Saturday, September 26, 2009

Epidemic Apples

I work in an incubator that is know as "First Grade". In all my years of teaching, I've never seen so many flu-related absences and repeat absences in the first weeks of school. You may remember last spring, there was a school near my elementary that was closed down when "swine flu" (aka H1N1) was discovered. News crews reported many times a day on the risk of a full-blown epidemic. And then one day, it just all STOPPED. Like someone higher-up said, "No more reporting about it. No more talking about it. No more fanning the flame." The closed school quietly reopened, and, except for the field trip that my classroom had to miss because of the supposed threat of out-of-town-school-bus rides making us susceptible to said flu, things returned quickly to normal.

Fast forward to this fall. The students are exhibiting flu-like symptoms over and over. I had a student come to school yesterday (on his birthday) who asked to go home. You KNOW they are sick when they want to leave on their birthday and miss being King of the Class for a day. I saw on "World News Tonight" that the featured story involved a visit to the tent city erected outside of Dell Children's Hospital in my fair town of Austin. So many sick children they had to add more space inside huge tents. I heard from a mother who had visited Dell with two of her three sick with the flu, that it was very efficient, orderly and well run.

Still, not one will use the words "epidemic" or even "Gee, maybe we should pay attention to the unparalleled number of children missing multiple days of school with high fever this early in the school year..."  And then I got my own personal wake-up call.

This is my 21st year in the classroom. During my first two years, I was sick so many times I'd used up all my sick and personal days by Christmas. If there was a germ in my classroom, it promptly sought me out and zapped me good. But as time went on, my resistance to the germ warfare that is a classroom environment seemed to grow and grow. As the years went by, I actually go to use my personal days for things, well, personal. I was not just loading up on Kleenex and chicken noodle soup, while I recuperated on the couch noting that the plots on most soap operas have not changed since I last watched them in the 1980s. (Luke and Laura: just stop it.) I didn't seem to ever get sick anymore.

Until yesterday. I noticed my stomach felt funny and chalked it up to my first grade lunch time being 10:30 am, and by dinner there has been an almost 8 hour gap in eating. Then I started to feel achy. Again dismissed by the fact that I never sit down in my classroom and run marathon sprints of errands during my few and far between breaks. And then I felt hot. Oh, please, God: not hot flashes now.

To my credit, I visited the nurse's office twice during the school day to make sure I was not running a fever and taking a risk of infecting my little charges. What would keep me at school on a day where I did not feel 100%? Well, it goes by the marvelous name of "Johnny Appleseed's Birthday." You may live in a normal world. I live in a parallel universe where even the first day of fall can bring more happiness into a room then can be contained. And Johnny Appleseed's Birthday brought excitement without parallel. We had apples to peel on an antique machine that cored, peeled and cut at the same time. We could visit four centers where we would sing apple songs, decorate pictures of apples through the four season, make a time line of an apple tree and illustrate a magical poem about apples. There were apple books and apple "big" books to read, overhead projector stories to be labeled, and songs to sing with props. And the piece de resistance? We were going to get to watch a 1960's Disney video on Johnny Appleseed. Does life get any better than that? No, not if your teacher has to slink home and lay on a couch, while a substitute (who is clueless to the nuances of all things apple) takes over the room . (You can take a peek inside our magical classroom here. )

I made it through the day. We had a wonderful time. I left when the children did at 3:00 pm and went home to lay on my couch, where I watched the early news. (Too late for General Hospital.) And guess what? The allergy count on mold is off the charts. My old arch nemesis mold has returned to the central Texas region, hopefully for a very short visit. That explains the aches and pains and slight dizziness. That further explains why Advil sinus had me feeling human about 4 hours later. 

But  the ten hour sleep I had last night? That could be due, just a little, to the fact that my 19 six-year-old best friends tire me out just a tad at times. But now I'm all geared up because Columbus Day and Halloween are on the horizon.

Let the celebrations begin!


Buttercup said...

Hope you've got some allergy symptoms and not H1N1 and that your class stays well. I've been feeling pretty draggy the last few days, but just chalked it up to post Martha Stewart let down. I'd love Johnny Appleseed day. I think your parallel universe is pretty fun.

Sister Beta said...

I still remember Johhny Appleseed Day as quite possibly, THE BEST school day ever! I'm glad you made it through.

Lynn said...

Glad you don't have the flu but sorry your allergies are acting up! Our warm days are now over I think, definitely fall today. My daughter & I went to the Farmer's Market this morning and when the sun is shining it's not bad but it looks like the temperatures are actually suppose to go to below normal. Oh well, I knew it had to come. Hope you're having a good weekend.