Don’t Punish Teachers for the Sub Shortage

They shouldn’t feel bad for taking time off.

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If you are a teacher (or know one), you have probably heard someone say, “I would take the day off, but there isn’t a sub to cover my class.” In nearly every school district, there is a sub shortage.

Teachers, if no one else has told you this, IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT THAT THERE ARE NO SUBS. Not only is it not your fault, but you also should not be punished because of it. Teachers need to take time off as they need it.

Unfortunately, even before Covid, teachers were well known for not using their sick days. Teachers are notorious for going to work sick. I’ve gone in sick, my colleagues have come in sick, and I have heard lots of stories of fellow teachers going to work sick, like the teacher who went on a field trip with a fever of 102 degrees.

There are lots of reasons why teachers don’t use their sick days. One thing for sure is we need to stop making teachers feel punished for the sub shortage and rewarded for going in sick.

We don’t want teachers spreading illness to colleagues and students

While you can try to avoid getting sick as a teacher, you can’t prevent every illness. When (not if) you are sick, no one wants your germs at school.


We have learned this, especially in the past couple of years, when you go to work sick, you put others at risk of catching whatever illness you have. In fact, the University of Arizona did a study on the germiest professions, and teachers ranked #1.

We want healthy teachers in our classrooms. Teachers who are feeling their best can teach their best.

Teachers need breaks, not burnout

We not only want physically healthy teachers in our classrooms but mentally healthy teachers as well.

Teaching is a demanding job, and it is necessary to check in with yourself to make sure you are doing alright.

The World Health Organization defines burnout as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:

  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
  • increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
  • reduced professional efficacy.”

A burnt-out teacher is not an effective teacher. You need to take care of yourself, first and foremost. Taking care of yourself will lead you to be your best self. It’s like when you ride an airplane during the safety instructions, “Place the oxygen mask on yourself before helping others.”

Remember, you are replaceable at work, but you are not replaceable at home. It’s hard to think about, but someone else can take over for you at work. You may not be replaceable long term, though. Which is kind of the point. Be replaced in the short-term, so you can be there for your students in the long term.

However, you are not replaceable in your personal life. When you need time to recover from illness, take care of sick family members, attend a family event, or even take a mental health break, that should take priority.

Days off are a promised benefit

We expect job benefits such as health insurance, retirement, and paid time off to be given with a full-time job, and we should also expect to use our job benefits.

You are given sick days, personal days, vacation days (or whatever your district calls them) as part of your contract. They are a promised job benefit. Teachers should not feel guilty taking time off.

But wait! Are sub-plans keeping you from taking your sick days?

We can make it easier for you. Here is a comprehensive guide to everything you should know about emergency sub plans. You can also grab our free sub plans to help make it easier for you to take the day off when you need it.

Teachers: you’ve earned your sick days. They’re part of your contract, and getting ill is part of life. Sometimes, it’s even necessary to take a day to mentally regroup. Teaching is a tough job, and educators have a hard time leaving their kids. Making sub plans, overwhelming guilt, the promise of summer, giving up control, and leaving your classroom family can be tough. It’s time to start taking back your days and being the best teacher you can be by taking care of yourself first!

Do you think teachers take time off as needed? Share your comments below.

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Don't Punish Teachers for the Sub Shortage