Our Classrooms Were Already Unhealthy
I’d thought it was just me.
Being asthmatic, I’d assumed the issue was that I had a crappy immune system. That must explain why I got sick several times a year when I was a middle and high school teacher. I’d thought it must be the reason why I seemed to get every bug that went around — plus some new ones, and why some of the sicknesses morphed into sinus infections. One of the reasons why I ended up leaving teaching and going back to graduate school was because I was getting sick all the time. With that, plus the long hours that left little time to exercise, the stress, and the late nights, I started thinking that being a teacher was going to take years off my life.
In my last year of graduate school, I started teaching Teacher Education classes. The very first week I got Whooping Cough. It turns out teaching a room full of people who go to ALL the schools in the region is almost worse than teaching 150 high school students each day.
It was not just me. This week, I posted a question on a feed for teachers, asking: “What illnesses have we caught at school during NORMAL school years? I got over 230 responses. Some named illnesses I had to look up.
Among the common or notable illnesses:
Anal strep (who knew that was a thing?)
All the colds, viruses, coughs, and head colds
Colds, viruses, coughs that turn into sinus infections
Colds, viruses, and coughs that turn into pneumonia
Hand, foot, and mouth disease
Cellulitis (a swollen, red, rash)
ER visits from severe illnesses
Going into pre-term labor after being run into by a student
We need to talk about teachers’ working conditions. Even without the constant fear of active shooters, our classrooms were already hazardous and unhealthy. Many classrooms are poorly-ventilated. Some have black mold. Some have leaking ceilings.
Multiple teachers also mentioned Urinary Tract Infections as a result of not being able to use the bathroom frequently enough. Let that sink in — in many schools, teachers aren’t even allowed to pee when they need to.
Anything that anyone in this country can possibly catch is probably in our schools. Our classrooms were already petri dishes that potentially carried every illness our 20–30 elementary students or 150+ middle and high school students brought in with them from their homes, their jobs, their friends, and anything else they did. In areas where not everyone gets vaccinations or access to basic preventative health measures, that can even include illnesses, infections, and even parasites that are uncommon outside of hospitals, nursing homes, and day cares for young children.
And now we wonder why teachers are concerned about being in these rooms as COVID-19 rates continue to rise. Is there any surprise that many are writing their wills? Or that some are having panic attacks?
Image Credit: Lena Helfinger, Pixabay