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Preparing and Planning for Sickness as a Teacher

21 September 2018 Toby Lester News and Views

As a teacher, it’s all too easy to get ill at work. Schools are a hotbed for illness, and, sooner or later, it’s going to be passed on to you.

First things first: do away with that teacher guilt that all school staff are burdened with. If you’re not well, you can’t do much about it, and you won’t be much use in the classroom anyway. Everybody gets sick; it’s okay to admit it. If you struggle through your illness to go in to work, you could end up making the problem worse and need even more time off to compensate.

You wouldn’t force your class to struggle through it, so don’t force yourself.

So – you’ve admitted to yourself that you’re unwell. What do you do now?

Act Early

Most schools require you to send in your lesson planning for the full day well ahead of time – in the early morning. If you’re feeling ill the night before, prepare ahead of time. Your school’s primary concern will always be with the children’s education in the first instance, so you will need to have this cover prepared.

If you have a personal phone number for your line manager, it’s also a good idea to contact them the night before and let them know that you might not be there.

Call Early

Call or email your school as soon as the sickness hotline opens. Every school operates differently, so find out how and when to contact them.

You can self-certify illness for the first seven days without providing a doctor’s note; however, after this point, you will need to provide proof of illness.

Be Prepared

Perhaps it’s a bit too late to be offering this advice, but you should adopt it for the future. Even if you don’t normally draft in-depth plans for every lesson – always make notes ahead of time of what you’re going to be teaching, any relevant differentiation strategies, and anything else you may need to know at a glance. You only need a couple of lines about each lesson, so it’s a 5-minute job each week. This will also be a tremendous help when it comes to teaching.

Remember that your cover supervisor isn’t just a babysitter. They’ll need a structured lesson plan to teach to, along with access to any resources they may need. Your school will be able to advise you on their expectations, which could range from a fully structured lesson plan to a loose outline of lesson aims and tasks.

You might even be able to get away with textbook work, but consider the impact this could have on your classes. Would this make them fall behind? If they’re behind mid-term expectations, you could be playing catch-up for the rest of the term.

The Emergency Cover Binder

The best defence against mid-week illness should be your Emergency Cover Binder. You can’t predict when and if you’ll be ill, and how severe it could be, so sketch out some emergency lessons that can apply for the full age range you teach, and make sure they’re easily accessible for when you’re feeling rotten.

You can even get a teacher planner in a binder you can add to so you’re fully prepared. Make lesson planning notes in the diary section, and clip your emergency lesson plans to the back so they’re always to hand.

Form a New Habit – Always Plan Ahead

Teacher planners are the best resource for managing future lessons. If you think ahead, you’re always prepared for any eventuality. If your school doesn’t already supply you with a teacher planner (you can get school teacher planners here), consider ordering a one-off planner packed with functionality from Amazon. You’ll never be caught short again.

Always consult your school on sick day/cover procedure.