Teacher Sick Day Guilt

While curled up in bed, headachy, full of flu and fed up, I was overwhelmed by one particular feeling.


There I was, a cold-filled lurgy monster and having to sleep for a couple of hours after popping downstairs to get a drink, but all I could think was: I should be in school.

Bear in mind that, for each of the days I was ill, I also spent at least one hour deciding what my classes should be doing so as not to waste their lesson time. Plus, when I got back to work, I marked it all.

Why do we feel guilty for taking time off when we really are sick?

Why is it that it is so difficult for us to even allow ourselves to take time off when we are ill?

I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve seen colleagues come in when they are barely functioning because they don’t want to let their students down. Teachers who’ve lost their voices, teachers with debilitating morning sickness, even teachers struggling in with mumps to set up the cover for the day before they go to the doctors.

And that’s not to mention all of the teachers who struggle with mental health conditions or try to have operations or serious health treatments during their holidays so as to be at school every day that they can.

We’ve all seen it, haven’t we?! We’ve probably all done it too.

So, how might we be able to actually allow ourselves to take time off when we need it? How can we let ourselves rest and relax when we are home, ill?

Perhaps the first step, at least something I’ve found helpful, is to accept my own limitations, both that I really am not immortal (I get ill) and that I am not omnipotent (I am not the only determining factor in ensuring that my students succeed).

Giving ourselves permission to be ill and accepting our own limitations, surely, has to be the first step. If we do this, it’ll help our colleagues too. They’ll feel more able to take time off when they really are ill if we do.

All good teachers want to do their best for their students and by their students.

That’s one of the reasons we find it hard to take a sick day.

What we, perhaps, also need to recognise is that our students need to do the best for themselves too. If we set meaningful cover, it is up to the students themselves whether they make the most of it by completing it thoroughly.

They are also responsible.

Maybe that’s the root cause of our sickdayphobia. We take too much responsibility for ourselves and our students, responsibility that lies on multiple shoulders but we perceive as being our burden to bear.

So, next time, I amĀ curled up in bed, headachy, full of flu and fed up, I don’t want to be overwhelmed by one particular feeling of guilt.

I want to rest.

I want to rest so that I can get back to school as quickly as possible, healthy and raring to go.


4 thoughts on “Teacher Sick Day Guilt

    1. I think that we can all relate to this – especially because most teachers really want to help their students and feel guilty if they have to be away!

Leave a Reply