Sick days, sick days
Dear new golden sick days
Sniffling and sneezing and hacking cough
Kept me at home on a rare day off.
Were I a teacher I’d go to work
Share all my germs, make my illness worse.
But the job I have now I can duty shirk
Without hurting a classroom of kids.
— (my revised, working girl version of the 1907 song “School Days”)
Yesterday I went to work even though I felt terrible. My head was aching, my throat was sore, and I knew I was battling something. But I had an afternoon meeting I didn’t want to reschedule, and I knew I could muscle through the day with a little help from ibuprofen and friends. My symptoms weren’t visually apparent, and I tried to keep mostly to myself so as not to share the joy. But when I mentioned to my supervisor that I was feeling a bit under the weather, she said, “Go home!”
I didn’t, but it struck me that I could.
I am a technical editor with eight hours of work daily. I get to work early and sometimes scrimp on my personal lunch hour because I like to get work done. But I have generous deadlines, an equally generous, perpetual pile of work, and I leave work daily knowing I did the best I could and that I can take up tomorrow where I left off today.
It is a luxury.
In my not-so-past life, I was a teacher. Teaching children — even high school students — is the tried and true way to test your immune system. In the classroom, I have been exposed to multiple varieties of the common cold, stomach bugs, strep throat, pneumonia, the flu, and even the dreaded H1N1 virus. Thankfully, I never got anything exotic, just the typical common cold that worked its way into my sinuses and down my throat and managed to cause all manner of coughing, resulting in laryngitis, without actually reaching my lungs. (Laryngitis is a delightful ailment for a teacher — at least for the students.)
But even the common cold is sheer misery for a teacher. With a projected duration of 7-10 days, a cold made me feel I never could take time away from the classroom. What a mess it would make of my lesson plans! What a tragedy for students to attend class without true teaching! To take even one sick day from teaching meant time creating alternate lesson plans for the substitute and more time to revise existing ones, plus I would have to locate substitutes to cover my series of classes. It rarely seemed worth the effort. A restful weekend would get here eventually, right?
Last year I persisted teaching despite a hacking cough and laryngitis until a teacher appreciation luncheon made me feel unappreciated. I went through the food line, carried my plate to a vacant table, not wanting to infect anyone else, and then left for a coughing jag. When I returned, someone unknowingly had chosen the seat across from me and looked at me with abject horror when I sat down. I took the hint. I murmured something incoherently, tossed my plate, food uneaten, into the trash, and left to make arrangements for a substitute the next day.
As it turned out, I saw my doctor, who helped the restful weekend arrive quickly by forbidding me to return to work. I did eventually return to work before my voice did, but with strict instructions not to speak at all. I whispered. I taught anyway. I was a teacher. Sacrifice is what we do. What I did.
Today, a technical editor, not a teacher, I called in sick and spent the day nursing myself with home remedies and proclaimed miracle cures and extra rest and fluids. I don’t feel suddenly well after a day off from work, but I feel hopeful that I am still battling rather than succumbing to this virus, and now I also have the weekend to ply myself with care, not the chore of revising lesson plans or otherwise catching up on what I missed today at work.
Which includes a steak dinner at the nicest restaurant in town. (My sick day timing was rather a disappointment, as I had to miss a once-a-year celebratory night out on the company director. Bummer.)
But still a blessing to be able to call in sick nonetheless.
(Bless you, current teachers. I wish you health and God’s blessing as you sacrifice to do His work in the lives of your students.)
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).