"Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence. Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us."
~ Maya Angelou, Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now
I can only speak from my own experience. Perhaps this is prevalent in other professions too. Why do teachers push themselves to go to work when they are sick, tired, and in need of rest and recuperation? Some would say it's because it's more work to prepare for a supply teacher than it is to come in when you are sick. Yet when I worked in the central office, and there was no supply teacher to prepare for, people still came to work when they should have stayed home. In this age of technology, when you can still deal with much of the work at home via email, why not stay home when you are sick?
Part of my desire for people to stay home when they are ill is selfish. You are sick. You are sharing your germs with everyone else here at work. We are trying to stay healthy. Teachers complain when parents send a sick child to school but then they themselves come to school when they are ill.
Is Maya Angelou right? Is it ego? Do we think that things will just not get done right if we aren't there to do them. The school/classroom/students can't manage without me, even for just one day?
Is it the 'cult of busyness' where we equate our value with how busy we are?
Is it the 'teacher as martyr' stance?
I asked a co-worker, "if your child was this sick, would you send him to school?"
I interrupted her. "Why not? Why would you make him stay home?"
She thought. "He's not going to be able to learn so what's the point of being in school. It's not fair to the other kids." After a moment, she added, "And it's not fair to the teacher."
I wish I could say that she then reframed her own behaviour using this same lens of compassion for herself and her co-workers. That she realized that she wouldn't be able to work to her full potential, and that coming to work sick is not fair to herself or her co-workers. That she went home for the afternoon. But I'd be lying. She went back into her desk, coughing and hacking and probably full of aches and pains and fever, and went back to work.
Try to remember the survival advice they give you on an airplane - first you have to put the oxygen mask on yourself, then you can help others.