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First Year, Fifteenth Week: Teaching Edition

Tabitha Helms

This is a week to remember. I had another "first" in my first year experiences: I took a sick day. I have a tendency to work myself to death--overdoing it on many occasions, (hey, I'm a perfectionist, what can I say?). When this happens, my body goes on protest, and I get sick so I'll slow down and ease up a little. When I've really been pushing, I get a fever. Such was the case this week. On Wednesday I woke up feeling awful...but that's nothing new. The anxiety has been kicking back in full speed. I pushed through my morning and got to school. I made it through Bible class, where both kindergarten classes went to the chapel to practice our performance song for Friday. It went well, but was very tiring. I was draining quickly. I wrote the schedule on the board for language arts and kept things pretty open--giving the kids independent work time so I could pull one-on-one for sight word testing. I told the kids I was feeling awful and to be extra good listeners. I praised them over and over again for doing a wonderful job at that. Of course when I mentioned feeling sick, everyone else had to chime in that they were feeling sick too. *Sigh. Ego-centrism at its finest. We had about 15 minutes of class time left before lunch, and I was dying. They were out of things to do and it was incredibly noisy. My head was about burst as I was frantically thinking of what I could do to get a sub in for myself for the rest of the day. I began writing the entire day's schedule on the board and setting out papers that they'd need that day. I remembered we needed to do some journal writing, so I told them I didn't want to hear a single word while we completed our journals. They thankfully complied. I kept feeling very light-headed, but I just had to grin and bear it--telling myself to push through just a few more minutes until they were out at lunch. As soon as I dismissed them, I booked it to the office. The nausea from the morning had never worn off, and when I opened the door a wave of aroma greeted me. Apparently my room mom, a manager at Famous Dave's, had given the VCS staff a Christmas present of catered lunch that day. I almost walked back out, the smell was too strong for my stomach. But I was desperate to go home and tried to ignore the smell while I asked if there was anyone on campus that could sub for me the rest of the day. They phoned a teacher from last year who is taking the year off and then paged around campus to see if one of our aides was still there. She was and was happy to fill in for me. She's the mother of one of my students and taught for years. She helps in my class most mornings, and I felt good about leaving her in charge--she knows how I teach and where most things are in my class. I tidied my room a little and gave her some back-up stuff to do if needed and headed home.

I checked my temperature when I got home, but it was normal. I went straight to bed, but I have a hard time sleeping while it's still light outside. I had put a quilt up over my window to darken my room; I was wearing an eye mask. It didn't help. I lay in bed for 3 hours before I finally fell asleep. It was miserable. I woke up a couple hours later with a low fever. I texted my sub to see how things went and to see if she could be on call for me tomorrow. I gathered enough energy to type up sub plans for the next day, with extensive explanations for our class Christmas party that I would be missing if I was still sick. I was still nauseous and didn't eat more than a few crackers and corn Chex all day.

The next morning, I woke up at 6:30am. It's apparently a new habit of mine to wake up before my alarm goes off. I was relieved at the time though because we had our staff Christmas party that morning at 6:45am. I was planning on being late's way too early for me to be up and about without anxiety. But I had enough energy to check my temperature. Still had a low fever: 99 degrees. I went out and asked my mom if it was that big of a deal. It was low. I could take some medicine and plug through, right? Mom was skeptical--with good reason. I sighed, sorry to miss my class party. I texted my boss, emailed my sub plans to the office staff, and texted my sub. I went back to sleep for another hour, then texted my room mom that she would be handling the party on her own. I found out later from another parent that my room mom was freaking out about me not being there. She told her friend, "Who's supposed to assign duties to everyone?" Her friend asked, "What kind of room mom are you? You're scared to tell people what to do?!" I didn't think it was that big of a deal, the sub would be there to help. That's not really a teacher skill in my opinion. My room mom manages a restaurant, I thought she'd be used to putting different people on different tasks. She knows better than I do what needs to be done; she put together the crafts, not me. All in all, I heard it was a success. It was a long day for me though. I had a little bit of my appetite back, which was good. I'm wasting away in the weight department now that nausea has become my constant companion. I took a bath and went to bed early again, and thankfully woke up without a fever.

I was tired out all day, but I was able to push through a half day of school on Friday. It's a little crazy coming back to school after having a sub. I kept finding things in random places. I've been really good about leaving supplies and things where they belong at the end of the day, and going the extra mile to do the extra clean up process so that items are ready for use right away the next time I need it. (It drives me crazy that my bulletin boarders and calendar days still have staples in them from the last person that used them. I can't hang anything until I've pulled out all the staples!) In my sub plans, I even mentioned where things belong. But I found a spool of ribbon in the closet next to the Language Arts curriculum supplies, a glue bottle on my sticker box, extra papers on the computer table. Random things.

You should have seen the kids when I opened my classroom door at the start of the day. They were standing in a nice line, but once the kid in front gave me a hug, they ALL had to come give me a hug! They were so happy to see me, and I was so happy to see them. I missed them and was glad to be with them again. The kids sang "Away in a Manger;" they did amazing. I was relieved that their silly antics they had often practiced with were nowhere to be seen. After chapel was a little crazy because they were allowed to leave early. I had to figure out who was leaving and who was staying. There were parents in and out of my room. I was trying to make sure everyone who was leaving had all their crafts and Christmas presents. Once the chaos died down and I comforted the ones who were upset about not going home, I sent the rest outside for snack time and set up my class for centers. That's all we did the rest of the day--crafts and watched A Charlie Brown Christmas. :)

While the kids watched their movie, I packed up my stuff--gathered all my Christmas ornaments from home, put away countdown till Christmas snowmen, grabbed my advent calendar, etc. I cleaned out my frog tank and got them ready to go home, packed up all the presents my kids brought me, and found all the ungraded papers. I had piles of things that needed to go to my car. I think the teachers are supposed to stay until 2pm on half days, but if anyone questioned me I was going to tell them that I'd been sick and I still needed rest. I ALWAYS manage to relapse when I have a fever because I overdo it the first day that I'm well enough to get back into my pace of life again. I was determined NOT to get sick on my break. So I packed up my car once I dropped the kids off into extended care, and left when the bell rang. I've never done that before, and it about killed me to leave things unfinished in my classroom. But I'm on break, I have time to go in one day next week and do bulletin boards and prep worksheets for the first week of January.

And guess what? I didn't get sick again! :)

Now I'm looking forward to a MILDLY busy break. My To Do list includes: - crayon art - seeing a few friends from high school that I haven't seen in a while - helping Nicole pack for NORTH CAROLINA while introducing her to The Help - Christmas shopping for the men in my life (shopping for girls is soooo much more fun!) - getting a manicure and foot massage (gift from one of my students!) - checking out a zumba class to incorporate exercise in my anxiety-ridden life - setting up my new laptop - prepping my classroom for January - getting my car fixed ($876 later...) - going to the doctor about my daily, tension headaches - perfecting the song I'm singing at 3 Christmas Eve services

This teacher is LOVING vacation! Ho ho ho, and Merry Christmas! If you don't have plans on Christmas Eve, I'd love to see you at Generation Church 4pm, 5:30pm, 7pm. :) (I think those are the correct times....I'm going to be there all afternoon and evening. Haha)