This is my ninth day of being sick. I think it was a flu. (Yes, I had this year’s flu shot.) It caught everybody in my home.
I’ve been back at work for a couple days, though I’m still coughing regularly, and my brain remains foggy. I’ve dropped so many balls. Fortunately, none of them are glass, though there are enough of them bouncing that I can’t quite keep up. There are a few things I am waaaaaay too late on.
I didn’t revise the writing assignments for teaching, like I said I would within a week. I haven’t revised the manuscript that just needs a light revision and I’m sure my coauthors are silently fed up. I have some editorial duties that involve substantial decisions. I have to do a bunch of admin stuff to launch a new program, this is long long overdue. And I need to nail down a new seminar I’m taking on the road. (And heads up, if you’re you at UCR or UCI, by the way). Nine days ago, I didn’t plan on having been sick for nine days.
If I had to take a test at this moment, I imagine I would bomb it.
I’m not pointing this out to solicit some digital sympathy. (Though I won’t argue with any.) My point here is to show how everybody around me has adjusted to my illness rather well. Our carpool partners have picked up the slack to get our kid to school. My students are okay getting stuff back later. My coauthors are the best. The folks on University Senate know my health comes first. The editor that’s been waiting for an essay from me remains patient.
It appears that a lot of the forbearance that I’ve received is because of my status that I’ve attained, as a result of the time I’ve put into gaining this position. If I were to not do something because I’m sick, then people around me pretty much have no choice to accept that anyway. I’m not bringing it up as a matter of negotiation. I suppose if I failed to deliver all the time because of claiming sickness (but not a disability), then this wouldn’t have much credence. Nonetheless, it just seems that I can claim “SICK!” and people not only believe me, but also give me all the slack that I need to focus on getting better.
It makes me absolutely furious that students enrolled in our classes don’t get the same level of respect.
I barely made it in to teach class on Tuesday night. One of the students emailed me in advance, saying she was sick, and couldn’t make it. Another student told me she had a family emergency down in Orange County and couldn’t make it back up here in time. I let them know that that was fine, that they could get caught up on what we did in class, and hoped they’d get better soon and that family situations would be as good as possible.
One of these students just emailed me a doctor’s note. Just to confirm that they were sick. Which I totally did not need or expect. After being laid up for several days, my spouse and I called up the nurse line to talk about our symptoms to see if was worth going in. They said (I paraphrase), “no, you’re sick, but it sounds like you’ll muddle through and coming in won’t help unless you get worse.” So we didn’t go in. Not everybody has this kind of healthcare, though, and I wouldn’t want someone to have to go get a doctor’s note which can be costly not just in terms of money, but also time and effort when you’re sick. (I had to do this once when I was really sick in college, and I’m still mad about this decades later.)
If we’re going to teach effectively, we need to have mutual respect with our students. Asking them to provide evidence that they’re not lying to us is not consistent with a respectful relationship. I agree with the principle of “Trust, but verify,” but if the verification involves any kind of additional difficulty for the other party, then perhaps we should be defaulting to trust?
Of course, if we simply allow students to lie to us all the time with no consequences, that’s not respectful for all of the honest students, who don’t get the accommodations when they are not lying. How can you respect everybody? How about we run our classes so that a student with a family emergency or a sudden illness don’t have to beg for forbearance? That everybody just gets a certain amount of forbearance? This earlier well-read post has a few suggestions, and more are in the comments.
Please. Be kind to our students, and respect our students. Believe them when they say they’re having problems, and more importantly, develop course policies so that they aren’t required to get your permission to get sick.