I felt fine when I woke up on Sunday morning. Well, maybe not 100%, but pretty good. We had a fun morning ahead, so I took something for my headache and got on with the day. By lunchtime, I knew the headache wasn’t going away. And I was starting to realize that my digestive system was also unhappy. Plus, I was exhausted despite a good night’s sleep. I was sick.

Before I could ease my aching body into a warm tub, I checked our public health site: none of my symptoms warranted a COVID test in a vaccinated adult. Phew. I’d gotten the flu shot the day before, and my symptoms *did* match reactions to that.

The day wore on. I didn’t get any better, and I didn’t get any work done. Sometime Sunday evening, through the haze of the headache and nausea, I recognized my dilemma: should I call in sick?

This was a more complicated decision than usual. This year, secondary teachers teach two two-and-a-half-hour classes every day for one week. The next week, we “only” teach one of those blocks, though to different students. On paper, this looks reasonable, but in reality, it’s exhausting. Planning lessons that are effective, engaging, and well-paced – and also accessible to students who can’t attend in person if they are sick or quarantining – and that work within the arc of a week (because 9 days later, few students remember exactly what we were doing), well, it’s a lot. Being in the classroom, on my feet, engaging students, making changes on the fly, making sure everyone is learning, for five hours: also a lot. Add in a few meetings – at least two per week – outside of class time and then, of course, the marking. That’s really a lot. 

Taken altogether, this means that every weekend I need to work for at least five or six hours just to keep up. Is this a strain on my family? Yes. Is this a strain on me? Yes. Should I be doing something different, more efficient, more effective, more… I don’t know… better? Probably, but this is what I’ve got right now and, frankly, I’m too tired to choose anything else.

And now I was sick, so I’d lost most of my weekend planning and marking time. Pre-Covid, I could have waited to see how I felt Monday morning; there was a good chance I would feel fine and I hate missing classes. Plus, my grade 9 class does best with consistency, already hard to maintain with nine days between classes. Pre-Covid, I wouldn’t have worried that calling in sick first thing in the morning would mean that one of my colleagues would have to cover my class. They still would have covered my class, of course, but they wouldn’t have been so incredibly tired; their prep time wouldn’t have been so incredibly necessary. If I declared my absence Sunday night, the school could hire a supply teacher instead of further swamping someone who was already up to their eyeballs in muck. And then there’s the truth that pre-Covid, I wouldn’t have been facing down a week so busy that I already felt smothered; I would have been better able to spread out my work; I would have had more flexibility because I wouldn’t have been planning for huge swaths of time and not everything had to be pre-created and available online. 

I was forswunk*, exhausted before I even began. Even the decision to take a sick day was overwhelming.

In the end, I took the day. I forced my muddled brain to re-write the lessons I had so that they would be accessible to a supply teacher, emailed all the right people, and fell, exhausted, into my bed.  I did, indeed, feel a good bit better on Monday, though I needed a lot of extra sleep. And what did I do on my sick day? I worked.

Forswunk. Overworked. No idea why that word is obsolete.


15 thoughts on “Forswunk

  1. I was worried when I read, thinking you might have dragged yourself to work when sick. I am glad you chose to stay at home. Please take care of yourself. Your health is your priority. Thank you for introducing a new word to me.


  2. I was completely forswunk last week. (Seriously, no other word describes the week I had last week. I think you hit the nail on the head.) Thanks for bringing it back into fashion!

    I hope you feel better soon! Rest up!


  3. Oh man, we are all forswunk this year. I hope you feel better soon! Ruth,


  4. Your post, although beautifully written and including a wonderful “new” word, just makes me out and out sad. Everything feels so broken. I’m glad you took the day. I hope you’re feeling better. Stick a fork in me, I’m done. Sigh.


  5. I get it. It’s harder in many ways for a teacher to be sick. It’s probably one of the top teacher nightmares. Right next to being the supply teacher who’s been left with no lesson plans. Hope you are feeling better.


  6. Thank you for teaching me this wonderfully useful word! I’m sorry you were not feeling well. You give and give and give. Sometimes the body just says, “Enough.” Take care!


  7. I think it’s time to revive forswunk…it captures all of the “ a lot.” And it is a lot. I wish it was easier to just be sick- so much to contemplate. You expressed the busy worrying mind of a teacher these days. I’m glad you took the day.


  8. I should mention the thing that made my sick day a bit easier:
    CommonLit. It’s free and offers short texts and questions – mostly
    automatically marked multiple choice questions. If you get
    your classes set up with it now, your next sick day will be just
    a bit easier.


  9. Wow. I think you are on to something here with this word. It needs revival because this whole thing is “a lot” and that doesn’t begin to characterize “this”. I searched up the word and I think we are in the midst of a forswinking.

    And in all that is forswunk, you still think about others with this lovely line: “If I declared my absence Sunday night, the school could hire a supply teacher instead of further swamping someone who was already up to their eyeballs in muck.”

    Yup. Forswunk up to the eyeballs in the muck.


  10. Amanda, I can see that you were forswunk so good for you to take the day off. Sometimes we are so overwhelmed that life gets more muddled when we do not indulge in self-care. Life is not easy lately, even though I am retired. Moving out of state, into a new community, finding new doctors, decorating a new house=little time left for self-care. I savor the few moments that I can read in peace and write. Get better soon!


  11. On top of the challenge of this year, writing sub plans when you don’t feel well is always such a challenge. I hope you’re feeling better. I did have to chuckle at life as I read your post because my plan was to get my flu shot today. Uh oh.


  12. You’ve captured all of MY feelings going into this weekend. I’m considering faking sick just so I can hide out all day, but in truth I gave too much to get done. My husband says, “Take a sick day!” As if it’s no big deal, but sick days are so much work…you’ve captured that perfectly. I’m glad you got some rest. I hope you get more this weekend.


  13. Huh. Forswunk is the feeling that led to retirement. I wish school didn’t forswinken us so much. The teaching part is far less forswinkifying than the planning, the grading, the meeting, and the emailing. Glad your illness was shortlived. I hope you had time this weekend to do your usual planning.


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