The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Posts tagged “Sick Day

Sick Day

Today was the start of the second full week of school, just the second Monday for my students, and I missed it because I came down with some awful sickness over the weekend.

While my class was hopefully eating breakfast in the classroom, I was lying on the couch, munching on saltine crackers. While my class was hopefully reading independently in 20-minute stretches, I was lying on the couch, reading Frogkisser! by Garth Nix. While my students were supposed to be learning about how to actively listen to one another, I was trying to figure out what the word “fossick” meant. (Answer: to dig around looking for something; it is still used with some regularity in Australia, which is where Mr. Nix is from.)

While my students were eating lunch, I was wondering if I could hold down a small bowl of plain oatmeal. While my students were likely listening to Wonder, I was on hold with my doctor on the phone, trying to get information about a billing statement from last June. While my students were ideally reviewing plane figures, I was taking a break from my book to watch a movie, which required considerably less movement than turning pages. While my students were probably writing letters to the principal to suggest ideas for after school clubs, I was eating jello. And while my students were preparing to go home, I was feeling grateful that the aches and pains in my body had finally subsided.

Of course, there are a lot of unknowns in that paragraph about what my students were up to today for the simple fact that I don’t know if the plans for the day were followed, either by my substitute or my students. And because this absence was unplanned, I didn’t take time beforehand to prep my class on my expectations for what my students should do when I am gone. (Hint: they should be doing the same things they do when I am there.) I also don’t know how much support our special education teachers and literacy interventionists were able to provide while I was gone. I just don’t know.

I’ll find out tomorrow morning when I get back to work. I am hopeful that my plans were followed, that my students were learning, and that we will be able to pick up tomorrow right where we ought to. But if the worst happened and none of my plans were followed, well, that’s part of life. Sometimes things don’t go according to plan. In those cases, you simply evaluate the situation and move forward.



Head Cold

Head colds are awful. They are just bad enough to make you feel miserable, but not quite so bad as to justify staying home to rest. Getting a head cold over the weekend is even worse, though, because you know that even if you were to call in sick, you’d have to go in to work anyway to write up sub plans and make sure everything is ready for the day.

I can usually combat the symptoms of a head cold with regular cold medicine, but late at night I realised that the only medicine I had available at home was some night-time gel caps. I really, really, really hate medicines like that because they seem to leave my head in a fog all day long. But since I needed something to relieve the symptoms so I could at least sleep, I took some before going to bed. I was able to sleep through the night and woke up on time, but it sure was a struggle to make it through the first part of my day!

Even though I felt awful and I was still feeling the side effects of the cold medicine, I was determined to make sure that our day went about as usual! We went to the gym for P.E., several more students shared their colony research reports, we went outside for recess, and we continued to review how to divide multi-digit numbers by a single-digit divisor. And that was just in the morning! The afternoon saw our mix-up math groups also working on division, then my class went to Music. The end of the day was full of reading: another chapter of Bridge to Terabithia, Today’s Topics, and SOAR.

It was a good day, other than the awful head cold! I will not be with my class tomorrow, though, because I will be serving as an Election Judge for Champaign County during the Primary Elections tomorrow. I was hoping to be placed in the precinct that includes Wiley, but my assignment is in Savoy. I am confident that my students will have a fantastic day tomorrow while I am performing my civic duty!


Last weekend I came down with a nasty cold that I battled long and hard. On Tuesday I dragged myself to school and discovered nearly a fifth of my class had also come down with nasty colds. I survived Tuesday and dragged myself to work again on Wednesday so that I could be there for my student teacher’s first observation and also so that I could participate in our fourth grade data review meeting. But by the end of the day I was still stuffed up and slightly nauseated.

So I made sub plans, called in sick, and have spent the day finally recovering from my cold. My nose is still a little stuffy, but not as bad as it was the past few days. I was able to sleep in (and on my brand-new mattress, too!), rested all morning, and felt better so my wife and I finally got our bedroom organised. (It took us slightly more than a month, but our home is finally unpacked, organised, and ready for guests to visit!) Then I spent the remainder of the day resting.

I hope that my class had a great day today. I know the sub well, as she has subbed for me many, many times in the past few years and she is a retired fourth grade teacher who used to work in the same room I work in now. I hope that my class had fun during P.E., that they wrote excellent paragraphs about a story they’ve read a couple of times, that they learned more about ecosystems, that they enjoyed continuing to learn the story of August Pullman, and that they have a better understanding of the properties of addition and subtraction that help explain how and why certain computations always work.

I hope. I won’t know for sure until tomorrow, of course. But any parents who are reading are encouraged to ask their children how their first day with a substitute teacher in fourth grade went and what they accomplished!

Talking Politics

Sometime on Saturday night I started feeling a little queasy. By Sunday morning I was full-blown sick. I wasn’t sure what I had, but I was definitely sick. I thought it might have been something that’d blow over quickly but by Sunday afternoon I was feeling worse, so I made the decision to call in for a substitute for Monday. Then I wrote up my plans and got them sent to my principal, since I wasn’t able to get to the school to have them waiting on my desk. I started to feel better on Monday morning and was back to normal by Monday evening, so I was ready to get back to school after being away from my students for four days.

I was glad to be back today, and I was glad my students were glad! We didn’t waste much time getting back to work today, tackling social studies, working in the computer lab, figuring out how to find the area of a parallelogram, and then working on literacy. At the end of the day, I was working with one of my reading groups as they read a series of news articles about young people participating in mock elections. I expected some conversation about voting, including the inevitable questions about who I would be voting for in the upcoming election. (I declined to answer, citing, among many other reasons, my role as a Judge of the Election for Champaign County, and I choose to keep my vote private at school. This is similar to my general policy to keep my personal religious beliefs private while at work.)

What I didn’t expect were some of the well-thought questions about the American political system. Even better was that the six students in the reading group were talking to each other, asking and answering questions of each other rather than directing all of their questions to me. They did ask me a few questions, but they weren’t about specific candidates or which specific issues I supported. Rather, they were questions about the political system in general. For example, they wanted to know why there is so much debate about raising taxes, cutting taxes, and decreasing spending. This led us to discuss how governments create budgets, control revenue for taxes, and borrow money to pay for a variety of programs. They also discussed how many political ads that they see that focus on the negative about other candidates and their surprise at how few ads said anything positive about the candidate running.

It was a fun conversation that had everyone in my group engaged and focused on the topic at hand. Of course, the topic was not something I had initially planned on covering, but that is often the way things when teaching: some of the greatest lessons are the ones that aren’t planned, but instead arise directly out of students’ interest in their growing awareness of the world around them. I let them guide their own discussion, as they are a reading group, with me there as facilitator to help move things along. I don’t know that this will happen with each reading group as I meet with them this week, but I love knowing that my students are capable of examining the world around them, asking questions, and then working them out!

Teaching While Sick

I hate being sick. And I hate having to take cold medicines to deal with being sick. When I don’t have work, my usual method for dealing with being sick is to curl up in a ball and sleep in my bed until I am feeling better.

Alas, I could not do that today, although I felt like calling in sick around midnight. But I figured I could slog my way through the day. Besides, it was Friday, and Friday’s are usually pretty easy days.

We had a spelling test in the morning, silent reading, and math. The afternoon was spent with the students participating in their preferred activities during Read, Write, Think. I tried to change some things up with Read, Write, Think, but I’m not going to do it that way again. I am trying to make it more structured, but the structure I tried today didn’t quite work out the way I had hoped, so I’ll try something new the next time we do it.

So I made it through a day at work while feeling sick. Here’s to hoping I’m feeling better by Monday!


My wife and I went shopping on Friday evening, and I happened to have the misfortune of handling money that had been handled by a cashier who was sniffling and wiping his nose before and after the transaction. Teachers are always harping on students about not touching their “T-zones”: your eyes, nose, and mouth.

I think we should also tell them to not touch anything that has been touched by someone who has previously touched any of the above facial features.

It doesn’t take long to catch a cold from someone who is carrying the virus. In my case, it took roughly 24 hours. I spent Saturday evening and all day Sunday in a medicated stupor, hoping to overcome the cold well enough to come to work today.

I succeeded.

Kind of.

I felt dizzy and lightheaded most of the day, but I managed to make it to the end, and even through our weekly staff meeting! As a precaution, though, I warned my class that I had been sick over the weekend. I asked for a volunteer to run to my grade-level partner’s room and tell her if I happened to collapse to the floor and/or pass out. Several volunteered, and other volunteered to help maintain order. I didn’t collapse or pass out,fortunately, but I am glad that I have students who are willing to run for help in an emergency!

Hopefully I’ll be feeling better tomorrow!


I didn’t work on Thursday or Friday of last week as a result of the Thanksgiving holiday. My wife and I went to visit my parents and had a wonderful time with them and many other members of our family. We ate lots of tasty food, especially in the pie category. We also went to see the new Harry Potter movie, went shopping on Black Friday, and generally had a great time.

Until Saturday morning.

That is when we both woke up feeling very ill. Nausea, vomiting, and other nastiness afflicted us non-stop. We managed to gain mobility and loaded ourselves into our car and made the drive home in an hour and a half with only one stop. Needless to say, our diet became suddenly restricted to saltine crackers and ginger ale, lovingly provided by Gretchen’s family.

On Sunday the illness began to abate, but it was not gone. By Sunday evening it occurred to me that I had not really eaten anything in almost 48 hours. And so work today was out of the question, despite there being opportunities.

Instead, I spent today taking care of personal business, running errands, returning a huge pile of movies and one book to the library and paying my overdue charges, and finally getting my hands of John Grisham’s currently-penultimate publication, Ford County, which is a collection of short stories. I also got my hands on Dune, with the intention of finally reading Frank Herbert’s epic masterpiece.

I fully expect to be at work tomorrow, though. In the meantime, let me share this video with you, which is an example of one of the many things in this world for which I am grateful: the ability to laugh.