A classroom can be a hotbed of germs. With twenty to thirty individuals inhabiting a limited space, it's inevitable than most of them will be sick at some time during the school year.
In winter, when windows are closed because of the cold, bacteria and viruses can spread like wildfire. The teacher, who should be the guide and stabilizing influence in the classroom, should do his or her best to stay well and miss as few teaching days as possible. Here are some suggestions to help every teacher do just that:
1. Boost your immune system
Eat a healthy diet with lots of fruit and vegetables, get regular exercise and try to get 8-9 hours sleep each week night. Maintain social relationships with friends and colleagues; these will help keep you stress-free and balanced, especially during the hectic periods which recur so often during the school year.
2. Befriend your doctor
He can be a valuable partner in your effort to stay well. Schedule regular appointments for check-ups and when he gets to know you well, he will not hesitate to write those "reason for absence" notes as you need them throughout the year. Have him recommend a good multivitamin pill and take it daily. Get a flu shot at the beginning of flu season, and be sure that all your vaccines are up to date.
3. Make use of the school nurse
If you are fortunate enough to have a school nurse, take full advantage of her presence and skill. She is a professional; she can identify rashes from measles or chicken pox and she is familiar with a myriad of other childhood ailments. She can detect head lice, identify signs of physical, emotional or sexual abuse, and is a valuable ally in recognizing possible learning disabilities. If she has a couch in the Health Room, she can isolate a sick child until the parents pick him up.
4. Enlist parents' help
At the "Meet the Teacher" night in September, share with parents the futility of sending a sick child to school. The child will absorb very little, because he or she is feeling unwell, the parent will probably get a call at work to come and collect the little patient, and many of the other children may very well be infected with the same illness. Advise that they should have an alternate caregiver ready to pick up the child in case of illness or other emergency when they are unavailable.
5. Stay home when you're sick
Teacher, follow your own advice. Stay home when you're ill. Nobody is indispensable. No one will thank you for going in to work, feeling cranky and miserable all day, and spreading your germs around. Be kind to the children and yourself. When you're sick, stay home!
The teacher is the hub and the heart of the classroom. When she is present, in good health and good spirits, the children feel secure, at ease and ready to learn. Responsible teachers will use the above measures to ensure that these circumstances prevail on as many days as possible during the school year.