teach my kids to be on their best behavior when I am gone and I don't expect everything to go smoothly. I expect the sub to do their best to follow my plans, but most of all, take care of my babies.

So why do I worry when the sub job goes to a random stranger?  It has nothing to do with a stranger teaching my babies or being in my room and snooping through my drawers.  It has to do with the fear that my babies might not be taken care of.  Let me list some of the "Guest Teachers"  I've had in the past.

#1 Mr. Rubber Rain-boots and Piccolo:  Yes- the first thing he did was enter the room, take off his rubber boots and proceed to play the piccolo.

#2 Here's Jack: According to my colleagues he looked like Jack Nicholson from The Shining.  At one point he took one of my girls to the office and told the principal to talk to her about her behavior.  Of course my principal wanted to know who was with my class if he was in the office.  No one was with them they were just left alone.  Oh and my room has no windows and there is a lonesome hallway before you enter my door.

#3 I Don't Follow the Lesson Plans:  I'm not really a teacher, I just signed up to play one; it's easy money.  This person doesn't have any idea of how to work with kids, they just let the kids have free choice and hand out the assignments without ever explaining them.

#4 The Homeless Looking Guy: According to my colleagues they thought he was a grandparent because he was waiting outside the door with the kids.  He looked homeless and smelled a bit.  I know that at another school they gave him a t-shirt to wear and keep.

#5 Mrs. Zero Tolerance:  I'm fine for coming in strong, showing the kids you're in charge, but there is a limit.  You can't just farm all the kids out to my colleagues to make your day a little easier.

Stage 6 Acceptance and Healing
At some point after the bell rings we have to accept the fact that we won't be going in.  We have to put our phone on silent and ignore the texts and missed calls from colleagues and begin to heal.  If we spend our time worrying and checking in all day how are we going to recover quickly.  After all, the goal for staying home when you're sick is to recoup and make a speedy recovery.

I know I'm not the only one with crazy substitute tales.  I also know we've all been through these 6 stages of being sick.  I invite you to share your tales with me and my readers.

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the truth about teachers


Unknown said...

Oh my goodness. This was hilarious!! I can't count how many times I've said "I think it's just allergies" when all I wanted to do was die. And your sub stories. The rain boots 😂😂 I literally laughed out loud. I hate having a sub. I also used to be one and it gives me such anxiety to put it out to the sub finder universe!

Tiffani said...

Thanks Jennifer- The sub finder is a scary thing.

Unknown said...

I love your stages - they are SO true, especially denial! I am always thinking "I am not sick. I cannot be sick..." and we know how much work it can be to get ready for a sub. I always panic when my go-to subs are already booked (which they usually are when it is a last minute sick day!)

Unknown said...

You forgot the sub who takes your class to their special area class and just keeps going out the door, never to be seen again! (Yes, this has happened to my class.). This same group had a sub pop into the office at lunch time to inform them that she was not being paid enough and would be going home never to return! If I had a sub, but was working in the building, kids would come find me and beg me to please come help. It was an interesting year to say the least.

Curious Catherine said...

There's also "I can handle this for just a few more days... the weekend is almost here." I do this one a LOT during cold season. I will plan out in my mind how many hours and minutes I have to go.... it's not "that long." No, it's that I'm sick and every minute feels like an hour. There have been a couple days in my 7 years that I went in, and had to leave half-way through the day. You try, but there are points where it's just not possible.

BTW: One of my fellow teachers was in so much denial, he made it through most of the day... but he ended up containing himself until lunch, and "letting it go." Thankfully, no one caught his germs.

Chris said...

I am a 9th grade ELA teacher and I just spent the day struggling to keep from throwing up just so I don't have to deal with a SUB. I had one that hid in the corner and could not find the Hot pink sub binder sitting on my desk(labeled Sub binder) That day I got three phone calls and I can't tell you how many messages.

First Grade Faction said...

So true. I hate missing school! The worst I ever stayed at school was 2 years ago. About 8:30 a student was answering a question and all of a sudden I couldn't see him. There were white patches in my vision, and all I had was peripheral. I think, "I'm going blind," so of course I continue teaching like nothing's wrong. After all, I can't leave a room of 1st graders alone. I'll just get someone to take me to the eye doctor after work. Two hours later I started going crazy, left my students with a trustworthy aid, knowing my lunch break was in 20 minutes, and went to see the nurse. She told me I was having a migraine with aura. I said, "No, I'm not. My head doesn't hurt." She said "It will. We have to get you home now. I'll drive you." I fought her, begged, pleaded, then caved if she let me have half an hour to leave notes for a sub. By the time I got home, my head felt like it was imploding and I was so nauseated. My kids got used to me holding my head during read-aloud that year and taking off my contacts in the middle of class.

Anonymous said...

#6 "I just show movies." I had a sub tell my team that she doesn't teach, she just shows videos. She went to the principal and got him to tell the librarian to give her a movie to show my classes. All day. Smh.

TomBoy68 said...

Yeah, from the Sub. Guess what. We HATE when teachers are so poorly organized that they can't fathom there might be at least a few reasons they won't be in school this year. So... no plans, no notes, no tips abt what works for ur special 'darlings'.... seriously. Give it a rest. And just get organized. Oh yeah, a well managed classroom works whether ur there or not. From, the Sub.

Jandy said...

One of my co-teachers called stage 2 'being your own substitute.' You figure that you being there is better than getting a sub, even if you are working at a deminished capacity.