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An apple a day won’t stop the inevitable sick day

We all get sick sometimes. We have all experienced going to bed and feeling fine and then waking up in the morning feeling… not fine. We don’t want to be sick because often it means more work and you know you shouldn’t go in…but you definitely consider it.  

We can’t help being sick, but we can help our students cope with it better. 

Teachers often talk about how casual teachers ‘don’t get the work done’ or ‘didn’t do everything that was left’ and while I understand the frustration, I also feel for the casual teachers.  

Being a casual teacher can be rough; often the students could smell the opportunity to run amok in the class because their teacher was away. On those days, it felt like a battle to survive the day. My goal on those days was sometimes simply to keep the kids in the classroom, keep a lid on the worst behaviour and get through as much of the stuff that was left as I could. Some days were more successful than others.  

Not all students and not always, mbut we also know that students will take advantage. Too many times, teachers return from sick days only to go in and give their classes a mouthful about how disappointed they were to hear of how poorly they behaved, I know, I’ve done it too. 

This made me think, what if we could better prepare our classes for this inevitable event? What if we set up the expectations for how we treat each other and others in our classrooms before we have to take a sick day? 

Cue Preparation Circle: A conversation with all your classes at the beginning of each year, term and even week if needed. It might go something like this: 

Hello everyone. Today we will talk about what our class will look, sound, and feel like if I am not here. Let’s review our current expectations of each other. Take a moment and talk to the person next to you about the key things that you expect of a good teacher. 

Often you’ll hear things such as, things like, is kind, helps me when I need it, is knowledgeable… 

Great. Now let’s recap what we expect of you amazing students. Turn and talk and then we will share. 

Generally, you’ll hear things like, is respectful, follows instructions, participates. 

Fantastic, now can we have a chat about when these expectations apply? 

This is where we positively prime our students to know and understand that we believe they can live up to these expectations regardless of who is at the front of the room. It is also when we let them know that when we are sick, we have in fact left the work for them so that their learning can stay on track and that we know they can get it done! 

This may take 15 minutes or so at the beginning of the lesson, but it is a solid investment in the future. When our students believe – because we tell them often – that they can live up to being their best selves even when we are away…they will. This gives us a wonderful opportunity to thank and congratulate them for being awesome when we return.  

We know we are going to get sick, so let’s give our students the heads up ahead of time! It is a win for you, for the casual and for the students. 

Check out other articles Cassie has written here.