To be absent, or not to be absent? That is the teacher’s dilemma

My day (up until now) has gone something like this:
6.45: Arrive in front of computer. Plan lessons, respond to and write emails, enter data, file reports, resolve network access issue with network manager etc etc
9.00: My watch, with a single, short bleep, announces that it is 9am.

So, nothing surprising there then. I am a teacher. I arrive at school early. I get lots of work done early in the day before classes start.

The only difference is that today, I am not actually in school. I am ill.

So don’t come too close.

To put everything in place for my absence though, I had to spend time doing the list of tasks above. Meeting report deadlines and setting cover work wait for no-one.

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not on a crusade to bring to your attention the poor lot of the teacher. However, I feel it’s not as cut-and-dry as sometimes you might think.
When you stand in front of the cover board in the staff room and you discover that a colleague is absent, it is fairly stark.

Teacher X is not in.

However, that does not quite capture the dilemma that we all often face. Do we go in or not?
Sometimes, this dilemma is removed from us. In 2008, I was forced to take 12 weeks off school due to an attack of reactive arthritis. The consultant waxed lyrically about the amount of fluid she was able to drain from my ankles. I was a medical phenomenon. In this case, there was no question. I was off.

The dilemma arises when something more non-debilitating and short-term occurs. The cold, sore throat and general ‘under-the-weatherness’ that comes from spending a large proportion of your working week surrounded by hundreds of young, active germ-carriers (students).

More often than not, staying off can result in more workload. Not just the doubly frustrating ‘setting-work-for-the-classes-that-you’d-already-prepared-lessons-for’, but knowing that those exercise books / tests are stacked up in your room all longingly waiting for someone to mark them. What about the parent / colleague you are supposed to be meeting, never mind the poor soul who has to spend period 5 with 9Z French*?

With this in mind, we struggle in, hardly able to make it the short distance from car park to staff room without head swimming and the onset of exhaustion. To be met with adulation?
More like, ‘What are you doing here? You look like death.’
At least the students will take it easy on me in my current fragile state.
Er, no.

It really is a no-win situation.
And if Mr Kirby’s ‘perfect election promise’ comes to fruition, we will be facing this dilemma for 6 more weeks a year.

Pass the Strepsils, someone.

* I would like it put on record that I teach NO classes that would fall into this category and that I used this example for literary effect only.


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