I stayed home on Friday because I was sick. I was sick all week, actually, but it had finally gotten to the point where I was really incoherent on Thursday afternoon, and the lecture I gave that day was sort of "I think I know where I am going and through tunnel vision I am pointing at that point on the horizon and I will get there by putting one word in front of the other and eventually that bridge will be built" which probably made as much sense in context as it does out of context!
It wasn't anything other than a summer cold, but because I am recuperating from surgery and radiation, it seems to have hit me harder than a summer cold should. I felt as though I had been hit by a truck (which, to be perfectly honest, is how I feel most days even when I am not fighting illness). I even ran a mild (1 degree or so) fever, which was noticeable as I so seldom run a temperature. The university rhetoric is normally if you are running a temperature you should stay home. So I had not been following our own guidelines.
When do you, as a teacher, give in and call in sick? Do you follow the guidelines for students? As a student, when do you not go to class?
I have missed class when I have been incapacitated or at the hospital for surgery. I have missed class when my bronchitis is so bad I can neither breathe comfortably nor speak audibly (right now I have a microphone and amplifier to help with the audibility of my voice, still recovering from surgery at the end of June). A year and a half ago I had a couple of ruptured discs in my lower back and mostly I made it to work, except for the hospital visits (although there were a few days during which I would not answer for the content of the lectures, because of the meds that were making it possible for me to move). Last year I didn't miss a single day because of illness, and that is what I far prefer. This year I thought I might have made it as well, as (after all) the cancer identification, surgery, and radiation all took place over the summer. But I had not figured on a decreased resistance to the "Typhoid Marys" who came to town a couple of weeks ago, bringing all their exotic diseases (cold, flu, and stomach illnesses of various sorts) to the campus with them. Usually this is a minor event for me -- I have tended in the past to be able to brush off these illnesses at the beginning of the fall semester. Not this year, however.
I tell my students it is important to come to class unless you are sick. The difference between being sick and just not feeling well is something that they have to determine for themselves. I figure it is something that is part of growing up and becoming an adult. There are those who are too insistent on coming to class even when they are too ill, as they feel guilty, and there are those who think of themselves as more fragile than they probably actually are, and tend to stay home when they don't have a fever, when they just really need more sleep, or less alcohol, etc. But there is a big gap in between those two extremes, and learning to navigate it without causing harm to yourself or others is an important life skill. And college is about gaining life skills, in a way, and one of those is when to take sick days (assuming you will be working in a job where that is an option, which is another major issue and one outside the scope of this discussion).
I felt guilty about not being in class myself on Friday but I know that students were not upset -- sadly, a colleague of mine reported walking by the room and hearing students talking as they were leaving "It was my only class today" and they were pleased to have the whole day off. It means Monday will be pretty fast through material, but it is early enough in the semester that we can make it through most of it anyway. Stuff will get cut at the end, of course, just as always, whether or not we have a day less of classes than originally planned.
I am feeling better, but I hope I feel brilliant by Monday. Not holding my breath... I know I will be feeling a bit of guilt, though, for being human, and being sick, but there is nothing I can do about that. I am not Superman. I sooo wish I were.