COVID case comes at critical time for new teacher

Getting COVID more than two years into the pandemic feels so unfashionable.

I put on my mask to go out into the world, and I feel like I’m wearing parachute pants with a Hawaiian shirt I just bought at Younkers.

I got the shots.

I got boosted.

And I still got COVID.


I get it.

The vaccine doesn’t guarantee you won’t be infected by the virus; it greatly reduces the chances you’ll contract it.

I happen to meet a few of the high-risk factors.

Obese? Check.

Asthmatic? Yup.

High blood pressure? Of course.

To be fair, this bout with the virus was far less intense than my first about a year ago.

Yet it was far more troublesome.

After a positive test, the CDC recommends five days of quarantine followed by five days of wearing a mask while in the company of other humans.

That put me on the bench while my students worked with subs or co-teachers.

I just started my first year as a sixth grade teacher.

I had exactly three days with students before the COVID hit.

They were chaotic and confusing for everyone involved.

Sixth graders have never changed classes before. They’re nervous, still with the wide eyes of children.

They’re not yet riddled with the full-blow adolescent mindset the slightest acquisition to the request of an adult is on par with Chamberlain’s capitulation to the Nazis before World War II.

This is the time I need to be building relationships, establishing a classroom presence, and gaining trust.

We started our first unit, one on Greek mythology last week.

I wasn’t there.

I laid in bed with a light fever, a constant sinus, a wheeze in my lungs, and fatigue that did its level best to convince me I was already dead.

My headache was best described by my friend Jane Burns, who once said, “If my head is going to hurt this much, I want the fun from the night before to come with it.”

There was no fun from the night before.

I could barely muster the energy to go out to the kitchen and warm up a bowl of soup.

A can of Campbell’s Chunky Homestyle and a bottle of Gatorade with a banana or some peanut butter became my mails of choice.

Physically, I slept, got up to take medication and shower, and slept.

I didn’t have the concentration to watch TV or read comics.

It was better to sleep.

When I was awake, I worried.

I worried I’d lost my classes.

I worried I was failing at my new job.

I worried about everything.

That’s how my brain works.

If I don’t distract it enough, it takes it upon itself to root around in the dirt for problems.

And my brain always finds them.

The problems are huge, life-changing, and terrifying.

That’s how I know it’s a generalized anxiety disorder and not real anxiety.

Real anxiety is the kind you would feel if a city bus was bearing down on you while you were standing in the middle of the street.

Most of my anxiety is worries that end with me disappointing everyone I ever loved or who put faith in me and facing total disaster.

If my first week with students had been a sandwich, COVID would have been the mystery meat and anxiety would have been the moldy cheese on top.

The milk was spoiled, and they were out of chocolate.

The good news is quarantine is over.

I can mask up and go to work.

I’ve got a lot of it to do.

There’s nothing quite like the challenge of gaining students’ trust.

My behavioral therapist reminds me of the old baseball line: It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

I’ll set aside the oddity that to best describe one sport, we use a completely different sport as a metaphor.

Instead, I’ll set my feet in the blocks and wait for the first bell.

Whatever worries I have won’t matter.

When the small humans come through the door, it’s time to go to work.

Middle school teacher Daniel P. Finney writes a column for the Marion County Express.

Daniel P. Finney wrote for newspapers for 27 years before being laid off in 2020. He teaches middle school English now. He writes columns and podcasts for, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating $10 a month to help him cover the expenses of this site.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.


  1. Patti Brown says:

    You got this Dan, you got this.


  2. Nicola Mendenhall says:

    Sending love & energy


  3. Karen says:

    How frustrating for you! But you made it through another small setback and are moving ahead full steam now. Congratulations and good luck! You are in an exciting place.


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