The Big Sick vs The Tiny Sick – which is better for teachers?

Where I now teach, the semester usually kicks off with three weeks of classes followed by what they call a “Flex” week where no classes happen so students can attend camps, study trips and other co-curricular activities, and teachers like me can take a break before classes resume.

I’m in that Flex week now and boy am I grateful – because I fell sick last night!

After more than eight months away from formal teaching, I think my body wasn’t used to the ‘punishment’ that 15 hours of weekly teaching has done to it these past three weeks. A year ago when I commenced part-time teaching, it was a break from full-time teaching of some eight months too. But at that time, I only had 7 hours to teach each week as a part-time adjunct lecturer. Now, it’s more than double that, and my body is letting me know in no uncertain terms how it feels about the big change. Ouch!

Granted it’s not a “big sick” (otherwise I probably won’t be blogging now), but a tiny one. And so I’m not really complaining about it here (no really I’m not), cos there are worse things one can get than the flu symptoms and back pains I now have.

But it is a kind of wake-up call for me, and I find myself now having to be more careful about managing my energies, and also start thinking and being more wary about how long I should stand during lessons, what kind of bag I should carry, how much I should hydrate before, during and after each teaching session, etc (yes yes it all sounds so geriatric, but what can I do? 50 for me is just around the corner after all!)

Well at least that’s what I tell myself now as Flex Week Monday yesterday turns to Tuesday today, then to Wednesday tomorrow, then…and before I know it, classes will start again. Yikes! Cos I definitely have to stay healthy once teaching resumes, since my next break won’t be til year end.

And I comfort myself that it was probably a blessing in disguise that I fell sick only when Flex week commenced, and not say last week or next week when there are lesson plans to execute, assessments to dish out and student consultations to hold. The worse is having to do all that while being unwell. Unlike students, it’s so much more inconvenient for teachers when we fall ill. Students can simply take a leave of absence and not affect the whole class. Teachers who take sick leave on the other hand will often have to be saddled with arranging another session to make up for the absence. Cos over here we don’t have the luxury of finding a substitute at the last minute. I’m sure that’s a problem many schools and teachers face all over the world.

For the chore of having to reschedule a make-up lesson can be so onerous that many sick colleagues just turn up any way even though they may be retching or sneezing! Tiny sicks though mind you, not big ones, because of course it would be most unprofessional and even a trifle unethical to be heavily ill yet turn up for class and pass the germs to our unsuspecting wards!

So in a sense, I’m glad I’m having a tiny sick now when there are no classes. And since I believe this to be a tiny sick, I’ve no doubt I’ll definitely recover before Monday comes around again and classes resume. Fingers crossed of course that it doesn’t metabolise into something bigger. Double yikes!!

I do wonder though if a spattering of “tiny sicks” trump one “big sick”. Cos I know of friends who are built like horses; they almost never take any sick leave and are the darlings of their bosses. But when they do fall sick, boy do they fall hard! I’m talking about the hospital-hard variety! Whereas, people like me tend to take one or two days of sick leave here and there throughout the calendar year, but nothing so serious as to warrant extended absence or (touch wood) a protracted stay at the hospital.

So even though I’m sick these two days (hopefully no longer than that), I do give thanks that it’s not more serious than it might have been. Of course I do also wonder if my body might actually ‘benefit’ from one big sick. You know, sort of get it outta the way so that the next 12 months or so I’ll be fit as a fiddle. For there are moments when I feel like there’s something inside me that wants me comatose for a good few days (I’ve had on-off insomnia since the year began) so my body can get the ‘big sick’ out of me, and I can move on to fitness and great health! I know it sounds a bit whacked-up, but hey perfectly normal people do have whacky thoughts now and then about their health, no?

Anyway, I’m just saying ’tis all.

And evidence has shown that there are those among us who indeed pass through life without ever really falling ill, so every now and then a bloke like me wishes I could be someone like that, especially now when I’m sick. But maybe what’s really far more important is how I make sure that my big or tiny sick doesn’t adversely affect anyone else in my circle of influence, especially my family and students.

So here’s to a speedy recovery for yours truly; or at least before Monday comes around again!

And to answer the question, for me it’s definitely a yes that I think the tiny sick trumps the big sick. But please, preferably during school breaks ok?

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