It’s that time of the year again, the ‘no’ time: no sun, no rest, no let up. The pace of lessons is heating up for everyone, although the students may not feel it as keenly as the teachers. It’s only when exams are days away that the ones facing the blackboard actually feel a sense of urgency (it’s too late – but that’s another story). By now, someone will have fallen foul of some kind of bug that will involve coughing, wheezing and sneezing enough to spread germs all around the room, if not the entire school.
This means that at least one and, realistically, several teachers have had to take time off to fight the ‘flu. Even if you had a shot, chances are the vaccination was not for the strain that ends up attacking you – a temperature, blocked nose and sore throat are just occupational hazards.
The trouble is, most teachers don’t know when to stop (ask any student). Most of us suffer the delusion that we’re indispensable, and that a substitute teacher could never do the job as well as we do. In some cases, this really is true, not because of the stunning lessons we normally deliver, but because the way we explain how a lesson is to be covered are so difficult to follow.
The line manager trying to work out where the materials are, or more probably the harassed secretary or stressed colleague that is covering the class at short notice, have to following what looks like a pirate’s treasure map, although the treasure chest at the end of is often locked. “Go to the cupboard at the back of room 10 and get the blue text books from the top pile on the second shelf down on the left, just by the DVD player. Turn to the unit on weather and ask the students to work on that. Don’t take any notice if they say they’ve done it.”
When the treasure seeker finally arrives at the cupboard, he or she finds that the only blue text book has no unit on weather in it and is, contrary to expectations, on the fifth shelf on the right. Surprisingly enough, teachers who send in this kind of cover get very upset when they return to find their students have done something that had nothing to do with weather.
In our defence, it’s hard to think straight when you wake up feeling as if your head has been taken over by a building team tasked with demolishing your brain.
The other reason teachers hate to take time off is guilt. We know it puts pressure on everyone else, and means that students’ progress might take a nose dive. It’s best to remember that taking a day off sick leads to a quick recovery and another kind of‘no’– no spreading those germs any further.