Wednesday, September 19, 2007
I'm home from school today-- sick. I stayed home yesterday too.
I'm never sick. Hardly ever, anyway. I say that confidently, without knocking on wood. Years of teaching have given me a cast iron immune system.
While others manifest full-blown symptoms of the germ of the month, I get-- at most-- a day of feeling sluggish. I figure that's from my antibodies fighting, and winning. But barely a week into the school year, I've been hit by the prevailing virus.
Taking a sick day doesn't come easily to most teachers. For one thing, it's far more work preparing for a substitute than it is just to go in feeling lousy.
Plans and schedule need to be spelled out in detail. Extra work must be planned because kids tend to whip through their assignments under a sub's less demanding eye. There are loose ends to pick up when you return: work to correct, lessons to reteach because the kids say, "the sub didn't explain things good enough."
Teachers by nature tend to be a conscientious group. Getting sick isn't responsible. We're like parents; the show must go on. So when we feel the start of something, we discuss our symptoms around the copy machine.
"I have a tickle in my throat, and my stomach is kind of queasy."
"Oh, that's exactly what Ginny had last week. She was out for three days. Karen has it now."
"Really? Three days?"
"Yeah, the nurse sent home four kids from my class today. All stomach bug stuff."
"Really? I was thinking maybe I'm getting it too."
This is what we need-- the permission: "Stay home. It's better to nip it in the bud. Take care of yourself."
The call to the "substitute hot line" brings back memories of telling my mother in a croaky voice that I felt "wicked sick." Her response was to whip out the thermometer, shake it down, and slip it under my tongue.
No fever. I went to school.
The classroom is a caldron of germs. Kids fall like dominoes. Teachers aren't immune.
I'm thinking of moving the tissue box off my desk. I don't think it helps my cause any when students stand three feet away from where I sit, blowing their noses in my direction.
I told the students that they should blow their noses back at their own desks. "Please don't stand in front of me and blow in my face." I say it funny. I make a joke. I pantomime. They all laugh.
Later a sniffly little boy comes up for a Kleenex and . . . I end up staying home sick.
In the sick room, ten cents' worth of human understanding equals ten dollars' worth of medical science. ~Martin H. Fischer