Are teachers tougher than students?
January 30, 2007 8:37 AM   Subscribe

When is it appropriate as a teacher to cancel a class due to pain or injury?

I am teaching a Student Directed Seminar (though I'm an alumna at this point, not a student, long story.) and I am in a lot of pain today resulting from a bike accident. I think I sprained my elbow(s) going over my handlebars. I can't move my left arm much at all without intolerable pain. I can type, talk and walk, but getting dressed, if I can do it, is going to kill.

Details: I'm not paid for this work, it's a class I designed as a senior thesis project, it's a very small class, and I could surely make up for this time.

I've emailed my faculty advisor asking his opinion, but don't expect a response until just before classtime (2:30 pm) so if any of you have experience in academia, can you tell me: should I push myself to make the lecture or just cancel class today and chill with some vicodin and a trip to a doctor?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur to Human Relations (14 answers total)
 
Hard question. I am paid, but probably wouldn't cancel class unless at death's door. But if it can be easily rescheduled, I'm not sure why you wouldn't take that option. Just be sure to get the word to the students sufficiently in advance.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 8:41 AM on January 30, 2007


Speaking as a former student, I'd say cancel but only so long as you'd warned your group ahead of time.

Having gone to school in the north, I hated driving an hour to school only to be told that the professor wouldn't make it due to the weather.

Barring that, take care of your own health to be sure. Not only does it suck to be in pain but I'd imagine you'd be pretty distracted when lecturing, you know?

My two cents.
posted by owenkun at 8:43 AM on January 30, 2007


I was in a similar situation with a broken elbow, gave a lecture the next day, and everyone was like "Good Lord, why did you show up for this?" Cancel, say I.

(By the way, the vicodin is not optional -- your choices are dope and chill or dope and lecture.)
posted by escabeche at 8:43 AM on January 30, 2007


While your dedication to your students is admirable, I think you are definitely justified in rescheduling the class. If you can find some one to fill in for you, try that. Otherwise, send out an email to all of your students at the earliest possible time.

You would understand if your student was in the same situation, and they will surely not mind repaying the favor.
posted by noble_rot at 8:44 AM on January 30, 2007


I say cancel it (but then I'm in a TA union, and we get sick time). This sounds valid, especially if you're injured enough to warrents a doctor's visit.

If it's a small class, it should be fairly easy to reschedule. But if you are going to cancel, you should decide quickly so that you can alert everyone in the class before they are inconvenienced.
posted by carmen at 8:45 AM on January 30, 2007


As a faculty member I've cancelled at most once a year due to family emergencies. I've never been able to bring myself to cancel due to my own health issues. I just hack through it, let my students know that I'm not feeling well, sit down, and make it into more of a discussion session. It actually makes for a nice change of pace for the class, and I find I get a lot more done than I expect to. If you're in danger of causing more damage to yourself by going to work, though, just cancel and make it up later. Everyone will understand.
posted by monkeymadness at 8:47 AM on January 30, 2007


> I'm not paid for this work, it's a class I designed as a senior thesis project, it's a very small class, and I could surely make up for this time.

Good lord, send out an email to the people in your class, explain the situation and reschedule if you must. Far better for you to show up to the class when you are healed up, than to lurch through the hour (s) when you are in pain and under medication. What value will the students derive from your class this week if you give it VS what value will they gain if you simply reschedule?

Believe me, they will be sympathetic to your predicament and will be grateful for an hour (or two) off, unexpectedly.

It's not like you are canceling the class to go shopping for a new pair of jeans - you are injured!

And seek medical help, pls have a professional take a look at your elbows.
posted by seawallrunner at 9:29 AM on January 30, 2007


My two rules of thumb:

1) Does the injury/illness impede my ability to teach effectively? If so, cancel.
2) What will I do if I cancel? If the alternate activity doesn't give me substantial relief from the pain or discomfort, I may as well tough it out and teach the class. The day goes faster that way than sitting around thinking how much I hurt.
posted by joaquim at 9:29 AM on January 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Unless you are doing further permanent harm to yourself by going to work (even unpaid work) then go. Going in and of itself is a good lesson to teach your students. Hard work and determination are admirable qualities to have in the real world.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:46 AM on January 30, 2007


Sounds like you could cancel class, no big deal, so just do it.

As a sidenote, I almost covered for a fellow TA one time after he got bitten by a rattlesnake (he did research on them). I came in to teach his class, but he was already there. He toughed it out with a grossly swollen hand and arm (not his first time getting bit). I gotta say, he earned some major cred with his students for it.
posted by cyclopticgaze at 9:46 AM on January 30, 2007


Well, I cancelled and feel somewhat justified in the fact that I can't get the vicodin open. They shouldn't put pain meds in push & turn bottles, that's messed up.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:54 AM on January 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Sorry about the accident. You can get the pain meds out by turning the bottle upside down on a grippy surface and gently stepping on it and turning it at the same time. No hands needed.
posted by firstdrop at 10:52 AM on January 30, 2007


Assuming you can get in touch with your students in order to let them know so they don't show up, reschedule.

As a student, I think it's obnoxious when professors "cancel" a class by leaving or having someone leave a note on the door (remember: there are commuter students who may have driven a significant distance only to find that note), but an email a few hours or more before class is fine. If it's an early-AM class, the evening before is the minimum warning required.

So send an email, pop some blue ones, and check out for the day.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:23 AM on January 30, 2007


I was going to write exactly what joaquim wrote. I would recommend cancelling. It mat even help your students catch up to have the day off. Means a little catch-up work, but that's easier and considerably more effective than teaching while ill or injured.
posted by ontic at 5:32 PM on January 30, 2007


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