Saturday, January 29, 2011

I'd rather be teaching and sick...than find a substitute

I'm bold enough to say that teaching is one of the worst fields to be "absent" from. Time off? It's called: holiday breaks and the summer -- but you'd better be there every other day of the year.

I've had to have three full-day subs already this school year --- and that's more than I had in my last 2 years teaching combined. Personal career decisions for my husband applying for residency -- and me wanting to "check out places" with him...and his upcoming graduation are the reasons for the "planned absences" - but BOY do I seriously dread those "absent days." (And also -- really wanting to know why medical schools plan graduation celebrations in the middle of the afternoon -- over several afternoons -- least convenient occasions for teachers....)

Let's just recap the issues a teacher has in finding a substitute:

1) It's humbling -- you find out what subs really think of your class...while you're pleading with them that your need to be absent is legit  -- and that they (the subs) will not even have to THINK that day...because the students will be SO BUSY...(and it's students hate it when I'm gone -- they know it's going to be a killer day)

Worse: when you get past #2 on the sub list...and you've already had 2 strikes in hoping to find an available sub....don't even TELL me that your palms don't start sweating and your heart rate doesn't go up -- because I'm already in the "Am I really going to have to cancel plans...." mode after strike 2....

2) It's nerve-wracking -- once you make the "busy" promise to the sub, you have to uphold it! That means you're planning ALL WEEK for the assignments for the DAY "OFF"

3) It's time consuming -- you are doing double-time at the copier, writing step-by-step instructions for every second of every hour for the sub to follow. (Sub plans literally take me at least 2 days to write out -- my average is about 5 pages long)

4) It's blood-pressure raising -- I sit by my phone waiting for an email, call, or text (ON THE DAY OFF) that something has gone wrong....and I have to be prepared to give a split second decision: "Mrs. didn't copy this assignment....Mrs. T so-and-so is refusing to do his work....what should I do?"

My husband and I got on the flight yesterday -- and I was looking at my watch every thirty minutes:

Before boarding 8:30 --- "Ok, good, the sub should be getting them to homeroom now..."

10:00 -- before boarding 2nd plane -- "Ok, so the classes are transitioning soon....the 6th graders are finishing their test...."

1:00pm -- mid-flight -- "4th graders are finishing their Valentine's Day contest/project."

2:30pm -- getting to rental car -- "YESSSS. The sub is on her final break. The students are in afternoon electives -- NO PHONE CALL TODAY!!!!"

Hubby just shakes his head at me the whole day...laughing and saying, "Let it go! They will be ok! You did the best you could do with the plans. Let her figure them out."

And then of course I turn to him and say, "Listen, when you have a practice and patients'll get it too..."

I don't have children of my own, but I sure do know to an extent to how mothers feel when they leave their kids to go on a couple's vacation. My students are my kids. I worry about them -- ALWAYS -- when I'm not with them...

And I finally breathe again at 3:30 when I say, "Ok...carline is done. It's the weekend. The kids are gone. Nothing else to do."

And I put my phone away....


  1. In other professions, when you miss a day of work, it's your responsibility to do so. And while it might put you behind, much of it (although not all) can be caught up on your own time. With teaching, the classroom time is simply lost.

    Our school actually doesn't give any personal days or sick days for this reason. No, they aren't heartless, totalitarian dictators; if you're sick, they find a way to cover it, or if a family member gets married, etc., you can apply for leave. But there are no general days allotted to be absent. As much as I would love to have one personal day to take for Georgia/FL each year, I have to say that I agree with the policy.

  2. typo: In other professions, when you miss a day of work, you can make things up and it's your responsibility to do so.