I’m a teacher isolating because I got COVID-19. It threatens the sense of normalcy our household had finally restored.

The author's daughter wearing a mask
  • I’m a teacher and a mom of two school-aged kids. 
  • The past two years have been filled with disappointment for my children. 
  • Now that I’ve tested positive, the little normalcy we had is out the window. 

It started as a tickle in the back of my throat. 

“It can’t be,” I thought. Two years into the pandemic, vaccinated and boosted, was I getting COVID-19?

Students and teachers had been dropping like flies with infections in the week leading up to winter break. My wife and I had planned to travel with our kids over the holiday but scrapped those plans as the virus surged again. We kept as many traditions as possible, taking the kids ice skating, visiting the tree at Rockefeller Center. We used rapid tests and spent time with family members we hadn’t seen since Christmas 2019.

Things kind of felt like normal for a second. Then my son’s school went remote. I tested positive. And all the normalcy we were starting to enjoy went out the window

My kids haven’t had a normal school day since 2019

During the break, my son’s school announced that they would do remote learning for the first week back at school, in order to test the student body and get a handle on infection numbers. We held off on telling him, knowing that he’d be devastated to be kept away from his friends. 

The first Monday back to school I stayed home to get him tested. My daughter had to take a rapid test to return in person to her school, so I used the second one that came in the package on me. Negative. 

I knew it must be COVID-19 when I was lying in bed that night trying to sleep and my muscles kept clenching with chills in the same strange way they had after my second dose of the vaccine. I thought immediately of my daughter’s upcoming 8th birthday. 

Like all the other kids who started kindergarten in 2019, she hasn’t ever had a normal school year. We knew Omicron would likely mean postponing her party this weekend, and I was already thinking how to make it up to her, after so much heartbreak from lack of normalcy. Munchkins were all I could come up with. 

I tested positive for COVID-19

I found the nearest testing van to us and stood in the icy breeze for an hour and a half, while my son stayed in the house on his school Zoom, balancing my insurance card on one arm so that I could take a picture of it with my numb fingers. 

Staring at the ceiling that night, my ears hot with fever, I chastised myself for underestimating COVID-19, again. In 2020 I wondered how much worse than the flu it could be. Now, in 2022, I’d assumed that my shots, my health, my relative youth, would protect me completely. I was humbled by how sick I felt. 

The next day, I opened up my positive test results with my son looking over my shoulder, just after he’d threatened to throw his laptop out the window so that he’d never have to do remote learning again. He wailed. 

I scrambled to think of something I could salvage from this week full of disappointments, and my mind zeroed in on that box of munchkins. My daughter would get class donuts on her 8th birthday. It might not be her most memorable birthday, but at least it wouldn’t suck. 

The next morning, after a negative test, my daughter was in school to celebrate her birthday.  Her friends ran to greet her, in their matching heart necklaces and child-sized N95 masks, cheering, “It’s your birthday!” 

As a teacher and a mom, I will keep doing my best to keep normalcy in our lives. Even when it feels impossible to accomplish.