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Teaching while sick


A few times a year we all succumb to some sort of illness. Coming down with a cold at your regular job stinks; you sit at your desk with a sweater and a cup of tea and do your best to power through the work day. Being sick as a teacher, when you’re responsible for a classroom full of children, is a little bit harder. Here are some tips and tricks for surviving the workweek when you’re feeling under the weather, but still need to go to work.

Visit the School Nurse

Most schools have some sort of medical practitioner on site. If you come down with a cold the evening before class, you may not have had time to go to the doctor yet. School nurses often treat teachers for free, so stop by and explain your symptoms as best you can.

They’ll often treat you with Chinese medicine and recommend drinking lots of hot water, but you’ll be more comfortable until you can get any other medication you may need from a doctor or pharmacy.

Utilize Lunch Time Naps to Refresh

Chinese people take really long lunch breaks in the afternoon. Typically they range from 12pm-2pm. It is strongly encouraged to take a little nap during this time to refresh yourself for the remainder of the workday.

If you’re sick this will seem like a heavenly reprieve from your responsibilities and can help you feel a lot better about your afternoon classes.

Make Use of the Audio-Visual System

Perhaps you already utilize the microphone while teaching (especially if your class can be a little rowdy) but this piece of equipment is truly invaluable for when you’re feeling weak or you have a sore throat.

When you’re sick it’s important to not strain to be heard as it can increase the amount of time it takes to heal, so dial the volume up a little bit and you’ll be back to your old self in no time. As many teachers know it is important to switch up the class with different ways to learn: games, songs, reading exercises, conversation drills, etc.

When I’m sick I try to use a lesson which incorporates a few video activities or audio files so that I don’t need to speak as much. For example: A lesson on Transportation can have a listening worksheet. Where students identify the sound of a specific vehicle and write it down. Students then take turns asking each other “What did you hear” and answering “I heard…”. Using technology in creative ways can make sure you still have a productive class when you’re not feeling so great.

Use Familiar Activities

My classroom thrives on routine because students know what to expect. We don’t play the same games every day, but there are certainly crowd-pleasers that students become extra excited about. When students know what to expect from a game there is no need to explain the rules every time. For example: at the end of my classes we sometimes play a “Word Scramble” game.

I show a word where the letters are mixed up (jellyfish becomes sifyleljh) and the students know they need to remember how to spell the vocab word to decode what it is. The first student to raise their hand and answer correctly gets a reward. Playing games that make students excited and eager to participate can help with classroom management and reduce the amount of time needed to explain or demonstrate a game.

Assign a Class Monitor

This is an excellent classroom management tip in general, but can be especially helpful when you’re sick and you don’t have a co-teacher present. If you’re not feeling well it can be difficult to create and teach a lesson while maintaining control of the classroom. Instead of taxing yourself by moving around the classroom correcting behavior, you can make the day of a normally disruptive student by giving them some responsibility.

Typically, I pick one of the children that I know is a “talker” and ask them to help me keep the other kids in line. They are given a piece of paper and a pen and they write the names of the students who are being disruptive or who are not following instructions during the class.

This list is passed on to their homeroom teacher who can speak to the disruptive children on your behalf. Generally there is a sense of community among teachers, and they’ll take it personally if they know their kids are taking advantage of you when you’re not feeling 100%.

Being sick and going to work is an unpleasant experience for anyone but with these tips and tricks you can arrange your classes to be as easy as possible when you’re not feeling the greatest. Remember, an apple a day keeps the doctor away!


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