Here are the eight emotional stages that I believe all teachers go through before hitting the “submit” button in the absence reporting system.
SHOCK OR DISBELIEF
This usually happens after that one really good sneeze that leaves you insta-congested. All of a sudden you’re wondering, wait…am I getting sick? No…. Am I? No. Yes, I am! How did this happen?? I ate a lot of fruit last week and I went to the gym! Things were going so well! Was it because I didn’t wash my hands before I ate those grapes? Was it that kid who sneezed on me mid-sentence? Was it because my whistle fell on the floor and I continued to blow on it anyway? How did it get in me???
Then you try to convince yourself that you aren’t that sick. Not sick enough to make it worth typing up a painfully detailed day plan (admit it, some of your best day plans are for supply teachers). You sit and stare blankly for a while as you try to gauge just how badly you’re feeling. Even though you now have the shivers and your back aches and your head feels like it’s forty feet under water, you’re sure that you can make it through the day. It’s still easier than the horribly agonizing job of writing out that day plan. Besides, you have prep, and there’s no way you’re wasting that puppy. Maybe you’ll do some extra silent reading time. You got this.
But if you have to stay home, maybe you will spend the afternoon catching up on that stack of marking that’s been rotting in your bag for a couple of weeks. Or maybe you’ll plan that social studies unit, or make your math lessons better. Or maybe you’ll just catch up on vacuuming and laundry so that you can do all that stuff the next day. Yes, you’ll do one of those things.
But you were supposed to run art club at recess, and you already had to cancel last week because you were behind on your report cards. And now your students will have one less day to review for the math test you’re fairly sure they haven’t even noticed on the calendar yet. And if you don’t go in, it’s going to bump back beginning the research project that should have been started last week if it’s going to be finished before the end of the term. Oh, and a parent is coming in after school. And maybe you’re not really that sick. How many days have you used already? Maybe you shouldn’t have used that mental health day last month. Maybe you just need to suck it up and go in.
You know what? Fuck that. Fuck. That. The thought of taking on twenty-five vital little bodies in your weakened state is enough to push you through the guilt. And now you’re just pissed because you feel even worse but have even less time and you still need to come up with that mother %!@*ing day plan! None of your materials are ready at school and your desk is piled with teacher mess and you didn’t bring your work home because you were going kamikaze it in the morning and you just REALLY aren’t prepared for this shit. Now you’re going to have to spend an hour or two figuring something out that will keep your students busy enough that they won’t wreak havoc in your absence, but also nothing too important, because your supply teacher is probably going to fuck it up anyway. Sorry supply teachers, but despite your best intentions, you just probably will! And you really resent the fact that this job makes you work even when you’re in the throes of the common cold. Nobody else’s job makes them do that! (Probably not true.) And, who gave you this cold, anyway? Was it Michael? Screw him! Screw all those parents who send their sick, infected children to school to be babysat so that they can go to work! Because of them now you have to take a day off work! And it’s making you RAGE!!!
So you slowly start typing your plans but you’re certain they’re really lame and you know your supply teacher is going to seriously judge you because, c’mon, who leaves “make a skit” in all three blocks. But you’ve simply lost the heart to make them good (because after all, your supply teacher is just going to screw them up anyway) and you don’t have the will to think about it anymore and you just really want to overdose on Nyquil and disappear into your sheets and away from the world forever and ever. You finish typing your plans with one hand while the other holds up your listless head and you maybe shed a tear because you just feel so, so lousy and this is so much work and it’s not fair and why did you become a teacher.
You finally finish your plans and you sigh in ultimate relief as you hit “submit” on the absence reporting system. It’s officially somebody else’s problem, and at this point, you don’t really care if everyone else has to lose their preps to cover for you. You don’t even care if no one shows up at all and your class turns into a legit Lord of the Flies situation. You are not going in and it’s too late to change your mind now. You pop a responsible amount of those Nyquils, make yourself a tea, and maybe even enjoy some t.v. without worrying about your usual 9 pm curfew because you, my friend, are sleeping in tomorrow. On a Tuesday!
This stage is not in the standard Kubler-Ross model, but is an emotion unique to the teacher’s sick day. You will inevitably spend the rest of your time off with the lingering worry that your phone is going to ring because you forgot to put something important in your day plan. Or maybe nobody picked up your job and your absence is causing some serious chaos on the school front. You picture your principal having to deliver your lame plans and you feel a little (more) sick. You instinctively wake up before morning bell and check to see if anyone has messaged you, and you maybe even run to your computer to see who, if anyone (a constant problem in French Immersion), picked up the job. If you’re lucky, it’s someone good and you can spend the rest of the day more or less relaxing, maybe just glancing at the clock every so often and picturing what your students should be doing at that exact moment. If you’re not lucky, it’s that crazy lady that your kids are going to yell stories about the next day. And if you’re really unlucky, it’s a name you’ve never seen before, and you have to spend the day in tormented suspense, wondering what awaits you upon your return the next morning….