Teachers Expected To Work Remotely While Sick Is Outrageous

Teaching while sick is now the norm in most U.S. schools and that’s just not okay. If you aren’t a teacher – or are one of the few educators not dealing with this – you’re probably saying, “No way. That’s not possible. There’s a pandemic going on. Teachers can’t possibly be expected to work while sick.” But it’s really happening – and probably in your community. Here are some actual stories of what teachers are currently going through shared with the Bored Teachers community.

Remote teaching while sick is still working.

“I am super sick today with headache, cough, body aches, and fever. I need to get tested for COVID-19, but it will have to wait until after school because I’m required to be on Zoom all day. Even if I do test positive, I’ll still be expected to continue teaching virtually. My students were already freaked out by how sick I look and sound on video today.” 

It isn’t okay for students to have to see their teachers so sick. Most students know people are dying – some have experienced loss personally. Now they’re being forced to watch their teachers struggle and worry if they’ll be okay. And it really isn’t okay to expect anyone to continue teaching while sick even if it’s remote. Just because the technology is in place doesn’t mean business should go on as usual. We’re talking about humans, not robots. 

Subs are no longer an option.

Many teachers have been told they aren’t allowed to request a sub. In many cases, a nationwide substitute teacher shortage is behind this. In others, it’s simply a matter of budget cuts. Why pay a sub when you can force teachers to continue teaching from home or have their coworkers take on extra classes? This leaves teachers with two choices: work while sick or add extra responsibility on the shoulders of their coworkers. Both are ridiculously unfair choices. 

“We can’t be sick. We aren’t allowed to have a sub. If we’re out, our fellow teachers have to cover. No one wants to do that to a colleague, so we’re all just working sick.”

“We do not get subs, instead, I can ask a coworker to cover for me. This is blowing my mind. They take my sick time for an entire day but I have to find a coworker to agree to do it for free? Then why are they taking my time and not giving them a stipend?” 

“There’s one sub for my entire building. Priority for getting that sub goes to hospitalized teachers – and being in the hospital doesn’t even guarantee a sub. Otherwise, teach remotely anyway or find a coworker to take on the load for you.”

It’s easier to keep teaching than write sub plans.

Many teachers say it’s easier to just keep teaching while sick than to try to write productive sub plans. This is not a normal school year. Everything is in constant chaos and upheaval. There are rotating schedules of kids in-person and online. Some teachers have in-person and online students at the same time. Class rosters change nearly every day. Technology issues make it nearly impossible to follow a set schedule. There are too many factors to consider to create sub plans that make sense, so it’s often easier just to keep write on working from home. 

“I can barely stay afloat. How could I possibly expect a substitute to figure any of this out?”

“It takes me less time and energy to teach the lesson myself than to try to write a sub-plan for it that makes sense.”

Teachers’ boundaries are being violated while they are sick.

When teachers are sick, they should be able to disconnect from work completely and focus on getting better. Instead, they’re expected to be on constant call to answer questions from administrators, substitutes, coworkers, parents, and students. Many teachers are still required to do lesson planning, upload video lessons, and even attend Zoom sessions. 

“I’m home in quarantine and actually sick with COVID. My principal insisted on doing my annual teacher evaluation through Zoom anyway.” 

“I was in the hospital on oxygen for days. Calls, texts, and emails from administration requesting clarification on my sub plans still occurred multiple times a day.” 

Teachers’ kids get sick, too.

Many teachers have children in school. They have to follow the protocol required of parents when their own kids get sick. 

“I got the dreaded call that my kid had a fever after lunch. I had to scramble to find other teachers to cover my afternoon classes. Then I was on my phone in the doctor’s office making arrangements to teach from home for the rest of the week (or longer) when I should have been focusing on my sick child.”

“My daughter had to have her tonsils removed. I had to teach remotely from home for five days while she recovered while also caring for her. I wasn’t allowed to have a sub.”

Expecting a sick teacher – regardless of COVID or other illness or injury – to continue working from home isn’t okay. There needs to be some common-sense balance. Teachers should have some flexibility to make decisions that are best for their health without worrying about work. Rest and recuperation should be a teacher’s priority when sick, not a dwindling sub pool, putting together lesson plans that are coherent in the chaos of pandemic teaching, or working while ill. 


Teachers Expected To Work Remotely While Sick Is Outrageous

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Rachael Moshman
Rachael Moshman, M.Ed., an editor at Bored Teachers, is a mom, educator, writer, and advocate for self-confidence. She's been a teacher in classrooms of infants through adult college students. She loves pizza, Netflix and yoga. Connect with her at rachael.m@boredteachers.com
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