Today, I have a headache. When I was a kid, this used to be an excuse for all sorts of things…getting out of P.E., going to school, doing some loud activity that might take me away from a book. It was a valid excuse for me in circumstances I think it wouldn’t be for others because I was content to sit quietly and read while everyone else carried on. As a teacher now, I realize that the teachers in my life probably knew when I was faking, but they let me get away with it because I would use my freedom from activities I deemed stupid to read.
I have a few kids who like to claim headaches during, of all things, reading time. It started at the beginning of the year with one kid who would come in from the gym or the playground with a headache every single day. Initially, I was concerned. I watched him to make sure he was getting enough water to drink to avoid dehydration. I let him rest on another rug while the other kids read. I mentioned the incident to his parents, who validated my concern by taking him to a neurologist, as he’s apparently been complaining of these headaches all the time.
When the tests came back clear, I continued to keep a close eye on him, but I started to notice something when I began to make a habit of letting someone else do the read-aloud for the younger kids. As soon as my back was turned, my headache-stricken kid would belly-crawl over to the Lego bin, secure a few, and start playing with them where he thought I couldn’t see. Curiouser and curiouser, no sooner would I declare the end of reading time than this kid would be up and running as if he’d never felt ill a day in his life.
I put my foot down the next day and told him that if he needed to lie down, he could rest on the reading rug and listen to the read-aloud. I have never met a child who was more adverse to even so much as verbal exposure to the written word. He started kicking up such a horrible ruckus, whining about his headache and protesting that he couldn’t possibly listen to the story that it started a chain reaction. The next thing I knew, I had three more kids tugging at my hand and curling up on the floor, declaring that they too had headaches and couldn’t listen to the story.
I don’t remember quite how I handled it, back at the beginning of the year as it was. I don’t remember if I enforced an extended reading time for the kids who were so disruptive or if reading time that day dissolved into unrecoverable chaos–both things have happened for various reason throughout the year. I’m sure which way it went was largely dependent on whether I myself had much of a headache, because that’s the kick in the stomach, isn’t it? A headache can pretty powerfully detract from your ability to function, but as an adult, it’s not really a valid excuse to get out of, say work or even blogging. In a bit of irony, I never had a headache that got me out of cleaning when I was a kid, but as an adult, cleaning is about the only thing a headache will get me out of.
What I would really like to know, now, is if I promise to sit quietly and read a book and not bother anyone or make anyone go out of their way to make sure I’m not getting into any trouble…can I please not go back to work today? I have a headache.