Arrrr ya feelin’ sick, Mr. S.?

If middle school students were pirates, I can only imagine the number of times I would have put down a mutiny. Not every day, of course. Heck, not even during those times when the workload became grueling and the homework became relentless. No, I think that if my students had been mutinous scallywags, they’d have rebelled when I was at my weakest—when I tried to teach through a terrible cold.

While some of my former colleagues might snicker when I say this, I like to believe I was a dedicated teacher. I didn’t like missing a day. Even when I knew I would have my principal’s permission, I refrained from most professional development workshops that fell on school days. I didn’t schedule time off when I knew school was in session. Ever. And if I was sick, well, I’d have to be pretty darn ill to call for a substitute.

Every winter when I was a teacher, I was sure to spend a week in the doldrums battling something inside my body that hoped to achieve pneumonia or influenza status. It would sap my energy, ruin or rob me of my voice, and generally leave me feeling like my head had become a 250-pound anvil. The last thing I would want to do is leave Mr. Savelle’s classes in the hands of a substitute for a week, and so I would show up and press on. My students were no scurvy dogs. They allowed me to teach; they didn’t mutiny.

I recently saw a statistic that the average teacher misses between six and ten days every school year. I think I may have reached four once. How about you? How often do you miss a day during the school year? And how do you make sure vital learning takes place when you’re absent?

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