What is Sick?

My last entry touched on the idea of sick days and what constitutes a sick day.  A lot of talk  recently in my profession is about the abuse of sick days in the  last months of the school year.

Our sick days were recently cut from 20 to 11 and no longer “bankable” to be used upon retirement. This was viewed by many in teaching as a huge loss.  It was also reported in May and June that the number or sick days had increased tremendously, presumably because many teachers were upset they could no long bank the sick days and were just using them up even if they were not sick.

Sick days seems to be a hotbed topic. I cannot deny the fact that some people probably did call in sick when not actually ill, just to use up days.  There were probably many others that called in sick in May and June and were legitimately sick, but perhaps were doubted on the validity of the call. I know this, because I was actually physically ill in June, needed a sick day, and actually felt guilty people would think I was faking. It really was distressing to me to think that people thought I was probably lying and calling in sick “just because”.

My main topic for this blog was to be what is “sick”?  Is sickness a physical manifestation? Can sickness be considered mental? I think we can agree a physical manifestation is a pretty legitimate reason to call in sick. What about mental illness? We consider someone “mentally ill”. Is that a condition? Is it lengthy? Is it treatable?  We have a huge push to keep students healthy – physically and mentally, what about employees?

I’m not trying to undermine someone who is mentally ill. Someone undergoing lengthy treatment or needing medications. Can we not consider stress an illness? Does it not affect the quality of our work and interactions with others? Is that not enough reason to take a day away, re group, re energize, re vitalize, re stabilize ?

Do other people in other professions not take a sick day because they are mentally exhausted? Stressed? Anxious? Worried about their performance? What is considered fair in the world of sickness?

If I’m female and have cramps, should I get more sick days? If I am a smoker and more susceptible to illness, should I get more sick days? If I have young children and pick up every cold all year, should I get more sick days? If I have a mentally challenging job, should I get more sick days? If I have a disease and need more medical appointments, should I get more sick days?

The point I’m trying to make is that I think we all have valid reasons for why we take sick days. I wish people didn’t abuse them, so the rest of us didn’t get questioned as to why we are needing a day off. I truly believe that as adults and professionals, we can make a good determination if we need to be away from school. Some of us drag our butts in to school even when we are really sick because we are there for our kids. Our lessons need us. Our students need us. We have special guests or topics or experiments or any other myriad of reasons why we need to be there.

The vast majority of us use sick days because we are sick. Physically or mentally, our bodies need a break so we can come back and be effective educators.


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