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Chuck's column: Out sick

So, last week was a long week. Just sayin'. Despite the fact I was in my room for only three of the potential five days, it was a long week. The inevitable cold hit my head and body, and I was dealing with a tooth issue as well. I ended up having to miss two days of school. Back-to-back days.

I don't remember the last time I missed two days in a row. It's not something I choose to do, nor is it something I do easily. I know other teachers think the same way. The general public doesn't know what it entails for the classroom teacher to be gone from class for one day, to say nothing about multiple days.

For starters, I go back and forth about whether or not to call in each and every time. It's not like I'm sick a lot, but when I am sick, it always seems to be at an inopportune time. I would have to be on my deathbed to be missing from class on the day of a test or a quiz. I fight my conscience, for some stupid reason, when the possibility of being gone occurs on the day a major paper or project is due. I tend to not miss those days either. There have been plenty of days in my tenure where I probably should have been home but just felt I couldn't miss class.

Part of what makes the decision difficult to be gone on key days is the fact we have to return and deal with having been gone. I know that sounds ridiculous to most, but it's one of those situations that you might better understand if you were to be one of us. I guess it's all about ownership and letting go from time to time when the body needs to mend.

Once the decision has been made, there is the issue of Sub Notes. I tend to be anal retentive about leaving sub notes. They go on and on and on. I leave little to the decision-making ability of the sub. I lay it out rather detailed. And I over-think everything. "What if..." or "If this happens, then..." Seriously, my sub notes are mini-instruction booklets. I try to imagine every possible thing that could go wrong and I address it for the sub like a prophet would predict the future. I'm sure the sub is thrilled that I am so thorough. Ha!

I also feel compelled to explain the seating chart. The seating chart! And then there's the issue of giving passes to students for the bathroom. I'm sure I don't need to explain that to the sub, and I could just as well let them do what worked for them on any given day, but nope ... I make it a point to tell him/her my pass policy. Serious issues, huh?

Most importantly in all this is that we make the day as productive as possible, considering we won't be here. Our task is to make it worthwhile for the students but one where the substitute teacher won't be overwhelmed by the task we ask of them. Folks, it's just never that simple.

Many of our retired teachers/administrators/counselors have returned to the classroom to sub in their "golden" years. It sometimes helps to know who is stepping in when we're gone because ... well, take my word for it. It just does. I've been asked if I'll sub once this career ends. Seriously? I think I'd prefer serving coffee at Starbucks or taking money from customers at Barnes and Noble. If I were to sub, I fear my need for order and structure may have to be put on hold.

No, I don't think subbing will be in my future after this stage of life is behind me. However, I've been wrong in the past! Rarely, mind you, but it's happened.

Bye-bye February. Hello March!