Remember the first year of teaching? No, not the classroom management struggles or the failed lesson attempts. The illnesses. I actually kept track my first year: 11 viruses, 3 strep/cold combos, and a nasty stomach bug. Despite all those illnesses, I only took one sick day: a decision one principal calls a “teacher-on-teacher crime.”
Anyone not in education might consider teachers coming to school sick bizarre. But between rigid expectations for calling in sick (some districts require securing a sub yourself), understaffing issues, and administrators exploiting teachers’ guilt, many teachers feel pressure when actually taking their sick time. They think they will either annoy their coworkers, disappoint their boss, or fail their students.
Sound exaggerated? It’s not.
A New Jersey teacher recently shared her experience with sick days on Facebook and Reddit:
What did teachers have to say? Well, a lot, it turns out:
Misplaced guilt and blame
Administrators might try to shift the guilt, but this one isn’t on us!
Uh … staffing is your job
If anything, understaffing a school just pits teachers against one another. Not cool.
Try this email!
I like that this teacher suggests a follow-up. Another Reddit teacher suggests editing this email to include “the sick days to which I am contractually entitled because my union bargained for them as part of my compensation package” too. Nice!
In my experience with administrators saying things they shouldn’t have said, this is one of the fastest ways to get them to backtrack.
Document, document, document
Yes, I think following up via email is a good idea because it puts this issue in writing and gives them the chance to ignore, deny, or clear up.
What would actually be a teacher-on-teacher crime
Let me get this straight. Coming to work sick is … noble? All I did my first year of teaching was spread germs around!
Would a great boss say this?
I like that this teacher encourages us to consider that the administrator shouldn’t have said it, but it’s more of an overall reflection that maybe this isn’t the best place to work.
Speak up, union reps!
I think this is a great idea!
Don’t take the bait
Driving yourself into the ground isn’t good for you or your students. Take your sick days!
Principals: here for a good time, not a long time
This is an easy checklist!
If you’re not at the point where you’re comfortable speaking out, just know that this is a desperate guilt trip with no real consequences attached for using what you are contractually owed.
Coworkers shouldn’t play into the toxicity, either
I like this coworker’s reply! Spunky!
As teachers, we need an environment that prioritizes our health and that of our families. Please remember that a well-rested, healthy teacher is far more effective than a worn-out one that pushed through illness and could have used a sick day.
This administrator clearly needs to not perpetuate guilt around taking a day off. The teachers above offer various insights, but the overall message is clear: Tune out desperate guilt trips.
Take your sick days. It’s your time.