When Covid comes for me, it’s the Omicron variety. I have been vaccinated, boosted, and vigilant in every way possible. I wear my mask, I wash my hands, I try to stay at least six feet away from people. But I have started living my life. And that means returning to the classroom.
I have taken jobs as a substitute teacher once again for a few reasons, not the least of which is, for all those days where I question why I’m inviting the stress and uncertainty of entering another’s domain and the undeniable fact that so often substitutes receive the worst kids have to offer, when the magic of working with kids manifests, it’s incomparable. I love it!
And none of us is unaware of the substitute shortage. For a time during the worst of the Omicron surge, the company that manages the substitute pool was adding incentives like Amazon gift cards if one were to work at least four days a week. I wanted to help.
It is clear, as I spend a few weeks with one class, that absence is everywhere. Kids are here, then not. One of them disappears after my first day, then returns in week three.
“Hey, Randy. It’s good to have you back. We missed you.”
“Yeah. I got the Covid.” When he says these words, my mind pings. Covid is a reality in this middle school—and I have placed myself in the middle of it.
It wouldn’t matter so much except that my husband and I have planned a trip to Mexico for a friend’s wedding after much debate. The wedding has been postponed twice, and these are dearest friends, so we’ve decided to travel.
When I awaken on Friday morning, my last day teaching before we depart, with a cold, I briefly think, “Covid?” but quickly temporize. “No, it’s just a cold. Finish this job, and there are sunny skies ahead.” So I do, but because I’m not 100%, I signal stop with my hand up to remind the kids to keep their distance. I consciously avoid sidling up to desks. I don’t want to spread this “cold.”
When I am no better on Saturday, I get tested. If we fly to Mexico and take the required reentry test to the States, we could be stuck there if I should happen to be test positive. The delay would be a costly one, more than we have bargained for. I am 90% certain it will be negative…and 100% wrong when I scan the results.No Mexico for us.
As I write this, I realize for the first time, that the embarrassment I felt about contracting Covid is less. And we are heading to Mexico later this month, fingers crossed.