Teacher Absences

All teachers know that it is more work to be absent than to be in school.  My biggest teacher pet peeve happens when I come back from an absence and the students say "The sub didn't teach us anything."  This frustrates me on so many levels.  I want students to respect the substitutes who are doing the best they can to deliver instruction to students they don't know.  I also want my students to be self-directed learners, so that if I have be absent, they are responsible for their own learning.  Last spring I discovered the best way to combat this attitude among my students and comeback from an absence like a boss.
Last semester I had a herniated disc and missed a decent amount of school due to back pain.  My students were understandably frustrated that I wasn't there to help them understand the material.  I was frustrated with my back pain and the mounting work that was accumulating with being in and out of school.  As I was preparing to come back after missing 3 days in a row, I was dreading my 1st interactions with my students.  I decided humor was in order and the best way to deliver that humor was with a pop quiz (Answers: c, a, b, d).
As students were coming in the classroom, there was a lot of questions and comments which I expected to hear.  "Where were you?"  "I don't understand anything."  "I was absent, what did I miss?"  "We didn't learn anything while you were gone."  I waited for the bell to ring, then told students that we were having a quiz.  Students panicked and asked if they could use their notes and calculator.  I said yes, because I'm nice like that.  When students saw that the questions weren't about the material, but about my absence, their panic eased.
By having questions about myself, I was able to communicate that I didn't want to be absent, but I had to miss school.  We talked about the answers which definitely lightened the mood in the classroom, both mine and theirs.  I included self-reflection questions to subtly communicate that the onus for learning is on the students.  I didn't collect the quiz, because it accomplished what I hoped.
Students were respectful of me and the substitute.  They got past "I don't understand anything" to ask me specific questions concerning the material presented while I was absent.  The quiz also put me in a better mood because it is always fun to laugh with a classroom full of students.
I was absent this past Friday because I attended ICTM and again today doing curriculum work for the district.  I have a new pop quiz (Answers: d, b, b) ready for tomorrow to engage students with a healthy, productive conversation about what we all missed while I was gone.