That Q Word

That “Q” Word

Caitlin Gawlowski Current Affairs, Education, Uncategorized

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It is a new school year, and that means we are starting over fresh! New students, new clothes, new friends, new perspective; moving on from the-school-year-that-must-not-be-named. We kissed online learning good-bye, and are fully back to in-person learning. Hallelujah!

On the sixth day of school, things started to change. It all started with a cough, sneeze, and a runny nose. Or perhaps it was a fever, stomach ache, and a sore throat. A student makes his or her way to the nurse and then the dreaded email comes out: The health office is closed. Only send emergencies until further notice.

We are all thinking the same thing: it’s that “Q” word.

Suddenly, the school campus was hustling and bustling with extra people present, working behind the scenes to bring students to a secluded area while waiting for parents to arrive. Belongings were packed, lunches were gathered and eaten, and teachers cried as they had to disassemble their Chromebook carts yet again after spending so much time getting those dang cords organized just right.

Don’t make me say that “Q” word.

There is a quiet buzz of students and teachers alike asking, “What’s going on?” seeing all the extra people on campus walking around with radios. Even behind the masks, you can tell they are stressed and worried as they usher students to their cars and share what little information they can with parents. We are all guessing why they are here, but we do not know for sure… yet.

Don’t make me say that “Q” word.

Ding! The dreaded email has arrived: Emergency Staff Meeting After School. The meeting where we talk about that ugly “Q” word and will survey the damage that this COVID tornado did at our school. It must have been wishful thinking assuming that the tornado would somehow circle completely around our school bubble and that we would all remain unaffected by its wrath.

The mood is somber at the meeting as we wait for the band-aid to get ripped off.

“Sooner or later we knew it was going to hit us.”

Please don’t say that “Q” word.

“This is not a reflection of our mitigation strategies.”

Please don’t say that “Q” word.

“As of tomorrow, we will have 44 remote learners.”

PLEASE don’t say that “Q” word.

“Students can come back after a certain number of days with a negative COVID test, or if they do not get tested will need to quarantine at home for 10 days.”

There it is: quarantine.

Teachers thought that we would not have to teach in-person and online at the same time this year. Parents thought helping their children navigate remote learning was a thing of the past. Unfortunately, we have not returned to prepandemic life yet and had to change our plans. There is still the possibility of teaching students remotely if a positive COVID case arises and students need to quarantine; in this case, we had to quarantine just under 10% of our student population.

That was the sixth day of school, and today is the thirty-sixth day of school. This has happened multiple times since the sixth day of school, although each time since has not had quite as many students quarantined at once. I shudder to think of what the next hundred days of school will look like if quarantining students continues at this rate for the rest of the school year.

Please be safe out there. Nobody is looking forward to hearing about that “Q” word again.

Photo by Nandhu Kumar from Pexels


Caitlin was born to be a teacher, although she did not realize that teaching was her calling until she went to college. She has always loved to write, and began college with the mindset of becoming a journalist. Before beginning her freshman year of college, she changed my major to Elementary Education on a whim and has never looked back. She graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education from Arizona State University, and won the Outstanding Student Teacher Award during her student teaching experience in the Cave Creek Unified School District. Caitlin spent 9 years in the classroom teaching 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade. She became a National Board Certified Teacher in 2018, and holds a certificate in Early and Middle Childhood Literacy: Reading/Language Arts. The 2021-2022 school year marks the beginning of her 10th year teaching, where she will be working as an Academic Interventionist, and supporting other National Board candidates on their journey toward National Board certification. If she is lucky enough to have free time, you can find her traveling Arizona with her husband and son, spending time with her friends and family, taking group fitness classes, or enjoying a good book.

Comments 1

  1. Sarah Kirchoff

    Navigating this time is difficult. When our district went back this year, we just went ahead like a normal year, and then the changes started happening. We needed to bring back some of the mitigation strategies we had last year. We were able to come back in person last year with a lot of restrictions in place. This year, we started out as if nothing had happened, and now I feel like we need to be more flexible than last year. It will be interesting to see how it plays out in the coming months and years. Will things ever go back to normal? No one knows for sure, but I feel like we need more patience than last year and that can be difficult to navigate as well. Young kids are resilient. My class will just go with the flow, so I am fortunate in that respect, but no one wants things to go backward. We want to move forward with teaching and learning each day. We just need to make sure everyone is safe, healthy and happy.

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