By Michael Rothberg
Anyone who has ever been sick knows that it’s not easy. Even the common cold has the ability to make one’s daily routine into a miserable fight. The near constant nose-blowing, sneezing and coughing makes it difficult to do much of anything besides sleep. Combined with the focus and critical analysis demanded by an average day at school, these symptoms are practically unbearable.
So, when I woke up a few weeks ago on a Monday morning with a cough and a runny nose, my first instinct was to take the day off and recuperate. However, with the flood of tests and assignments approaching, the fear of falling behind compelled me to get up and go to school sick.
Of course, I knew it was not the smart thing to do. I didn’t have a fever or any serious symptoms, but I didn’t want to give whatever I had to any other students or teachers. However, both teachers and students had been exhibiting cold-like symptoms for weeks and everyone seemed to be saying, “There’s definitely something going around,” following an emphatic sneeze or cough. I convinced myself that if almost everyone else was sick, and I washed my hands frequently and thoroughly, I might be okay.
The Student Parent Handbook states if a student contracts a communicable disease, his or her parents must notify the school, and the student should not attend classes. I think this is a perfectly rational policy and is certainly necessary to uphold the health of the school community.
On the other hand, the pressurized and competitive environment at school implicitly urges students to show up regardless of sickness.
Missing lectures, quizzes or tests is often quite detrimental to a student’s grades and overall understanding of the material. Students can get notes after missing class, but it is often difficult to understand the information without hearing the teacher explain it. Some teachers won’t even allow students to make up missed quizzes.
If a student does show up to school when they are sick, they are bound to be miserable. Half asleep, with a runny nose, it is near impossible to concentrate. Learning becomes a futile experience.
To resolve this inconsistency between academic pressures and health concerns, the school should make it more manageable for students to miss school when they have contagious infections without falling behind in class.
Perhaps the school should draft a uniform policy on sick days, indicating the specific protocols for administering quizzes and homework.
Something is seriously wrong if students are choosing grades over their health. After all, a healthy community is bound to teach and learn more effectively than a sick one.