This Morning

This morning I’m thinking about being sick.

I have a cold. Came down with it Friday, and spent my weekend not feeling very well. Fortunately it’s not severe enough to really limit me: I still walked my dogs, ran errands, looked for new rental houses, read books, and even graded a half-dozen rough drafts. But the whole time, doing all of those things, I felt pretty crappy. Friday at work was the worst: I could barely get myself to teach anything at all, some periods, and others I was more cranky than teacher-y. (I can’t even think of a better word than teacher-y. More pissy than pedagogical, how’s that?) Now it’s time to go back to work, and I still feel under the weather.

It’s an interesting phrase, isn’t it? Under the weather? Aren’t we always under the weather? I assume it’s supposed to mean directly under the weather, meaning out in the storm without a roof to keep off the rain or walls to block the wind; that would be pretty miserable, all right, which seems apropos.

Regardless, though, I do not feel like working. The fact that I was sick this weekend already put me behind, both in my grading — I got a half-dozen rough drafts done, but I should have finished all of them, and maybe done the other class’s essays, too — and in my relaxing, because while I did nap several times a day, I never felt a whole lot better. At least, I don’t feel a whole lot recovered now.

This is one of the problems with teaching, too. We get more sick days than most professionals, I think — that is, other than the ones who are simply trusted to make up their own minds about when they can and cannot come in to work, and they are considered responsible adults who can get their work done even if they don’t actually show up every day, you know, like professionals — but we can’t just call in sick: we need to arrange for a substitute. This school the administration actually gets the sub, which is an improvement over my last school, where the teachers did it themselves: yet another example of something teachers are all too willing to take on themselves because we want to help, and because we want every petty shred of control, including, apparently, the ability to select who we give control to when we can’t have it ourselves. But in any case, I have to plan lessons for my classes. It’s both easy and hard for me: because I can always give them something to read  — but nobody can run my class the way that I can. Other people could surely run a discussion, but you have to really know the literature to run it the way I do, and subs would not, of course. So every day I’m out is basically wasted, because it can only be something extra, never the thing the class would be doing if I were there. My students realize this, of course, and so they are not as dedicated or as involved as they would be with me there. That’s not to say they’re all that dedicated or involved regardless; they are teenagers and it is almost May.

That’s the worst thing. It’s almost May. My school starts its year ungodly early — August 1, usually — which is a hideous ordeal in August; but it means we finish school in May, before Memorial Day. I only have three weeks left before finals. My students, as you may expect, are done already; the only thing keeping them going is my will to keep dragging them behind me. That and a certain amount of fear of bad grades. (But the smarter ones realize that as the semester nears the end, grade inertia sets in: because new assignments are just added to the pile, and so no specific assignment will change the overall grade very much. When the total points in the class is, say, 100, then a 50 point assignment means everything; but three months later, when the total points are 5000, 50 points is kinda nothing. Shhh — don’t tell the rest of them.) So the point is, the temptation for me, not feeling well, cranky, and behind on my grading anyway, to just throw up my hands and say, “That’s it, we’re done: somebody put on YouTube and get out the Uno deck,” grows daily. And my students would like nothing more.

But I can’t complain too much. Because my wife — God, my poor wife — has all of these same problems: only worse. She got sick too: with the flu. Knocked her down for three full days two weeks ago. And then, because the flu made her cough nonstop the whole time, it gave her laryngitis: she basically coughed her voice out. She went back to work last week barely able to whisper. Spent the whole week coughing and wheezing and suffering. And now it’s pollen season, and her allergies are kicking in: so she feels almost as miserable now as when she had the flu.

On top of that, when this school year ends, she’s done. She’s quitting, to go back to doing art full time (and not a minute too soon). So think of how eager she is for these three weeks to pass. And when it comes to subs, she not only can’t get a sub who can do what she does, because no sub understands drawing and painting like she does, but also her students don’t really care about her class, because they see it as some elective they have to get through to graduate and nothing more, a problem only exacerbated by our school’s focus on STEM. There are exceptions, of course, but most of her students are pretty indifferent to art. So they’re even less likely to work for a sub, or for my wife; and they are that much harder to drag behind her towards the finish line.

And by the way: where do you think we both caught these diseases? That’s right, from the little germ factories that surround us every day. It’s like being in the trenches while they’re chucking biological weapons in at us. For three more weeks. Three long, tiring, sickly weeks. I expect they’ll be three of the longest weeks in my wife’s life.

That’s what really makes me sick. That I can’t make these last three weeks go faster for her.

If any of you could do something about that, I’d really appreciate it. Thanks.

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