Teacher opens up about new CF precautions during COVID-19
February 5, 2021
As a high school teacher and a mother operating during a pandemic, Frances Anderson has found that balancing livelihood and safety is no easy feat.
Many of the precautions that are now taken to stop the spread of COVID-19 were already common measures for Anderson, as she has a 9-year-old daughter with cystic fibrosis (CF).
Before having a daughter with CF, Anderson was one for natural remedies. She never used antibiotics or hand sanitizer in her household. But after her daughter was born, that all changed.
“My life was turned upside down. All of a sudden hand sanitizer became an everyday thing in my house, no one could come into my house without hand sanitizer, we masked if someone was sick…all the COVID precautions that are now recommended for everybody, those are all the precautions that I was given when she was born,” Anderson said.
Last March, Anderson’s house was completely quarantined, due to the unknown factors and risks for people with CF in relation to COVID-19.
“When COVID first started, I was 100 percent quarantined. We didn’t know how CF people would react to COVID, so my house was on complete lockdown,” Anderson said.
Her husband lived somewhere else for three months because he had to go to work, but everyone else stayed in her home. Everything that came and went out of the house was bleached, and she did not order food from anywhere.
“I didn’t even go outside running, because I was nervous about COVID being aerosol…all these different things,” Anderson said.
She comes to work and goes straight home, and she constantly masks. Seeing her extended family is not an option for Anderson, due to the risk of improper masking.
“We don’t get to see family anymore. If you want to hang out for an hour and people want to drink water or eat a snack, all of a sudden your mask is coming off and you’re not effectively masking,” Anderson said. “It’s a lot to ask when you have to tell people, ‘you can come see me but you really can’t take off your mask.’”
A couple of her children are involved in closely regulated activities, and Anderson will occasionally have people over who she knows can mask properly, but otherwise “it’s pretty isolating.”
Elizabeth is still able to go to school safely, due to the cleaning and safety procedures classrooms must follow.
“Schools are actually cleaner and better now than they ever have been. Mortality happens with CF when a bug is cultured in a person’s lungs, meaning that it would never go away, and it just grows in their lungs,” Anderson said. “The real management with CF is prevention, so now that the schools are actually cleaning properly, it’s safer for her to go to school now than it’s ever been.”
For Anderson, the decision to send Elizabeth to school also came down to quality of life. She wanted to make it as easy as possible for Elizabeth to make new companions.
“She struggles to build friendships, and I didn’t want to make it even harder for her,” Anderson said.
A lot of the work with CF is done “behind the scenes”, and Anderson has come to view it as being similar to mental illness.
“It reminds me a little bit like mental illness. Some students who are really high achieving work really hard, but people don’t realize what they’re suffering from underneath the scenes, and that’s kind of how CF is. You do all this work to come forward and present this picture of this healthy child. But in reality you’re in the background struggling away,” Anderson said.
While the return to full in-person learning puts Anderson and her family at a higher risk, she still feels the joy of the full return of students.
“You get to see kids everyday. It’s just so disjointed to not see kids everyday…it saddens me,” Anderson said.
Normally, she would have strong relationships built with all of her students, but Anderson feels like she does not know some of her students at all.
“I am excited for the opportunity to actually get to know my students and their faces, and for them to get to know me. I feel like so much of class happens in passing periods and in times that aren’t scheduled classes, and in those side conversations that you don’t have when you’re online,” Anderson said.
She also respects and supports those students who are choosing to stay remote, and her teaching style will not be changing with the full return, as to not give any additional benefits to students who go to school. She understands that remote students are choosing to stay safe, and they are making a difficult decision.
“Anytime you’re placed in the situation when you’re removing a person’s essential need is so hard,” Anderson said, referring to the choice between health and education.
Anderson finds it interesting that COVID has brought a new light to people in compromised situations, and has brought the support for those people to the forefront.
“There’s been some additional light shown on people who are dealing with chronic issues, which is kind of cool,” Anderson said. “There are always good things that come out of what appears to be a bad situation, and I think there is a lot of good that is going to come out of COVID. I just keep focused on the things we are going to gain from this time, as opposed to what has been lost.”