We can only do what we can do.


I walked in to my classroom at 7:30 said good morning to the office manager and she immediately suggested a test.


“You’re not sounding so great Walt.” She said.


And it’s true, I’ve been fighting a sore throat since Saturday, playing through like I always do, but after two negative rapid tests (one Saturday and one Monday), I figured it was just the first flu of the season, nothing that a little Emergen-C and rest couldn’t fix.


But my school is on alert after three positive student tests and I was looking at the return of wearing masks this week as per COVID protocol.


I walk into the art room, turn on the fans and air purifiers and open all the doors then sit down for that familiar swabbing.


I have not had COVID which I attribute to the same reason I have 350 hours of sick time built up in the last 23 years. I get exposed to germs every day, all day and as a result my immunity is Muhammed Ali strong. Plus I’m vaxed and boosted and a firm believer in science and I ride my bike to work whenever I can and coach two sports and teach PE. I have a professional interest in keeping fit and healthy. Also, good health and more time are my two main priorities at this stage of the game.


But, I’m also one of those teachers who thinks they are invaluable (I am not) and no one can do my job (they can) so if I’m out sick, the world might just end (it won’t).


I swab and process and put the three drops on the iHealth COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Test which I have three of in my desk at work and another 5 at home. I wonder how many times I’ve done this in the last couple of years, remembering the first time way back in 2020 http://valleytalking.blogs.sonomanews.com/2020/05/06/day-48-test-now/


Remember those days? Wiping down groceries and closed parks and no toilet paper and no telling when it would end?


The T line gets dark almost immediately for the first time since I started taking these tests, I quickly grab a second test and swab again knowing that two tests are better than one. By the time the T shows up on the second one, the 15 minute waiting period is over and both the C and T lines are clearly dark on the first test meaning a positive result. I start writing sub plans for the day as the second test also confirms the result.


But once the positive result is confirmed, I quickly move on to triage for my week. Texting all the girl golfers that we have to cancel practice this week, changing up my art lesson on Picasso and the Elements of Art, talking with our counselor who is going to be covering my PE class (did I mention there are still very few subs available?). Emailing Tony at the golf course and the SVHS athletic director to explain the situation. And what about the Writers Festival this weekend and the Red and White Ball? Arrrgh.


I walk out the door telling my office manager I will be back this evening to make sub plans for the rest of the week.


“No, you won’t, you can’t come anywhere near school for at least 5 days.” She explains.


I walk outside to my truck and pass one of my golfers who tells me she birdied the 7th hole at the Sonoma Golf Club last weekend.


“Awesome” I reply “Unfortunately, I just tested positive for COVID so no practice this week.”


It has been a hard start to the schoolyear, staffing shortages, new teachers, a favorite ex-student died in a drunk driving accident and every teacher I talk to said the same thing about the summer-“went super fast, didn’t rest enough”. And then, well, politics and global warming and war and COVID.


Kate and I had the summer of Jack Reacher, obsessively reading the series of “stud lit” books by Lee Child. If you ever want to escape into a book, try the series because isn’t it time to put down the remote and discover reading again?


But summer is over and it’s time for teachers to do whatever needs to be done to inspire whatever little being walks through their classroom door. The new administrative hierarchy is the best I’ve seen in many years and things are getting done-I will be able to teach swimming at SVHS very soon, the Maxwell pump park is happening, the tennis courts are being resurfaced in September, the stadium is pretty amazing and the teachers who haven’t bailed on the profession are looking forward to shaping whatever the new normal will be.


I am not real good at taking care of myself but by the time Kate returns from Bikrim carrying C-Boost smoothies from Sonoma Market, I am in bed with pajamas on, calendar is cleared and I am looking forward to a few days of doing all the things which I have put off for whatever reason (or maybe I’ll do a total of absolutely nothing).


We make a COVID nest in guest room number 1 (tissues, garbage can, masks, hankerchief for sneezing into, side door and windows open for ventilation, and 2 Jack Reacher novels at the ready). This was my daughter’s room and now since both kids have flown the nest, we call their rooms guest room #1 and guest room #2 while we decide what to do with them.


I Google what is the best way to quarantine (isolate and mask up for 5 days when around others). Then I send an email to school with my very poor lesson plans for the next three days. Kate tests negative which is the first good news of the day.


We can only do what we can do I think to myself. I hunker down with “Echo Burning” my newest Jack Reacher novel.






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