Dear Barbara ...
I've created the Dear Barbara column as a way for subs to get answers to questions about any subbing topic or suggestions that may help you solve a specific problem in substitute teaching.

If you'd like to submit a question, please click here and be sure to include your name and home town. Answers to the best questions will be published here.

What Should I do When I hear "I Want to Go to the Nurse"?

Dear Barbara,

Last week, I was assigned to a first grade classroom. The students were well behaved and cooperative for most of the day. But as soon as I announced that we would be starting Math at 11:00, a steady stream of children asked to go to the nurse. It was obvious to me that this was an “avoidance” tactic. I'm not sure how to handle it.

I don't want to deny a sick child a visit for medical help, yet I am almost positive some faking was going on! What should I do?

Janina in Florida

Dear Janina,

When you are subbing in the primary grades, visits to the nurse are a common occurrence when you begin a subject that presents a challenge to younger children. Math is hard for many students, and what better way to avoid the frustration and failure than going to the nurse?

Remember, the nurse is a nurturer. She shows sympathy and she gives you band aids. She may even call Mom and let you go home early!

Experienced teachers and subs are aware of the “nurse” tactic. Rather than embarrass a child, or risk misreading a serious illness, I suggest that you tell the child that if she visits the nurse, she must be pretty sick, which means no recess. During recess, that child will have to sit near you. She won't be able to play with her classmates, because sick children must rest as much as possible.

This response often brings on a miraculous recovery, and the visit to the nurse may be unnecessary after all!

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