So, two weeks ago I had a terrible stomach bug. I was out of commission for three days, and my first thought was how glad I was that I am not teaching right now! There is nothing worse than having to call in sick when you are a teacher. It's bad enough to feel bad, and it's another thing to have to worry about what your kids are going to do when you're out! There were so many times when I dragged my sick self into work just to avoid having to deal with sub plans and the aftermath of missing a day with my kids.
Equally annoying to me was when my students were out sick. Somehow, I would always forget who was out and what they had or hadn't done. Then, I'd have holes in my gradebook and have to go back weeks later and give Susie her make-up spelling test! How annoying. So, I am writing this post in two parts. Part one will give you some tips on what to do when you are sick. Part two will deal with some creative ideas for handling your students being sick.
The best way to handle your own sick days is with a little planning and preparation. Because, even if you are the world's most awesome lesson-planner, inevitably you will come down with swine flu the Monday morning after leaving early on Friday afternoon with your desk an absolute disaster zone. The plan? Get out early on Friday so you can meet up with your girlfriends/husband/boyfriend/kids for a fun afternoon or even (gasp!) a weekend away. You'll make up for it by getting up at 4:00 am on Monday and rolling into work super early to get organized for the week. The problem? You do wake up at 4:00 am on Monday but in no shape to roll anywhere! What to do?
Well, first of all, I always found it advantageous to have some other teacher on your grade level who has a pretty good idea of what's going on in your classroom. You don't necessarily have to plan every detail of your day with this person. But, you two should talk enough that if she gets there one morning and your room is still dark at 8:05 and the kids are coming at 8:10 she can whip something together for them to do for the day. I used to work with a girl like this, and it was great. If one of us was out, the other one could go in and help the sub piece the day together. I knew where she kept her materials, and I knew basically what her class was up to each week. So, if she were out I could pretty easily go into her room and rummage through her stuff and find something for her kids to do that day that was relevant. Worst case scenario, I could copy a few things I was doing and they would work pretty well. She could do the same for me. This is extremely valuable!
Of course, there are times when your partner in crime is also out, or for some reason she can't find anything for your kids to do. For these occasions, I had "emergency sub plans." Sometime, during pre-planning week I would sit down and type out a plan for a day, any day. I typically used pretty generic ideas that would work at any point in the year. For math, I would find some review pages in the math book or online. Or, I might have directions for an easy math game that would review important skills that we covered at the beginning of the year or they learned the year before. For language arts, I would pick a story in the reading book that I knew we wouldn't get to and type out plans for working through the story. I'd even copy worksheets to go with it. I might come up with some type of writing activity that would work at any point. I sometimes would have them write about where they thought I was or what they thought I was doing that day. Or, I might pick a picture book to share and do a writing activity based on that. For science and social studies, I would have some extra "Time for Kids" magazines from the year before. I'd create lesson plans to go with the articles. If you don't subscribe to "Time for Kids", you can usually go on their website and print out a few sample articles. You could stick those in there and create your own nonfiction reading activity. You could even have them do a simple science experiment and write it up. As the year progressed, I might add some ideas to my emergency sub plans folder. I always made sure it was easy to find and access so that if for some reason I didn't show up the sub could make it through at least one day. I rarely ever had to use these plans, but it was so nice to know that they were there in case something happened and I just could not make it in.
Finally, I say to you, do not stress! In the worst case scenario, you e-mail your co-workers at 8:00 am and tell them that you are near death and they will come through for you! The sub and your kids will make it through the day. And, you need to rest so you can handle the other 179! :)