Imagine being the lead role in a Broadway show that has to be performed several times a day. Now imagine that you feel like death, your voice doesn't work very well and you have to bombard the pathogens coursing through your veins with everything you've got simply to keep from passing out on stage. Add to this the pressure that if you are not there, the safety level for the people in the audience decreases and their academic achievement levels dip, as there is basically no way they'll pay attention if your understudy is on stage. Even if they do, the understudy is really just there to make sure they don't hurt each other and so does not deliver any kind of meaningful performance.
That's teaching under the weather.
Flashback to last Sunday. I woke up surprised by a very rude tickle in my throat and knew that something big was coming. I went to the gym to try to sweat it out, ate a healthy breakfast, and tried not to overdo it the rest of the day, but I was doomed. By Sunday evening things were headed downhill quickly and so I turned in quickly.
Monday morning I woke up inside some kind of tube inside of a crater, blasted practically to pieces by the unseen foe. I took a hot shower and got ready for school, drinking Emergen-C (a vitamin supplement drink with about 1,000,000,000% of your daily dose of vitamin C) and slugging Dayquil. The illness prevented me from touching coffee, which sent me reeling into another dimension of reality as the blood flowing to the capillaries in my brain grew dangerously viscous. In that dimension I conked out on the subway under the watchful eyes of two colleagues, waking up in the South Bronx- another dimension still.
On Mondays there is a single period during which my room is not being used- my lunchbreak. I ate what I could and then put my head down to sleep on a desk for thirty minutes before reporting to my weekly in-school suspension duty. Then, taking a shot of Dayquil, I headed back for my afternoon class. This semester I teach for nearly three and a half hours straight in the afternoons. Our school doesn't even have passing periods. Monday's classes were a bit foggy to say the least, but I'd planned something very student-based and so made it through without having to stand and deliver much.
After school I headed home and crashed for a couple hours, barely making into my living/bedroom to do so. Unfortunately I had to drag myself out of bed to plan for Tuesday, which took three times longer than normal due to the bacteria that seemed to permeate even my skin at that point and the fact that we began a new unit on Tuesday. As soon as that was done, I took a couple shots of Nyquil and turned in. Tuesday was not much different. Between intermittent gulps of cold medicine and a couple ten-minute naps taken throughout the day, I made it through and back home for the same routine as Monday evening.
On Wednesday I woke up thoroughly annoyed at my inability to shake my cold. I'd yet to leave the caffeine-starved quasi-reality I'd entered Monday morning and couldn't help but notice a feeling that my head had become physically denser than normal. With the shift in schedules this semester and my rowdier classes now all in the afternoon, I'd regained enough energy to be extraordinarily crabby in class, though lacked the energy to stop myself from yelling a lot. It must have been a rough week for the students in those classes.
Thursday I was still sleeping on the way to work, but able to compose myself a bit more while there. I forgot to take my midday gulp of Dayquil and so developed a nasty headache by midafternoon.
Friday I decided to quit my quickly developing addiction to cold medicine and made it through the day alright, going through a stack of brown paper towels, while at the same time basically ripping my nose off my face and using an entire bottle of hand sanitizer. Due to a whole-school project my classes and I had undertaken this month, I stayed late to compile a large stack of letters written to our borough president, copying them and preparing them to be sent out next week. Afterwards I headed home to pack for a trip back to the Midwest over our Mid-Winter Break.
Thus, the curtain closed. My students were safe and sound. I'd venture a guess that they learned nearly as much as they would have had I been healthy- and far more than if I'd taken sick days. Even still, teaching kids while ill might be one of the least pleasant things one can experience. In an age when teaching time is at a premium and our jobs are very much on the line, putting in the extra effort to show that I'm very serious about my job seems advisable. Unfortunately I'm left to wonder, however, if I'm on the chopping block simply because I'm not tenured. Depending on what the city and union decide to do this spring, even a herculean effort in the classroom with extraordinary results and a dramatic increase in student achievement might not be enough to keep someone like me off that block.