A day in the life of a teacher with a cold

When a cold virus strikes, teachers can't work from home. Instead, they have to battle through the day, sneezing as they go...

Sarah Simons

A day in the life of a teacher with a cold

I have a cold. And, truth be told, I’m not a good patient. Well, that’s not strictly true, I’m an excellent patient – as long as the illness is serious. On the rare occasions that I’ve been cut open, or contracted something a bit life-threatening, oh, I’m stoic, a pillar of strength. But if it’s something trivial – a cold, a sore throat, a tummy upset – I’m a simpering drip, capable of nothing but moaning. I feel like slapping myself in the gob and shouting "Get a grip!"

I give short shrift to the battle-through-it approach that some colleagues don as a badge of honour – pitching up to work half dead with some debilitating virus, or staggering into the staffroom hours after an operation. But although I feel about as appetising as boiled shite, I am well enough to go to work, so grudgingly slope into college.

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The first thing to go is my care for any sort of professional appearance. I’m constantly amazed at how dreadful I will let myself look in public. Ten years ago, I would consider it a terrible affront to my own dignity to leave the house unmanicured or in less than a four-inch heel. Now, on a bad day, I could easily be mistaken for an emptied binbag of charity shop cast-offs. I have a go at makeup, but rather than plastering over the cracks in my chapped and besnotted face, it only serves to illuminate them.

I drag myself down the corridor and forget to fake a pleasantry to a passing member of staff that I don’t know. "Morning," he trills. In response, I make a noise akin to the grunts of Early Man.

In the staffroom, I find myself stewing in a curious blend of "no patience" and "emotional cliff edge". A colleague shows me another photo of her toddler. I’m not sure if I will blurt "NOT INTERESTED" or dissolve into tears at the wonder of it all. It could go either way.

The day continues. My students are unnerved that I’m not my usual boisterous self and have to whisper the stuff I need to say as my voice has, by that time, receded to a base growl. They are lovely. They get on with it. Until one, the one with a perennial face on, gives me a load of mouth when told to get off the phone.

I pride myself on being a behaviour-management ninja, but I’m yet to crack this particular student, and today, I simply cannot be arsed. Today, this repeat offender’s gob will not wash.

“I do not have the patience for your rudeness today. I’ve no idea why you think you have the right to talk to anyone like that. Your behaviour is stealing time from everyone else’s day, including mine. Work. Don’t work. Pass. Fail. It’s your life.”

I’d like to say that was a pivotal moment, talking to a student as if they were a real-life person who’s just behaved like a total arsehole, as different to the kill ‘em with kindness approach I usually use. But it’s a blur. I know I went home with a load of his work to mark.

By mid-afternoon, after teaching sessions back to back and mopping up some pastoral stuff over my 30 minutes at lunchtime, I realise I haven’t made time for the wee I was desperate for several hours ago. Like most time-poor teachers, I have a pelvic floor of concrete. Honestly, if science could harness the strength of teachers’ pelvic floors as a flood barricade, the next torrential rains would pass with zero furore. However, my defences are down and the next hefty sneeze could result in a breach. Yes, reader, there’s a very high risk of me widdling my pants. I excuse myself and leg it to the loo, just in the nick of time.

By the end of the day, I’ve stopped remembering to care about being professional. I’ve forgotten to do all sorts of admin, my sessions have gone from only just passable to "Here, have a worksheet" and my tolerance of tricky students is on a knife-edge. But I’ve got through it.

As I leave the building, I proudly think to myself, "I’ve not told anyone to fuck off and I’m not drenched in wee." It’s a low bar and neither accomplishments are measured on the new Ofsted framework, but I’m having it. Now, where’s my Lemsip?

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Sarah Simons

Sarah Simons

Sarah Simons works in colleges and adult community education in the East Midlands and is the director of UKFEchat

Find me on Twitter @MrsSarahSimons

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