Delayed reaction

I did have one small bit of excitement during my recent days of sickness.

Remember my eye thing in January, where the gel in my right eye detached from my retina quite abruptly, causing floaters and flashes in that eye? Remember how I had to visit a retinal specialist to determine whether or not my retina had actually been torn, because my regular eye doctor wasn’t quite sure? The specialist didn’t find any sign of a tear, but wanted me to come in for a follow-up appointment six weeks later anyway. That appointment was scheduled for one of those days that I was home sick, so I dosed myself up on cold meds, packed a bunch of tissues, and made my appearance.

The drill was the same: lots of eye drops and the accompanying blurry vision, lots of machines thoroughly checking my eye, lots of additional poking and prodding and examining by the doctor. I’d been expecting all that, so I was quite serene about the whole thing this time … in between coughing into my elbow and blowing my nose, of course.

However, this time the doctor informed me that I did actually have a small horseshoe-shaped tear at the bottom left of the retina in my right eye. I didn’t even know how to respond! I think I just sat there, stunned, and he blithely carried on to explain that if we left it, there was a 50% chance that the entire retina would detach and then I’d probably lose the vision in that eye. So the best option was laser surgery to zap together the edges of that little tear.


That’s what I was thinking.

But what I said was, “Um, that kinda creeps me out. I’m really very nervous about that.” Meekly. Quietly.

The doctor was just smiling reassuringly at me. I thought of another important question. “And when will this be done?” Again, meekly and quietly.

“Oh, I’ll do it right now,” he answered. “That way you won’t have time to get all nervous about it.”

So I signed some papers, questioned his assistant (who assured me that it was no big deal, that it wouldn’t hurt, that all I’d see would be flashes of bright light, that I’d be seeing normally maybe 20 minutes later), texted PG what was going on (he was my transportation for the afternoon), then sat in the laser room to wait. Yes, there was a laser room. There were three machines in there. The assistant plugged in and turned on one of them.

When the doctor returned, I asked him how long it would take. Depending upon how still I could keep my eye, between 20 and 30 seconds, was the reply. I let out my breath. I could do that! I could stand anything for 20 or 30 seconds … couldn’t I? Could I?

Turned out, I could. It truly didn’t hurt (I did have numbing drops in my eye, after all), though I did briefly feel like he was trying to pop my eye out of my head! There was a lot of poking and pressing, which was a bit uncomfortable, but nothing awful. The laser light was super-bright, but yeah, 20 or 30 seconds, in three separate blasts, and it was done. I told the doctor that it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had been thinking, and he told me that I’d done very very well, a lot better than he had thought I would do.

I had two final questions before I headed out to PG in the waiting room: “Is this unusual, that you would see no tear at first, then you find a tear six weeks later?” and “What are the chances of all this happening to my other eye now?”

And the doctor’s answers were: “It does happen, but only in 3-5% of the population. That’s why we always do a recheck six weeks later.” and “It’s pretty much a certainty that this will happen again, likely within three to five years. Just come back and see us when it does occur.”

Oh. Thanks, Doctor.

At least now I know for sure that I’m rather unusual in the eye department.

Marked as absent

I’ve been home with a nasty cold for two days now. It hit me on Saturday morning, then I rallied a bit for Sunday and Monday, then I succumbed to fits of coughing, wads of tissues, an inability to breath through my nose despite the constant blowing of said nose, a voice like Lauren Bacall’s, and various aches and pains.

So I’ve called in sick yesterday and today. Because I can. I am not provided with a substitute teacher in my particular job until I have been absent for three days, (something to do with teacher shortages and budget cuts, I believe), so I don’t have to plan for someone else to teach my classes. That, as any teacher out there will tell you, is sometimes worse than going in to work when you’re feeling like crap. Yes, it’s part of our jobs to always leave a plan and materials ready for the next day when we leave the school every night, but when you KNOW that someone else will be doing the job for you that day, you plan things differently.

For example, I teach French Immersion, so I do everything in French, including all my planning. There is ALWAYS a shortage of French Immersion substitute teachers in my district, so many times, even if we request someone who is French-speaking, the district sends someone who is not. So, most French Immersion teachers will try to write their dayplan in English if they know they will be absent the next day, because chances are very good that their replacement teacher will only speak English.

Also, you need to be more precise and detailed when writing a plan for someone else to follow. Normally, a teacher would write something like “1:30 – 2, buddy class, Karen has book”. Huh??? So, when planning for a substitute, you would change that to “1:30 – 2, buddy class – grade 1s from Karen Jones’ class come to our class. My students all have a Grade 1 partner (see attached list). The partners from Group A (see attached list) go back to Karen’s class, those in Group B (see attached list) stay with me. Read book “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” (Karen will bring it) to Group B. My students then help the Grade 1s to write a sentence and illustrate their favourite part of the story. If time, each partner can share their work with the whole group.”

See what I mean? And you have to do this for every single lesson that day – all while feeling lousy and just wanting to go home, take some aspirin, and sleep for a week.

Of course, there are certainly times where you cannot plan ahead like that, when illness strikes in the middle of the night with a rather abrupt trip to the toilet or perhaps the plaintive cry of a child at 3am: “Mommeeeeeee! I feel siiiiiiick!” swiftly followed by the hiccuping and crying that signal that the child has just vomited in their bed. In that case, as soon as you can, you book your absence on the school district website and hope for the best, because you are NOT going to work in the morning. Some very conscientious teachers will, at that point, create an entirely new plan for the day and email it to the school secretary who will then pass it on to the substitute teacher who arrives to teach the class in the morning. But if you’re writhing in pain from a migraine, you’re obviously not going to do that, so whoever teaches your class is just going to have to figure out your cryptic notes on their own.

And that’s if someone arrives at all! Because, again, due to budget cuts and lack of hiring, it’s not unheard of for there to be no one at all to teach your class, particularly if you book your absence later than, say, 10pm the night before. Substitute teachers browse the available absences in the evening and can choose which job they would like to do the next day. Few of them check the website at 5 or 6am in the morning, so those absences that are unfilled at that time, often stay unfilled. Oh, there are people in the district office who make a token phone call or two in the morning to a few substitute teachers who haven’t yet picked up a job for the day, but I don’t think they try too hard, quite honestly. This has been an issue in my school district for many years now, and the superintendents keep saying that it’s the teachers’ faults for taking so much time off, that the system can’t keep up with the demand. I say, if the demand is there, then hire more substitutes! It’s a growing school district, after all! But then there’s the chronic underfunding of our public school system, and I won’t go into my regular rant about THAT today.

So what happens when there’s no substitute to teach a class? Well, in an elementary school such as mine, non-enrolling teachers are put into those classrooms: learning support teachers (like me), music teachers, librarians, vice-principals, principals. Which means that we don’t get to do our own jobs that day, and the kids lose out. And since out of all those non-enrolling teachers at my school, I am the only one who speaks French, pretty much every single time that we are missing a substitute teacher in a French class, I am asked to cover the class. Fortunately, my principal and vice-principal are a couple of the “good” ones, so we usually work out a sharing arrangement: I teach till recess, for example, and we switch the plan around so that everything that absolutely must be in French (like reading or writing lessons), I will do during that time. Then my principal will teach between recess and lunch, and the VP will teach in the afternoon, both of them in English. It’s not perfect, but at least it’s not an entire day lost for any of us or for the kids.

Then, of course, regardless of how detailed your dayplan was or who actually taught your class that day, when you come back to work, there’s all that “catch-up” to do. The kids are usually all over you: “Where WERE you, Madame?” “We never got to go to the library yesterday, so can we go today?” “It was hot lunch and I didn’t get my doughnut!” You probably don’t have an actual dayplan for the day, because you were absent the day before (though you probably have a pretty good idea of where you were going next with each lesson), so you first have to determine what was actually completed from the day before. Then you have to very quickly decide what to do next – and get the materials organized even quicker, because your students are waiting. And hopefully, you didn’t come back to work too soon, while you’re still a bit ill and lacking energy – but hey, you’re a teacher and you probably did, because you know how things go when you’re absent.

So yeah, sometimes it really IS easier to go in to work and teach when you’re not feeling great.

Been there, done that. But not this time. I’m sick and I’m at home. eb3bef92bc4d187296ecc01369d06e0b

Happy something

I don’t know whether to write Happy Valentine’s Day or Happy Spring, but look what just popped up in one of my flower boxes:

It’s not a heart for Valentine’s Day, but despite today’s date, it IS daffodils in bloom, those happy little harbingers of Spring.

(Sorry, all you Easterners!)