I want you to read the title quote again. "Effective teaching may be the hardest job there is." If you are a teacher or in any field of education, you will agree completely with the Glasser, quote. I would like to add my own sentiment to his thought - it is even harder to teach when you are not feeling well. I have been under the weather for several months now, and so many mornings when I have awakened and felt very “blah”, I have been extremely thankful that I am now retired and that I did not have to drag myself out of bed and stand up and talk all day, nor did I have to complete all of the tasks and decisions required in the “normal” day of a teacher (if there is such a thing.) I remember when I was taking Staff Development class years ago, and during the first class, the question was posed: How many decisions does the average teacher make in a day? Guesses ranged from 50 to several hundred, but no one was even close. The answer- and this will astound you- was 5000. It is difficult enough to make all of these decisions when you are feeling your best during the school day, but just trying to function with a fever and the dry heaves makes the task of decision making almost impossible. During the school day, teachers never have the luxury of truly being “off.” Teaching is not like other professions, because even if you are really sick and calling off work, you still have to do the lesson plan for the day and the clean up after a day of being off. Some executive, when ill, simply call their offices to say they will “work from home”; and others may go to the office, close the door, and have the secretary “hold all my calls.” Of course, they do not have 30 students waiting impatiently and asking “Mrs. Rittman, what are we going to do in class today?” I still shudder when I think of being sick and facing all of those classes, but the show did go on! Sometimes with a movie, but it went on nonetheless!
Please tell your students about appropriate behavior when a substitute teacher has to be in the classroom. Let them know your rules and expectations, and also let them know that there will be consequences if the rules are broken. Set your bar high and your students will behave appropriately.
I am offering some advice from the Bunny Teacher to all of you teachers out there: if you are feeling sick and puny halfway through the day, put something together for the next day and leave it on your desk for the substitute. Even if you are back the next day and feeling better, you win, as your lesson is ready to go. If you are sick, the only message you have to leave is “Everything is on my desk.” Another suggestion is this: in order to make life easier for you when you are sick, you should make a Substitute Folder for any teacher who substitutes for you. Inside this folder, place a copy of your seating charts, a list of any duties you have, a list of any para-professionals or aides in your classroom who might be able to help out, and a list of any additional information that you think would help the substitute to perform in your classroom. I remember that I listed one or two students per class period who would assist with attendance, handing out papers, etc. I also had a bell schedule, along with a “Welcome” letter. Through the years, the substitutes did a good job because they had a plan to follow as well as the tools to assist them. Keep the folder someplace safe.
May I also suggest that you always have a one day “Emergency Plan” to use in case the unexpected occurs or if you suddenly must be absent without the ability to plan. Make it a fun lesson in which everyone can participate, and tell the students it will count as a small grade. I had to use this type of plan several times throughout my teaching career, and having a fun plan made the day easy for the substitute and fun for my students. Since I taught English, I usually had some word game planned and I allowed the students to work in pairs. Learning still happened, along with the relaxation and fun. I had the Emergency Plan in a safe place in my desk.
Schools are germ factories, and it is almost impossible to be a teacher without getting sick sometimes. Just try to make things easier on yourself when you do have to take some time off.
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