Educator Spotlight: A Quarantine Journey

Mrs. Kroboth was my English teacher in middle school and is my high school debate coach. After moving to Pennsylvania and encountering a tough 6th grade year, Mrs.Kroboth was my anchor of support. Her class extended past the course material and onto valuable life lessons that I will never forget. Whenever I walked into her class, it felt more like fun get together rather than a lesson. It was such a nice community and one of the few things I miss about middle school. I was so excited when I found out she was debate coach for high school!

In the following, Mrs. Kroboth speaks about her experience when the quarantine was first put into place, and her internal struggle that followed.

“My natural inclination bends toward introspection and anxiety. I experienced a profound, albeit guilty sense of relief immediately “when the world went home,” which is difficult to explain.

Although externally, nothing was in my control, and every day at some point, I found myself wandering around in an otherworldly mental state, trying to come to equilibrium with the situation. My stress level was not aggravated; quite the opposite. The usual cacophony of middle schoolers’ shouting and running and pushing and shoving and emotionally draining needs had come to a screeching halt.

I entered a peaceful state that soothed my introverted preference. I was rewarded with time to exercise my autonomy that is usually constrained by the rules and regulations of everyday life in school schedules, and the unpredictability of student’s needs and administration’s demands. As my colleagues lamented the school’s closing and professed publicly via social media how much they missed their students and school, I felt ashamed that I could not relate. I did miss my students, but I still had virtual contact with them, and every day a faithful few showed up for an online ZOOM session. Quite frankly, that was enough.

Trepidation for my health and my extended family’s health is ever-present in my mind now, and it acts as a heavy counterbalance to my sense of serenity. I have always been pre-occupied with my demise. This pandemic has revved the engine of that thought to a dangerous level of RPMs. I began a series of letters to everyone I love deeply with the hope that if I succumb to the ravages of COVID; they would have a concrete reminder of all they mean to me. I am still working on those letters months later. I then imagine surviving without my family, and I practice grieving on a near-daily basis as a twisted way to build a sort of resilience for the inevitable.

I do not believe destiny shackles human behavior, but there is one fear I cannot seem to shake. Last October, I turned fifty-nine. My colleague wished me a happy and birthday, and I responded, “Thanks, it is my last one.” His head whipped around because he misunderstood my meaning and exclaimed, “That is prescient, what?” I laughed and said, “no, you know, like when someone turns twenty-nine, they say that’s it, no more birthdays!”

Now that conversation winds its way around my consciousness like a boa squeezing a hapless prey. When I read the news every day now, there is a hew and cry to re-open schools fully. Knowing my next birthday will be a mere forty-five days after local authorities may make a profoundly risky decision, I find my newfound serenity and autonomy vanishing into an ever-darkening sky.”

– Mrs. Kroboth

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