This past Thursday as soon as my fifth period started, I turned off all the lights and walked to the back of the room. My puzzled students watched me, the sun coming in from the window their only light. “I have nothing for you today. I have a terrible migraine. Please be quiet and leave me alone.” I sat down in a chair in the back corner of my classroom, bookshelves on both sides. “I love you guys very much,” I mumbled. I’m not sure if any of them heard me. I leaned me head back and closed my eyes.
For the next hour I remained in this state. I drifted in and out of a light almost-slumber, the soft noises of bits of conversation creating a kind of white noise. The pain behind my left eye continued to push against my skull and throb relentlessly. I felt weak and dizzy, slightly sick on my stomach, and completely exhausted. I had been fighting the pain all day, doing my best to keep teaching despite the stabbing ache on the entire left side of my head. I just couldn’t do it anymore.
This is what teaching looks like some days. Like so many other professionals, I cannot always go home or leave my post. Sometimes I must work through the pain. So many teachers come to work sick or hurting. Unlike some other jobs where we might be able to hide away or use the restroom at will or take a break, in the classroom we are always on. We just keep teaching because we feel like we have to, or maybe we really don’t have much of choice.
I am thankful to have students who are kind enough to let me sit down and trustworthy enough to let me close my eyes for a while. Had I attempted to do any instruction, I very likely would have thrown up or passed out. Even so, I still felt like a loser teacher.
I had to call in the following day. I was reluctant to do so. I have plenty of sick time, and those days belong to me to use when I am sick as stated in my contract, but I still felt guilty. Not even out of bed yet, my face shoved into the pillow, trying desperately to will the excruciating pain away, I thought about the other teachers who would likely have to cover my classes all day. Like so many other districts all over the nation, we have a teacher and a substitute shortage in my county. Teachers are routinely asked to give up their planning periods to watch other classes. I am blessed to work at a school where, even though we clearly see how unfair it is, we help each other with genuine kindness. I also thought about my students. I emailed instructions for them to work on an on-going project, but I was still robbing them of important education time because I was not there. I was letting everyone down.
I will make it up to my students tomorrow, when I teach them well. I will be standing and awake, clear-eyed and excited. I will make it up to my colleagues by being there for whoever needs me tomorrow or the next day or the next.
Until the next migraine, when the pain and guilt will inevitably return. Until then, I will enjoy the light.
Welcome to my Blog! I am a wife, mother of three, high school English teacher, and a graduate of the Bluegrass Writers Studio at Eastern Kentucky University. Before anything else, I am a woman of faith.