On Sickness: From a Teacher who Can’t Come to School Right Now

About Teresa

Teresa Cooper is a 30-something wife, mom and teacher from Havelock, North Carolina. She has a Masters of Science in Education for Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment from Walden University and a BA in Psychology with a minor in Creative from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Having struggled with anxiety and depression most of her life and later having birthed a child with autism, she is passionate about spreading awareness and acceptance of mental illness and autism and has been writing for Embracing the Spectrum since 2011. She also writes for The Mighty, The Huffington Post, and The Educator’s Room.

As teachers, we hold the fate of our students in our hands. When we’re sick, we often show up anyway because sometimes even a sick teacher outmatches a substitute who may or may not know the content being delivered. A couple weeks ago, I severely injured my leg. Let’s just say: once you’re over a certain age, it isn’t wise to try to climb and jump a fence, no matter how short it seems. I work upstairs, making it impossible to even try to come to work. On top of that, I was ordered to keep my leg propped up and stay off of it. Needless to say, I’ve been out quite some time, this time due to injury instead of sickness.

Real Sickness Happens

Real sickness or injury happens occasionally and sometimes teachers simply can’t go to work. I don’t know about most teachers, but I’d wager that many of us feel guilt when we must leave our students for long periods of time. I schedule most doctors’ appointments for after school on days we don’t have meetings and I’m not tutoring. My kids need me. They need me, but right now the three bones I broke need time to heal. Perhaps your body, weak from sickness, needs to heal as well. When it comes to sickness, sometimes our kids really are better off without us.

When it comes to sickness, sometimes our kids really are better off without us Click To Tweet

I’m not any good to my students right now. It’d be impossible to get to all the raised hands, I’d fatigue easily, and the soreness makes me kind of grumpy. As much as I miss them and want to get back to them, I’m waiting until the doctor advises me that it’s okay to return before I come back. Data from the Federal Civil Rights office says that 1 in 4 teachers missed 10 or more days in 2013-14, which includes not just sick leave but jury duty, bereavement, religious holidays or parental leave. It does not include data on which type of leave was taken.That said, sometimes teacher must miss work, whether through illness or other reasons and it’s totally normal.

I Love My Students, In Sickness and in Health

Teaching is like a weird sort of marriage. You vow to take care of your students in sickness and in health. Throughout the year you love each of them in their own special way and become territorial about “your kids.” I’m jealous of the person teaching my children right now. Jealous and afraid that they’ll love her more than they love me. Yet, I’ve received two reassuring emails over the past week from students asking me when I’m coming back. I hope they know that I mean it when I say that I miss them. I hope they know that if I could speed up my healing, I’d be there quicker.

Strategies for Self-Care During Illness

  1. Stay Calm – As hard as it is to separate yourself from work, you must take care of yourself first if you want to return. Do some yoga or meditation to stay focused on the present.
  2. Practice Mindfulness –  Stay mindful of what keeps you sane. Do you do better with staying busy, focusing on something else, or fidgeting with things like knitting or sewing? What will help you stay calm and focus on recovery best?
  3. Follow Doctor’s Orders – No matter how tempting it is to go out and conquer the world, you must follow your doctor’s orders so that you can fully recover and return to work restored.
  4. Leave work where it belongs. At work. There’s nothing you can do about being sick. Just get better. Work will be there when you return, I promise.

A Short Note to My Students

To my students, I want to say that there are days that I may seem like I don’t want to be there, but I wouldn’t be there if not for you. I have a true passion for teaching and I wouldn’t want to miss it for the entire world. As I sit here typing with my leg propped up, each of you drift through my mind and I say a blessing for each one of you that you’ll have a good day today even though I’m not there. I love you all. I want you all to succeed. And I’ll be back before you know it!

~From the teacher who isn’t there right now

 

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By | 2017-03-27T10:41:36+00:00 March 27th, 2017|Opinion|1 Comment

About the Author:

Teresa Cooper is a 30-something wife, mom and teacher from Havelock, North Carolina. She has a Masters of Science in Education for Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment from Walden University and a BA in Psychology with a minor in Creative from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Having struggled with anxiety and depression most of her life and later having birthed a child with autism, she is passionate about spreading awareness and acceptance of mental illness and autism and has been writing for Embracing the Spectrum since 2011. She also writes for The Mighty, The Huffington Post, and The Educator’s Room.

One Comment

  1. Albert Barkley March 28, 2017 at 7:04 am - Reply

    This is true that a teacher always loves his students and do care of them. So in case if he is sick, then still he will be worried about study of his students.

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