Saturday, April 19, 2014

Teaching Sick

I've had a cold this week, not serious, but coughing, hacking, and sleeping a lot.  And yet, I've taught all my classes.  I wasn't nearly as good teaching as I usually am, but they were okay.

It got me wondering, though, how other peoples' schools handle short term instructor illnesses?

Here, you can just cancel classes.

Or you can email the department and ask someone to cover the class.  (It seems to me that most of those emails are more for planned absences, such as for conferences, rather than for illness.)

I have cancelled classes in the past rather than try to find someone else to teach them, mostly because we teach an 11 credit load (with adjuncts teaching a 15 credit load as full time), so it seems harder to find someone with free time than it would if we taught 6 or 9 credit loads; easier than with 12 credit loads, though.  But usually, especially with a cold, I just muddle through, do the best teaching I can, and that's that.

With a cold, I don't think I'm extending the cold.  It's usually a week to two weeks, or, if you don't teach, 7-14 days, right?

But I feel bad about probably sharing germs with students and others.

I was amused, on Friday, though, when I taught with a really ragged voice (mostly trying not to talk), and after class, one of my students came up and did that thing where they apologize for missing class because they didn't feel well, and you could tell as the words were coming out of their mouth, they realized that not feeling well hadn't kept me in bed.  On the other hand, if we all stayed home when we got a cold, we'd share them less, but my students would also have missed two weeks of classes this semester from my absences.


  1. We're supposed to find someone to cover our classes; but like you, we're all teaching four classes, so.

    Also, I'm teaching classes that are fairly specialized -- fiction workshop, Working Class lit, that kind of thing. Often, other instructors can't just step in and teach the class.

    So yeah, I usually just cancel when I'm sick.

  2. So far (knock on wood), I have never missed school at HU due to illness. I've taught with chronic bronchitis, colds, strep throat, and plenty of stomach issues. I've also never missed school because of my children's illnesses. (Hubby has a job that allows him to work from home when necessary. I, of course, can't teach from the comfort of my recliner.) It's not that I'm proud of not missing work. I feel like I have to pretend to be tough. Any crack in my exterior might be perceived as proof of my lack of commitment to the job or inability to do it. My own personal hell is my anxiety that I will somehow be perceived as incompetent. I might feel less like I have to be superwoman when I get tenure, but I'm not 100% sure of that.

    Back in CA, I had a student who came to class despite having and undergoing treatment for stage 4 cancer. After that experience, I'm afraid I don't really respect students who stay home for the common cold.

  3. Anonymous5:01 PM

    I canceled class for the first time last week (other than the last week of class which I occasionally make optional review in some of my math classes). My daughter had spots that the doctor said were not contagious and I had a note and everything (two, in fact, since daycare made me go back for the second, to the annoyance of the doctor), but the daycare wouldn't take her ANYWAY until the spots went away. And my husband was traveling for work all week. On Monday she came with me to class and that did not work out. I was able to get emergency childcare on Wednesday morning at 8am for $40 cash money, but not for the afternoon, so I just canceled that class and told them to work on their papers. I feel a little terrible about that. But they probably feel relieved because this time of the semester is so very busy.

  4. If I'm contagious (first few days of a cold), I cancel, and I tell them not to come to class if they're sick.

  5. Anonymous8:08 PM

    When I taught college, I generally cancelled if I had to, and either got subs for planned absences or (when teaching creative writing) "traded" those classes for their attendance at a reading or other literary event. (Of course, I provided an alternate activity--like reading an interview with the writer and writing a reflection on it--for people who really couldn't attend an event scheduled at a different time from the class.) Now, teaching high school, I earn one sick day a month and can bank up to 20. I get a sub if I'm out sick, but as I've written on my blog, I'm usually picky and dissatisfied with the way they follow directions. One thing we almost never do, though, is cancel classes. That requires an OK from the division head. I'm sure it's partly a liability issue!

    1. That makes sense, Meansomething! The world's different if you're responsible for under 18 year olds, I bet!