I recently did an interview for my Ledderhose and Plantar Fibroma support group and it reminded me of a popular post of Ross' about The #GuiltyTeacher. His post was inspired by Mr Steer on Educating Yorkshire and discussed some of the ways in which teachers neglect themselves, particularly when it comes to their health.
I have to put my hands up that I have been guilty of this on many occasions. My plantar fibromatosis operation was one such time. After seeing the aggressive growths on the bottom of my foot, the doctor wanted to operate as soon as possible. However I delayed the operation, despite his protests, from February to June in 2009. This was as the recovery time was around 2 months and I felt that I couldn't leave until after my exam classes.
Additionally, my school required that I set cover work for each lesson for the 6 weeks. I sought union advice on this and it all became a little difficult as it was made clear that if I didn't set it, my department would have to. As I had 6 months notice, I got on the case and had a folder with a searing plan, class list and instructions for every lesson, for 6 weeks. 5 years down the line in my teaching career, I would now make a far greater fuss and refuse to complete such an outrageous request.
While I was off, I was getting piles of marking delivered to me. This was a step too far even then, and most of that went in the recycling (sorry students of Y7 to Y9 2009). The idea behind delaying my operation was to avoid the crucial marking time!
Even before the diagnosis, I had been in great pain and was renowned for teaching in my socks, as shoes were too painful. Thankfully, I lived in one room so this was entirely possible; plus it had carpet!
The operation came and went, the recovery took longer than I had hoped and I was on the sofa for a full 2 months. I felt miserable and could see how people actually never went back to work after even relatively small ops. I had worked it all out so I had no choice but to go back on 1st Sept for the new school year. Actually, I needed a further two weeks off but I forced myself as by this point, it was the doctor saying "Are you ready?". Looking at he Autumn term, most teachers would say NO!
The operation was a partial success, as it is less painful now, but the lumps are back. I am currently looking into new treatment options and hopefully they will not cause as much pain as they did in 2009. However I still take my shoes off a lot at work, despite not teaching in one room! Often it is meetings after school, and colleagues often ask, "No shoes?" to which I reply, "Not today". Maybe it they read this they'll know why!
The whole experience taught me some valuable lessons about long term absence and looking after yourself. Thankfully I did no greater damage to myself by delaying the operation, although the consultant did tell me afterwards there was a very small chance the lumps were cancerous and that was one reason for him wanting to get it done sooner rather than later.
I wish I could say I was not a 'guilty teacher' any more, but alas I sill wait until school holidays to go and see the doctor and at the minute I have a really bad back (manifesting itself in my buttock muscles, painfully!). I have raised it at school and straight away they have got me a better chair. However, it is hard to see how I can avoid hours sitting marking my KS3 exams and writing Y7 to Y10 reports...
I bet you have your guilty teacher moments too.
Read the full interview about my feet and hands: <here>