Put a Ding in the Universe!

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Mar 02 2013

When the teacher is absent, he feels guilty

Today is the third day of class I missed this week.  My son came down with a stomach virus and he has been throwing up for the past three days.  I had to use some of my own sick days to stay home and take care of him.  That means the school has had to get subs for my class.  I hope it’s in one piece when I get back.  The chances of that are maybe fifty-fifty.

I have have a couple of one-day absences so far this year.  I came down with the flu and missed a couple of days a few months ago and there was a professional development seminar the school sent me to.  Each time, when I came back, by class was in shambles.  And that was only one day!  Who knows what it will be like after three days?

I’ve been obsessing over the lost time in the unit I planned.  I’m up against a hard break next Friday when spring break begins.  There are things we need to cover and assess before next week.  Now I’ve lost those days and I won’t get them back.  I feel terrible about it.

This is one of those hard moments I’ve heard about.  My connection and commitment to the students is such that I feel a personal obligation to help them progress as far as possible.  Nevertheless, my concern for my own child’s needs had to take precedence.  I had to take a step back and tell myself that teaching is just my job.

That hit me like a cold slap in the face.  Since school started, I have been focused on building aligned lesson plans, executing lessons with integrity, building relationships, reaching out to parents, and obsessing over data nonstop.  I think about it when I get up in the morning and before I go to sleep at night.  Almost every waking moment is spent trying to lead my students through the achievement gap to the hopeful, promising future on the other side.

But today, I had to consciously remind myself that my students are someone else’s kids.  I’m just one of several teachers they have.  Their parents, no matter how disengaged, neglectful, or absent they might be, are ultimately accountable for what becomes of these children.  I’m only a small part of their daily life, but hopefully one that is making a difference.

Although it’s just my job, I can’t not care.  It’s just, in this moment of conflicting demands, my own child needs me for those things that a teacher can’t provide.  Hopefully, when my students are in that place, someone will be there for them. I’ll be back with them next week and the struggle for progress will resume.

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YOTFAO BACTAG = You only teach for America once, but always challenge the achievement gap.

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