Friday, March 6, 2015

5 Reasons Teachers Might Come to Work Sick

All teachers have to take off days.  All teachers have appointments, have sick kids, or get sick themselves.  I know it's hard to believe, but it happens.  There are really exceptional substitutes in each school district BUT.... most teachers still don't like having to take a day off.  Why?  Most times, it is more trouble than it is worth.  I have heard so many teachers say that they would just rather come to school sick rather than having a sub. I am one of them.

I recently had to take 4 days off of work for sickness a row.  I bet if you are a teacher you just groaned.  I had no choice.  I couldn't expose my kids to my virus, and doctor's orders are doctor's orders.  But oh how I hated it.  No matter the quality of my substitutes, I knew my classroom, plans, and students would be in disarray.  I also knew I would be spending tons of time trying to catch up for time off.

Preparing for a Sub

Preparing for a substitute take lots of pre-planning. You have to ready student rosters, individual schedules, classroom schedules, medical conditions (if needed), discipline plans, lesson plans, copied papers... and the list goes on.  All of this has to be in a place and written so that the substitute can locate them, decipher them, and then implement them.  Big signs that say, "Sub Look Here" or Sub tubs, or sub folders are placed in strategic locations around teacher desks.  This takes loads of time and effort.  I try to have this prepared early in the year.  Ideally, my substitute plans would be in place before the first day.  I know... you teachers just laughed because that never seems to happen.  But even once you get it all ready, you still have to update items as the year progresses.

More time and more effort all for the event that you might need a sick day.

Lesson Plans

Writing lesson plans for a substitute is tricky.  The lesson plans we write for ourselves are not always what a sub needs or wants.  Substitutes need more details and more instructions.  Some subs only want worksheets.  Our lesson plans may have cryptic words that tell us, the teacher, exactly what to do, but a substitute would have no clue.  It usually takes me at least 1 planning period to rewrite my lesson plans for a substitute- to make them more detailed and understandable. This is when I know I am going to have a substitute.  When you are a loved one is sick, you have to already have something in place or be able to adapt your lessons from home.  One reason why I use is that I can move lessons around easily and email the plans to a fellow teacher from home.

Okay, I will admit that when I became sick last month and knew I would be out for over a day, I implemented drastic measures.  I had my 15 year old daughter (who has a driving permit) drive me to school at 7:00 pm while I had 102 fever.  We spent over an hour at my school, in the dark, all alone, trying to prepare for a couple of sick days.  Thank God my daughter helped!

If you are not a teacher, you are probably shocked.  If you are a teacher, you are probably just nodding your head and saying, "Been there. Done that. And have the t-shirt."

There are also certain lessons that I don't want a sub teaching, such as the introduction to multiplication. This is what happened to me this year.  I was scheduled to introduce multiplication and then came down with a serious bug.  I had to postpone the unit until I returned because it was too important for someone else to teach.

Changing lesson plans = time spent.


Which leads me to my next point...although there are fabulous substitutes, there are some that are not so great.  I have had to reteach topics that I thought any adult could teach.  Not the case.  Many substitutes have no formal teaching experience. They may not know how to introduce a topic, check for learning, and differentiate lessons.  If you are lucky, you can get a retired teacher.  These are the best!

I also want to mention that there is no guarantee that if you are out for a couple of days that you will have the same substitute each day.  I didn't.  I had 2 different subs, but you could have a different substitute each day.  This is not best practice for the students since each substitute is teaching in a different style and setting different expectations.  Reteaching then becomes imperative.

More time.

                        Students are a Mess

Taking time off can derail students' behaviors in a big way.  It is sometimes like the students have been on vacation- no rules, just play- and that they have conveniently forgotten how to behave. We, as teachers, have to come back into the classroom and settle them down, reinstate the rules, and remind students that we are still about the business of learning.

If you have a troubled student or a special needs students, a substitute may not know how to work with these students.  The teacher being out of the classroom can really be the catalyst for extreme behaviors. While I was out for 4 days, I received an email from a mom, who then contacted our school liaison and my school principle.  I then had several phone calls while I was sick from my principal about this student.  Top priority when I returned to school was to meet with the parent. All of this was for behavior when I wasn't even in the classroom.

Sigh. More time.

Classroom is a Mess

Teachers work hard on their classrooms.  They arrange, decorate, rearrange, redesign, and then do it all over again. We spend time teaching and training students on how to "live" in our classroom. Students know the rules of the classroom, pencil rules, where papers go, and how to clean up.  I love working in my classroom.  It is like my little sanctuary.  I have my favorite colors and things arranged just like I like them.  Imagine having someone else living in your sanctuary for a couple of days.  With 20 kids.  Who are conveniently forgetting all of the rules they are supposed to know. That's what having a substitute in your classroom is like. No matter how good of a substitute they are, they are not you.  I have actually taken a huge breath with my hand on the classroom door, steeling myself for what is inside.  Sometimes it is okay.  Oh, but other times, I would swear a tornado went through my room.

Even more time.

Time.  Something that you can't buy, but you can spend so easily.  Time.  Something that you lose quickly, but never get back.

I figure for every 1 day a teacher takes off, 2 days are spent in either the pre-planning or the post substitute clean up. So if this holds true, I was out for 4 days and spent 8 days either planning or getting everything straightened back up and on track.  Pause...Thinking....Yeah...that's about right. No wonder teachers come to work sick...

Head over to DoodleBugs to check out everyone else's Five for Friday!

Here is a post we have done on in case you are interested.


  1. Here's a sixth reason…TESTING! I went to school 4 days this week while sick because of state testing. Who else was going to administer those tests?!

  2. Ug! I was in and out for 2 weeks because of being sick! It was a mess in every aspect to say the least!

    It was extra painful for me because I'm trying to save up all my sick leave so that I can get paid for a longer portion of my maternity leave next year. I can take so long off w/out losing my job, but I only get paid for whatever leave I have. :( Unpaid time off is worth it to be with my new baby, but still not very fun.
    @ Simple Insights

  3. I completely agree with all of these reasons! It is more work to be out sick...I would rather push through the day than call out! It is even worse when you have each student on their own level in EVERY subject!

  4. I wish everyone could read this. You have done a fantastic job of describing just one little aspect of a teachers job.


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