Teachers get sick in September

A new (school) year! New students! New classroom! New ideas! 

New germs.

Back to school season is also itchy throat and runny nose season. It takes our body some time to adjust to new people and their living habits (& germs). September temperature can also vary from heat waves to frost warnings in the evening. Changing sleeping schedules doesn’t help either. I’m pretty sure I can tell when my colleagues have collected their first assignment. Or the first quiz. After spending a period watching a student sneeze, cough on that piece of paper, would it be rude if I put on surgical gloves and use a pair of tongs when I collect it? No need to write your name, Johnny. Just write ‘bio hazard’ on it.

In the department office, it’s not uncommon to hear “You better not come in tomorrow!” (while thinking: “You’re gonna get me sick! I don’t want to miss any days!“) Many teachers don’t call in sick even when they should because we feel a need to set an example for the students (especially in September). So what do we do instead? Teachers do whatever it takes to not miss any time, so we take vitamin supplements, wash our hands like a surgeon whenever we shake someone’s hands, weird natural herbal teas, $30 bottles of Cold FX… The list goes on.

Personally, I take little green pills with a sugar coating that I buy from an Asian pharmacy. There’s also Ninjiom, a black syrup that tastes like mint & honey and soothes the throat, but it’s so thick that it feels like it will forever seal your throat until you wash it down with a litre of water. I also try to keep a regular sleeping schedule. Avoid fried foods. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Drink lots of fluids. Basically everything my mom told me (and I ignored) when I was a kid.

All in the name of not being absent. 

I look forward to the process again in February. Second semester, another 3 classes of new germs to get used to. 


Teachers don’t sleep on Labour Day

“Did you sleep last night?”


A few years ago, I asked a fellow teacher this question on the first day of school.

“Nope, too much to think about.”

This came from a teacher that’s been teaching for over 30 years. She still gets nervous before the first day of school! You would think that we’re used to it after awhile. I’m entering my 10th year of teaching and I don’t sleep (well) on Labour Days.

As a student, I remember being excited and nervous on the first day of school. So many unanswered questions.

“Will I know anyone in the class?”

“I wonder what my teachers are like?”

“Who do I have the same lunch with?”

“I wonder what my crush from last year looks like now? I hope I have a class with her! (In retrospect: Having the same class doesn’t mean she’ll talk to you)

We fear the unknown, so I went on recon missions to figure out the answers. My friends and I cross referenced our timetables to see who we had lunch with, planning out where we’d go during that time. If we had the same class, it was agreed that the first person to arrive would be saving seats in the BACK of the room for the rest of the crew. We then asked friends and their siblings what they knew about the teachers, who was nice, who didn’t care about attendance, who was mean…etc. As for my crush, I would plan out in my head the hundreds of ways that I would strike up a conversation with her (I am quite a smooth talker in my fantasies). All this helped ease my apprehension about the first days of school. It’s all about knowing the unknown.

Now that I’m a teacher, it hasn’t changed much. The unknown still surrounds the first day of school. As I roll around my bed wide awake at 2am, the questions are oddly comforting.

“Will I know anyone in the class?”

“I wonder what my students are like?”

“Who do I have the same lunch with?”

“My high school crush was nothing compared to my lovely and beautiful wife!” (Just in case she’s reading)

The recon missions have changed slightly. We still cross reference each other’s timetables, except we knew our schedules in June already. The summer can do that to one’s memory of school. We try to figure out how many students we have in each class, hoping for a low number (it’s never low enough). Instead of worrying about 3 or 4 teachers I didn’t know, now I’m worried about 20 or more students who I won’t know. In each class.

Teachers and students have the same questions on the eve of their first day of school.

“Will I be liked?”

“Will this year be better or worse than last year?”

“When is Summer Break March Break Christmas Break Thanksgiving Friday?”

The Labour Day weekend is like going up the first hill on a roller coaster, and we are hearing the sound of the last click of the chain just before the first drop. It is a thrilling ride that I hope I don’t lose the enthusiasm for.

Have a great ride, everyone.