Sick Days. I have a hate-hate relationship with them.
At my school each teacher gets 9 sick days a year. If you don’t use them all, they rollover into the next. Right about now I’ve got 20 sick days saved up. Yep- that means in three years I’ve used only one sick day. And I was legitimately sick that time- I’m talking, everything-but-the-pukes sick, where you’re so cold you’re wearing two pairs of socks, and yet you’re sweating like Whitney- you’re starving, but dry-heave at the thought of food- and your throat is raw from breathing out of your mouth all day because your nose is so stuffed you’ve actually considered lopping it off all together, and every thing you eat tastes like the color gray. That kind of sick.
Yesterday, I started feeling sick.
Honestly, I’m surprised it took this long. Normally September is my month to really get gross. The summer is spent outdoors in the fresh wide-open, and suddenly you’re jam-packed in a room with these angsty, sweaty, pre/post and currently pubescent germ vehicles. But alas, it has happened: I am sick.
Yesterday morning I got the familiar tickle in my throat and tried to dismiss it. “Must’ve slept with my mouth open…” I kept telling myself. That is, until the sneezing began. Somehow by the time 8pm rolled around, I went from about a level 2 at “Must’ve slept with my mouth open” to a level 10 at “Tell my mother I love her…”
But I refused to take a sick day. Refused. REFUSED!
Why? Am I saving up all my sick days in case something awful and unpredictable might happen, like emergency surgery? No. Am I aiming for perfect attendance this year? No.
Why wouldn’t I take a sick day?
Because taking a sick day ultimately means more work. So much so, that even at a level 10-sick, even after deciding I would NOT be missing school, I had
Here’s how it is: Kids don’t consider Art a “real class.” Even the kids who will grow up to be working artists. What I mean by this is that they can either see art class as a joke, or as a fun, relaxing period- but either way, it’s not “real” and it doesn’t “count”. This makes being out sick especially hard, because I’m responsible for giving them work to do in my absence, which 99% of the time is busy work. I know this. They know this. The sub knows this. Busy work is the devil. Busy work can make the most angelic of students become an obnoxious adolescent.
And it doesn’t matter how many times I ask the sub to inform the kids that “this will be collected for a quiz grade.” They know I’m not serious. Because really, who wants to come in after being violently ill and grade a bunch of nonsense busy work and count it as a quiz grade?
Even worse: I let them continue their projects under the supervision of the sub. Not only will I not be there to instruct them and help them make good decisions- my room will be a mess, and the materials will most certainly be wasted and things always go missing.
Essentially being out sick is not just missing one day’s worth of work. If you're lucky enough to start feeling sick at school you can try and throw together your rosters, class seating charts, and a detailed list of instructions for your sub, complete with asterisks nexts to the kids who can't sit near each other, or the kids who ask to go to the bathroom and disappear, or the kids who need to be monitored at.all.times. Maybe you'll even be feeling well enough to photocopy the busy work you have on hand for just this kind of scenario. However, if you're not lucky, you’re working furiously the night you’re ill to create some kind of semi-substantial “busy” work to have the kids complete that will keep them busy and behaving. Then you’re figuring out a rubric for the busy work that you’ve had announced to them will be collected as a quiz. Then you’re trying to find a time when you can actually grade this busy work (knowing all teh while it most likely won't actually ever get graded) And when you’re done? You have to e-mail this information to a few co-workers and your higher-ups, who hopefully won't also be out sick, and who will have the patience and the time to print out your instructions, make copies of the work, and greet your sub in the morning with a quick run-down of what you need them to do. And then after a night of tossing and turning and wanting to die, you wake up and begin planning how to refocus your kids and get them back on track for your return. That is, if you don’t have to plan for a second sick day…
And that is why I refuse to take a sick day.