Tips for Being a Sick Teacher From An Expert

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As I write this post, I am sick with a severe sinus/throat infection that has made me pretty miserable for over a week now. Hoping the antibiotic and steroids will work soon since I am like every other teacher out there and try not to take sick days. My kiddos need me, especially this week since it is final exams and review for exams. A substitute can’t do what I do.

Like most teachers, I get sick very often; however, last year I found out why. In addition to an autoimmune disorder, I have 2 Immune Deficiencies. I was actually told in January that I needed to quit teaching in order to get well. Thankfully a second opinion resulted in a “miracle” drug that let me keep the career I love.
With all of this, I feel like I have become an expert on being a sick teacher. 

Here are just a few of my best suggestions, whether you are chronically ill or have an annoying cold that just won’t go away. 

Give them a try & see if these things make your life just a little easier!

Preventing sickness:

1.  Use hand sanitizer, Lysol spray, Chlorox wipes, etc. constantly. Train your students to use them too. My students know that if they are sick, they need to tell me & we will wipe down their desk after they leave so the germs don’t spread. This may sound like a crazy person but with 8 students sitting in the same desk every day, germs spread fast!

2. Explain to your students (even older students) how important it is not to share germs like drinking after one another or not covering their mouth/nose when they cough and sneeze. Even big kids can use reminders.

3.  Practice good self-care (you know this but actually do it!): eat healthy, take a multi-vitamin (my friend swears Airbourne keeps her well), have a regular sleep routine that enables you to get at least 8 hours every night, exercise regularly even if this is just walking around the school during your planning time to get a little activity, and practice good stress-reduction tips.

4. Don’t let your students touch your supplies. Have a set place for student supplies (that you also Lysol regularly) but don’t let them get pens, pencils, etc. off your desk. If necessary, wear one of those pens around your neck that no one is allowed to use but you.

5. Be your own best substitute when you are feeling tired. Some days our body is telling us we are starting to get sick but we keep pushing. We need to back off and rest. If we do, we might actually not end up sick! This is actually where I realized that getting lessons off of was an excellent resource for these days. There are products for every topic and I would try to find one that I felt would be beneficial to the students while at the same time, it was a fairly independent assignment. You will actually notice that most of the assignments I have in my own TpT store are ones that students can perform independently. Through years of sickness, I have had to find these ways to insert rest into my day. 

Here are some things that you might want to have in place so things will run smoothly if you are absent:

1.     A sub tub that includes:
  • A generic lesson - Being a high school social studies teacher, I grabbed a political cartoon analysis assignment that both my history & government classes can do at any point throughout the year in case I wake up so sick that I can’t come up with anything. 
  • A list of my procedures for my class. I explain where work is picked up, turned in, where the bellringer is listed, the bathroom/water pass system I use, and what time important events like lunch are since the kids will always try to tell the substitute that I let them go early, which I don’t!
  • A seating chart if you use one because students will ALWAYS try to sit near their friends if they think the substitute doesn’t know their assigned seat.
  • The name of a teacher near you that knows how you do things & can make quick decisions for you if needed. I have a next door neighbor that my kids know to go to for questions & her kids come to me. It just makes life easier. Plus, if there is an issue that I really need to know about, she can text or call me to ask. I don’t leave this for just any sub since many will abuse it & text/call you all day!

2. Take all work off your desk every evening, even if you are just throwing a stack in a drawer. This is in case you do wake up sick. You don’t want anything confidential lying around for prying eyes.

3. Have the numbers and email addresses for your best substitutes so that if you start to feel bad in the middle of the day, you can shoot a quick text or email to check their availability instead of having to wait until the end of the day when you can get to a phone to call.

4. Practice good classroom management & procedures so your students know what to do in specific situations. This just makes life easier for you & a substitute so there aren’t a ton of questions to answer.

5. If you have access to Edmodo or Google Classroom on a regular basis (I recently received a Chromebook cart that stays in my room!!), use it. If I am sick, I put my student’s assignments/directions on there so there is no question about what needs to be done.

6. Have reliable teacher friends that you can call in an emergency & they will know where you keep your sub tub or make copies for you if necessary. Just don’t abuse this. If you can physically prepare before the absence, do this. This is only for those mornings you wake up unable to work and you didn’t prepare ahead of time.  

7. Use sick days wisely because you never know when you will REALLY need them! I had to have emergency surgery the week before school started one year & didn’t start school until a month later. I was grateful for those sick days then!

8. USE YOUR SICK DAYS! This sounds contradictory from #7 but there are times that by just using one sick day, you might be able to head something off. Some days your body just needs some extra rest. I can usually tell but having all the health issues I have, I am very in tune to my body but try to listen to what it is telling you!

I hope this list helps you prevent sickness & deal with it wisely if it does happen! Did I miss anything? Please let me know down in the comments if there is something you do that helps you out during these tough times! No one likes to get sick but it is a fact of life and something we just can’t completely avoid.

I wish you excellent health as you end the school year! 

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