One of the worst days I ever had teaching was when I thought I could teach while suffering from the flu. I didn’t think it would be that bad and I didn’t think I was that sick. I was and more. It was somewhere about 3rd period that my students started getting concerned because I was looking pale and got the Assistant Principal - I was told to go home and get better. They were good students and my AP was a saint. Clearly I shouldn’t have gone to school that day, but I was under the impression that a “sick teacher is better than a healthy substitute.”
Attendance isn’t just an issue that affects students, teachers are people too and they need to work. Often my office dwelling friends wouldn’t understand the hesitation to take off from work. They have never had to try to organize a substitute while also cleaning the sick from their daughter’s bed, they don’t have to. Our office job friends get sick and call their boss about 9:00am and hope the boss isn’t too upset. We organize a sub, get our teacher friend across the hall to pull the subfolder out of the file cabinet, ask another teacher friend to take up the homework that’s due, call the principal to let them know (and hope they won’t be too upset), and then we fill out the paperwork (in triplicate) to explain why we won’t be in today. I don’t think I ever took a day off work while I was teaching just to have an extra day - if I wasn’t in school it was because I was hurting bad.
I have teacher friends though that have had to take days for other reasons. They miss to help with a sick parent. They need to go to court. They need to close on a house. There are any number of reasons that teachers will miss school. We teachers are human and we have lives.
So why do we teachers get so mad at students who miss school? I have known students to miss school for all sorts of reasons. They have to help with a sick parent. They need to go to court. They need to look after their little brother while mom goes to work. Our students are human and they have lives too.
I’m not saying that the only reason a student will miss school is a honorable one or even a reasonable one. Students (especially high school seniors) will miss school because they saw a leaf fall off a tree. How do we know if the absence is legitimate or because the kid wanted an extra day? Well, that is up to us. We need to ask the parents and the students. No, not the attendance clerk - the front lines of student attendance at school are in the classroom and the teacher is the general on that battlefield.
Sometimes kids get sick. Some kids, unfortunately, get sicker than others. We need to nurture those kids and help them. Call it differentiated instruction, but we need to do something to help those kids grow and learn even if they aren’t in school.
Sometimes kids get lazy. Some kids, unfortunately, are lazier than others. The only way we can reach those students is to reach out to them and to their parents. When teachers talk to stakeholders, those stakeholders will understand that the teacher cares and when the teacher cares, students will show up for that teacher.
Tyler Cummings was a teacher for a long time before joining the ranks at SchoolStatus, which is why he's so passionate about the SchoolStatus commitment to parent engagement. It really matters. If you want to make calling parents easier, click here: