Sick Days

Just recently I logged into my pay and leave information to check the balances. I was astonished to discover I have 26 week’s sick leave available! 26!!!! It got me to thinking about how teachers take sick leave and how tricky it can be for planning and follow up afterwards. We can’t just resume where we left off as it’s not a desk job.

Obviously by my massive leave balance you can tell I don’t take many days off sick. I’m blessed with a healthy body and mind and a soldier on attitude. However, there are times when I am really too sick to work, so here’s my tips and tricks to making your time off smooth for the class and your resumption just that little bit easier.

  1. Prepare a Relief Teacher’s Folder. Your school may already request you do this and/or provide a generic template for the classroom teacher to complete. This should be located on or near your desk, or in a really obvious place for the RT to spy it. A display folder works well, and label it using big fat texta lettering on the cover!

In this folder you should include:

  • A general weekly timetable overview in table format.
  • Names of any extra staff that work in your room and their roles.
  • Names of children who need extra assistance or have behavioural issues (and how to manage them).
  • Names of staff in your team and their location.
  • Name of the person in your team the RT should go to for assistance.
  • Names of children who are responsible.
  • Your behaviour management system.
  • Your class reward program.
  • A copy of the week’s curriculum plan.
  • Some fill in activities or lessons appropriate for the year level.
  • Map of the school with yard duty areas coloured and labelled.
  • A yard duty timetable with your duties highlighted (often RT’s get given extra too).
  • Bell times.
  • Your expectations for what the RT should do with collected work. Mark or not?
  • Ask for feedback on class and individual behaviour.
  1. Leave a copy of the next day’s plan out. Every evening before you leave, it’s a good practice to leave a copy of your daily and/or weekly plan out on your desk. If you are absent unexpectedly, the RT will definitely appreciate this. It’s a bit stressful if you fall sick overnight and have to get up to email your plan through to the Daily Organiser and explain it. A RT’s job is made so much easier if they have a plan to follow. You’ll need to be understanding, however, that it will not be taught exactly as you intended, but hopefully pretty well!
  1. Prepare all your resources the day before. If you have sheets that need to be photocopied or resources that need to be located (such as dice or MAB etc.), get them all ready before you leave work. This is beneficial for two reasons. In the likely event you are NOT absent, you’re all organised and don’t have to scramble on arrival the next day! If you happen to fall sick overnight, the RT can put their hands on everything needed that day.
  1. Prepare children with additional needs for your absences. Some children, such as those on the Autism Spectrum, struggle with change. Change and flexibility are the hallmarks of being a teacher! When you know in advance you’ll be taking a day off it’s easier to help these children adjust. An unexpected day off can throw a curve ball. To help lesson this stress you could prepare a social story and read it regularly with these children. There are plenty of social story writing templates freely available on the internet. You’ll need to write this story really early on in the year and include photographs. The idea behind the story is to help the child feel comfortable or understand that even though you are absent, it will be okay! If they have an integration aide, ask them to read it the morning of your absence and include the name of the relieving teacher.
  1. Regularly make your expectations clear to the class. We hear often of classes and individuals who use the presence of a RT to play up. Promote a culture of respect and a standard of expected behaviour within your class. Let the children know that if you are absent, your expectations remain the same and that you’ve asked the RT to give you a report. You’ll use that report as part of your class reward/behaviour program.

Some tips about taking days off.

Here are some tips your class/school/daily organiser/parents will appreciate:

  • Don’t take unnecessary days off. Society already think teachers are slackers due to all our holidays and only working ‘9-3’. If you can, try to make appointments on weekends and evenings.
  • Give your daily organiser and class as much notice as possible. The RT booker will be able to get the preferred teacher.
  • Inform the daily organiser of the preferred RT if possible. If you find a good one, it’s great for your class to have continued exposure to the same face and routines, especially if it’s one they respond well to.
  • If you are sick, stay home. Everyone appreciates you keeping your germs to yourself. You’ll also recover faster. Plenty of times I’ve continued to teach when my health has deteriorated throughout the day and the children suffer for it. I don’t have the energy to be upbeat or nice and can get a little short tempered.
  • Keep a low profile. I live and work in the same community. Once I took the day off ill, went to the doctor and then had to go to the local shopping centre to fill a prescription. A parent spotted me and I had to justify. On another occasion my daughter was ill so I took the day off to mind her and take her to the doctor. On the way home I left her in the car (she was a big kid!!) to pop into a shop to purchase resources for an activity I intended to do in my classroom. A parent confronted me (from my own class) and again I had to justify. Each time I had done absolutely nothing wrong, however, some people can be pretty judgemental and eager to gossip.
  • Sometimes we need a mental health day. We live in a country that provides excellent conditions for workers. Every now and then we can feel quite overwhelmed and exhausted. A day home from work can work wonders. (Look at the reasons why you felt this way and attempt to improve the situation if possible).

Here’s to a healthy year!

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