Preparing Classes to Continue if You are Ill

Educators now teaching remotely: Are you ready to be sick?

For those of us who aren’t experienced with illness or disability or who aren’t in a high risk group, the thought of your own illness might not yet have consciously occurred to you. Or, if it did, you might be beating it back with denial or over functioning. (And for those who do live with chronic illness or disability, thank you for your patience with the rest of us as we figure out what you already know: that higher ed still has too many barriers for people with disabilities or illnesses, those who are neuroatypical, and others.)

Image result for michael ancher the sick girl

Above, Michael Ancher’s The Sick Girl (1882). Like her, rest if you are ill.

Since you’re probably planning for remote teaching right now, it’s the time to plan with an eye toward you becoming ill. Here are four suggestions:

  1. Prepare everything now. I know that sounds impossible, but if you are only staying a week ahead of your students, if you get sick, then everyone is left hanging. It’s more important that you have a successful semester than that you have a busy one, so keep everything simple: one due date per week, asynchronous activities, and low-tech solutions.
  2. Use your sick leave or FMLA if you are caring for someone in your family. You earned it, and you can use it. You are NOT required to find a substitute teacher for your classes if you are using your benefits. Your chair and dean are paid more money than you to administrate, and solving this problem is one of their job tasks, not theirs. Respect their role by allowing them to fulfill it. Following the law regarding your benefits is NOT abandoning your students. It’s honoring your contract. If folks want to criticize that, then they should criticize our labor laws, not people who follow them.
  3. If you chose not to use your sick leave, do not dump extra work on your TA, if you have one. While the duties of TAs are often flexible, TAs are not a class’ primary teacher for large portions of the course. If you are trying to pressure a TA into doing an unfair amount of work because you don’t want to use your sick leave, that’s you asking a TA to subsidize a chair or dean’s work (since the job of the chair or dean is to manage sick leave).
  4. If you aren’t going to use sick leave, buddy up with a colleague, agreeing to step in for each other as needed. Add them to your online course now as an instructor. (This is one great reason to keep the tech simple and within your university’s LMS. Adding a bunch of new online spaces for students to meet will mean that anyone you hand your class off to will need to figure out how to get into all those spaces.)

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