Health: Why It’s OK For Teachers to Take a Day Off

Calling in sick

You’ll recognise this dilemma: you’re feeling, frankly, terrible. Whether it is an aching head, a cold that has you in its clutches or a throat that feels like your swallowing razor blades. Maybe you are exhausted, struggling to focus and to get through the day. Perhaps your mental health is suffering and you are in desperate need of some self care.


Instead of phoning in sick, positioning yourself under the quilt and resting, you drag yourself into school and face the day as if everything is fine.


There are so many reasons that staying off when you are poorly is important, not least because you will not recover properly if you don’t give your body chance to rest and rejuvenate. Yet, teachers have so many reasons that they give for soldiering through the illness. Read below for some common excuses for not phoning in sick, why you might jump to these thoughts, and what you should really be thinking…

I am too busy to phone in sick.

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Reasons for Guilt: It’s true, teaching is a treadmill that can be hard to step off. That to-do list is going to continue getting longer if you are at home under a blanket, and it can be difficult to imagine being able to get through it if you have a few days’ worth of tasks to catch up on when you get back.

Reasons to Stay Under the Quilt: However busy you are, your health has to come first. Let’s face it: you’re not going to be at your most productive if you do go in, and taking some time off gives you the chance to recharge your batteries ready to return with determination and energy! Phone in!

I can’t let my colleagues down.


Reasons for Guilt: Being off work means that someone else has to pick up the slack and it is likely that it is going to be one of your colleagues. This will add to their workload and that won’t help their health and wellbeing if they suddenly have to do your work as well as theirs. They might resent you for being off, or think that you are exaggerating.

Reasons to Stay Under the Quilt: Everyone gets poorly. That is a fact. Surely you have helped cover for one of your colleagues who was ill yourself. Surely you didn’t resent them for it. More than likely you will have felt sympathy for that colleague, and perhaps even insisted that you help them so that they can rest. Why shouldn’t someone be able to do that for you? You could actually end up passing your illness on, and then they really won’t thank you! And if you have colleagues who will resent you and think you are exaggerating: well, why would you worry about letting them down if they aren’t willing to help pick you up? Make the phone call without guilt!

My students need me to be in school to teach them.


Reasons for Guilt: Your students do need you. You’ve built up relationships with them, they trust you and depend on you to make sure that they are learning what they need to, that their books are marked, and that you are there to help them to navigate their learning. Being off work is selfish.

Reasons to Stay Under the Quilt: You’re right, your students do need you. They need you to be fit and well; quick thinking and enthusiastic; they need you to engage them.  You being in the classroom when you are poorly will not achieve these things. Not only that, pushing yourself when you are not well is likely to mean you will eventually burn out and need more time off, and then they really will be without you. Make the call!

It will make me look bad if I am absent from school.


Reasons for Guilt: Phoning in sick will be a mark against you and may raise some eyebrows in the SLT meeting. Perhaps they will think you are not up to the job or it might highlight you as someone to keep an eye on…

Reasons to Stay Under the Quilt: Everyone gets poorly and SLT are not going to hunt you down because you had a day off! What is more important is that you are fit and well to teach. Teachers need to be healthy to do a good job, so being off work when you are poorly is perfectly acceptable and understandable.

So next time you are feeling under the weather, have a read of these reasons and remind yourself why resting is the responsible thing to do!

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You might also want to read:
Mental Health First Aid: You Can’t Pour from an Empty Cup

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