I'm not at school today. I'm on the couch. The cat is eyeing me up as a warm bed. I have coffee on hand and Zenyatta Mondatta on the turntable. It's cold and wet outside and, because the heat turns down on school days, it is cold but dry in here. I'll keep a blanket on, my hoodie zipped, and wear a wool hat. I'm in for the day.
I hurt my back last Friday playing basketball at school. I teach English and help lead basketball for gym. I took not one but two shots to the head and neck and by Saturday, each time I stood up I couldn't get my back to unwind. The electric shock stopped my breath each time I tried. Yesterday, thinking I had healed, I played basketball with kids only to have one land on my shoulders and back as he came down with a rebound. This morning, I'm right back to where I was Saturday. I sent in plans and alerted my colleagues.
Being out inconveniences the people with whom I work. I try to be a good colleague shouldering my burden and not putting others out. Today will be a pain for them because we have no substitutes and people will have to take time out of their routines to cover my classes.
Last September the superintendent emailed all staff defining good work ethic in ways not in the negotiated contract. The email said that our absences hurt students and colleagues. This was reinforced to me in June with a counseling memo for my personnel file stating that I had taken too many days (though fewer than contractually allotted). Should I continue to take sick time, management may dismiss me.
Such administrative actions have a chilling effect colder than an October morning. I resisted taking today because I don't want further memos in my personnel file or to risk being fired. My back injury makes moving challenging and I have a physically demanding job even without gym, but I worry about being sent to the principal's (superintendent's) office for being a bad boy. Then I realized a few things:
- I fulfilled my responsibility by sending substitute plans.
- It is management's job to provide substitute teachers.
- Any inconvenience to my colleagues is not my fault or responsibility.
I'll rest and hope to be healthy enough to do the job well tomorrow. Whether or not I face discipline for these things is entirely up to management. I'm still worried I'll face discipline. That sucks. It's one reason I don't love my job.
I just got up when The Police record ended and put Supertramp on the turntable. "Sister Moonshine" starts side one of Crisis? What Crisis?:
When I was a small boy,
Well, I could see the magic in a day,
But, now I'm just a poor boy,
Well, maybe it's the price you have to pay,
If you lock your dreams away
If no-one wants to listen.
My back twinged hard when I got up. I took deep breaths while the needle bounced in the end groove and another needle shot down my spine. I eventually straightened up and switched records. I'm back on the couch, under the blanket. The cat is still eyeing me. Her only concern is warmth, not a personnel file or dismissal. I've really got to learn to live a cat's life or at least remember what is and isn't my responsibility. I'll rest until I can stand up without seeing stars. Today that's my only job.