I’m posting late today. My posting juices usually flow better in the morning, but today the only thing that was flowing was my nose. (Sorry, TMI?) What I’m saying is, I’m sick. Sick as a dog. Sick as a dog who is pregnant and unable to take Nyquil and therefore hasn’t really slept in three nights. Yeah. It’s awesome. I’m living the dream. As a result, I spent a great deal of time on the couch, in the shower and with my head in my hands. And you know what?
I felt lucky.
Is that insane?
Let me explain some of my thinking. As many of you know, this is the Year of the Dissertation for me (as well as the Year of Launching My Own Website and the Year of Hopefully Selling Another Book), so I am out of the classroom. As I reached for tissue number 476, I thought to myself, “Self, what the hell would you do if you were teaching right now?”
Would I take a day off to wallow in my sickness? (Pregnancy and a lack of drugs such as Sudafed make me slightly less of a trooper than I have been in the past.)
Would I struggle through the day? (Probably doing okay through the morning but feeling as if I had been hit by a bus by lunchtime therefore rendering me useless to small children.)
Would I spend hours agonizing over the decision and feel terrible no matter what choice I made? (Duh. Clearly. This kind of guilt is part of teaching, right?
I SUCKED at taking a day for myself. I HATED being absent. I mean, yeah, if I was vomiting repeatedly, struck down by the flu or in some way broken, it would be a bit easier and probably worth it…but when you just feel like general butt? That my friends, was always a conundrum for me. Do I really want to deal with making up decent sub plans? (No.) Do I really want to deal with the behavioral issues that will surely be left behind for me to deal with? (Uh, no again.) Do I really want to come in early to clean up the debris? (I think you know the answer to that.)
But, on the other hand, do I really want to cough and hack my way through the day and possibly infect my friends who are never absent meaning we will now pass my grossness around to one another for months to come?
Mr. Mimi and every other non-teacher in the world does not understand the drama, the agony, the mental cluster f*ck that is trying to decide when you are sick enough to actually take a day. And for some reason I would ALWAYS get sick at the end of a break or the end of a weekend meaning that if I did decide to take a day, I would be the douche who took the day after a holiday and/or a Friday or a Monday. Even though they’re called sick days, which sound like general days, they are really Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Ironically, a lovely reader (Thanks SGC!!) sent me New York Times OpEd piece recently that touched upon just this issue. It is a piece written by a substitute teacher who seems to…well she appears to…I think she might just hate teachers. And you know that even if she does have a teeny tiny bit of a point at times, you know that when I pick up on that teacher-hater vibe I swing into full Mimi-mode (read: a raging B who shoots her mouth off and posts without re-reading or editing.) (Don’t ask me why sometimes I decide to skimp out on the curse words….to keep you on your toes maybe?)
Here’s the linky-poo. Take a moment and read. And then we shall tear it to bits, shall we not?
Can we just start by taking a moment to realize that she referenced throwing an eraser at a child?! Um, come again?
Okay, the woman has a teensy bit of a point that substitute teachers could use more support and/or training. I know that many subs are literally dumped into a building and handed a schedule that may or may not be correct, legible or make any sense. I get that. I get that because the same crap happens to teachers, just not everyday. And I was totally with her when she suggested that perhaps the requirements for becoming a substitute teacher should be altered. Sure. Why not? Although if we really want to go down that road perhaps we should spend our time making it more difficult to become a teacher teacher first.
And then she said this:
“Nationwide, 5.2 percent of teachers are absent on any given day, a rate three times as high as that of professionals outside of teaching…”
And it was on.
Really? Really? And may I ask where she got such data? Also, do I need to point out that most other professionals don’t work in petri dishes of germ and plague. Most other professionals aren’t regularly sneezed on, coughed on and barfed on. Most other professionals work with other professionals who stay home when they are contagious rather than come to school because their parents can’t take a day off work/find childcare/whatever. Most other professionals are only exposed to adult germs, not the lovely germs of childhood which include some real zingers such as strep throat, pink eye and ring worm. (I know, the list just gets hotter, doesn’t it?)
While I can’t disagree that teachers should leave “clear and manageable lesson plans” and not expect a sub to cover new material, I think our little friend here needs to realize that many times, teachers have exactly three minutes to scribble a lesson plan on any scrap of paper in whatever magic marker/pen/crayon is nearby because they had no notice that the gym teacher/music teacher/art teacher was absent and they are now late to a meeting and the sub is standing there staring while the kids are beginning to lose their tenuous hold on their shit. Call me crazy if I think it’s hard to come up with genius under that kind of pressure.
Her suggestions are priceless as well. Here is my personal favorite. (Warning: make sure you are sitting down or at least sipping on a cocktail. Do not throw your cocktail at the computer. It’s not worth it.)
“Principals should also try to arrange for other teachers to use their prep time to fill in for their absent colleagues.”
Where to even begin? First of all, I hate to burst this person’s bubble but 80% of my preps are not my own and are taken up by PD and meetings that are scheduled for me. Second of all, my school did this to some of our out of the classroom teachers and even though you know I had issues with them (from time to time), I thought this was cruel and unusual punishment because it meant that they had to cancel their regular classes, abandon their own plans, and as a result eight more teachers lost a prep. Lady, PREPS ARE GOLD. Do you have any idea the sheer number of expectations, responsibilities and tasks a teacher has to complete during the day and you want us to sub for each other on our preps?!? Perhaps your pee-holding muscles are more finely honed than mine, but I’m going to go ahead and say this suggestion is a no go.
This might sound strange coming from the Educational Queen of Mean, but you get more flies with sugar sister. If you want to improve the daily work lives of substitute teachers, be my guest. But hating on the teachers who might possibly be your biggest support group isn’t the way to go. I think we in the educational world should all stop tearing each other down and for the love of God, STOP RIPPING ON TEACHERS EVERY OPPORTUNITY WE GET. And never, ever, EVER suggest putting more on our plates. They are full. And slopping over onto the table.
And now, could you please pass the tissues?