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The New School Year

            I’m the only teacher wearing a mask this year at synagogue school, so far. And I know that part of the reason I chose to keep wearing it is because I’m self-consciousness about my teeth, post-surgery, but mostly it’s because I wear a mask to go to the supermarket, and the doctor, and the dentist, and the drug store, and it seems odd to take the mask off just when I’m faced with a room full of children. I don’t want to get sick, and even more important, I don’t want to get Mom sick, especially after the breathing issues she’s been having this summer.

            I have even less energy than I had when school ended last spring, but I’m hoping that that’s a temporary result of the oral surgery, just like the numbness and tingling on the right side of my face, and that I’ll start feeling better soon. I don’t think my exhaustion shows in the classroom, though, because I tend to go into performance mode, spending two hours making weird noises (we all pretended to be shofars on day one!), and acting things out, and making funny faces (which probably go unnoticed under the mask, now that I think about it). I definitely feel the pain later, but in the moment, when the adrenaline takes over, I feel like I can do pretty much anything.

“I can fly!”

            The rest of the time, my mind is still full of noise: worrying about my health, and Mom’s; worrying that I’m a terrible teacher/friend/daughter/human; worrying that I will always be in debt, and always be disabled, and always be worried.

            Mom has been feeling better, thank God, but now she’s so busy that when I want to whine about one thing or another I have to wait until she’s done with her physical therapy/board meeting/photography exhibit/quilting meeting just to get a word in. Harrumph.

“You must listen to me.”

            But, really, it was so exciting to meet my new students! And I have so many ideas for how to teach things more clearly this year, and to add more music and fun and creativity to my classroom. I’ve learned so much from my fellow teachers, and from the kids and the teenage teacher’s aides, and I hope I’ll be a better teacher this year as a result. But no matter how much I plan ahead, as soon as class starts I feel like I’ve been shot out of a cannon, and my feet don’t touch the ground until I leave the building and take off my mask. That’s when my brain kicks back in and I start to remember all the things I meant to do, and all of the things I actually did, and my head starts to spin and the pain and exhaustion start to seep in, and I feel lucky to make it home safely before I can’t stand up straight anymore. But even then, sitting on the couch for hours trying to recover, incapable of doing anything else, I still love my job.


“Yep. She’s crazy.”

If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

            Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?

About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

51 responses »

  1. Enjoy the new school year. Several teachers have been priceless in my long life. It is a wonderful opportunity to teach children and start them off on the right track. God bless you.

  2. there is nothing wrong with wearing a mask. I wear one in stores, physiotherapist’s clinics, dentists etc etc. I think your energy will come back. After any surgery it takes time to recover and oral surgery is no exception. So hang in there. And I bet you are a great teacher!

  3. You still love your job–that is the best, Rachel!
    Your body has been through a lot. Strength will come, and with this post it sounds like it is well on its way. Carry on, teacher! You are doing great.

  4. I hope you have a good school year, Rachel. And if you’re more comfortable with the mask than without it, do what makes YOU comfortable.

  5. I’m sure your low energy level is due to your major surgery, Rachel. That should slowly improve. And it’s perfect that we now have a residual mask culture; if it hadn’t been for the pandemic you wouldn’t have that option! I wore braces throughout the pandemic and nobody knew. Just be thankful that a mask option exists and take advantage as long as it helps you. Slowly all your concerns should fade away as you become engrossed in your students. Enjoy your school year.

  6. I’m sure if I were to ask your students they would say that you’re an excellent teacher and they much enjoy your lessons.

  7. Another plus about you being the only teacher wearing a mask at synagogue school is that if one of your students feels different or unpopular or like an outsider, you can make that student feel less alone. You can be the one who teaches that student that following what may be trendy or what’s done by the majority does not have to be the only option. And your being the only teacher wearing a mask there can make that student feel more included and can make your classroom feel more inclusive.

  8. I was the only one wearing a mask for quite a while. We’ve been traveling and almost no one wears them anymore. If you’re more comfortable in a mask, then I say better safe than sorry. We had our 5th shots 2 weeks ago so I’m feeling safer but certainly not bulletproof. I’ll be doing author visits in schools next week and I’ll have a mask with me and probably wear it depending on protocol and distance from children.

  9. Sounds like you are on a school-year high, and that’s a good thing. I still wear a mask too.

  10. Good morning Rachel,
    I still wear a mask too and actually I think it’s not so bad at all. And it’s the right thing to do. I hope you will feel better soon and your mouth will heal up, but that can take up to 6 weeks, so hang in there, it’s totally worth it.
    Have a pawtastic week and be safe.

  11. Better safe than sorry. Autoimmne people make stick out with masks, but, unless you plan on robbing a 7-11 or a bank, there is no shame in wearing a mask.

  12. It’s wonderful when teachers are excited to meet a new group of students. 🙂

  13. I like your attitude towards work–it’s OK. I hope you have continued good post-surgery healing.

  14. So glad you are loving your job!

  15. I am still suffering with terrible catarrh after catching Covid and I get short of breath. Thank goodness I am retired. Hope you feel better soon and your mom.

  16. I still wear a mask when I’m out among people, and it amazes me that no one else does. Who wants to be ill?
    I’ve got an extra reason for wearing one at the moment, in the form of a dodgy temporary tooth the dentist has put in an enormous gap I’ve got at the front, while I wait for WEEKS for a bridge to be put in. At least if I’ve got a mask on people won’t see if it falls out!

  17. If you are more comfortable wearing a mask, wear it! I’m still wearing mine as well.
    Shanah Tovah
    Have a sweet, happy, and healthy new year.

  18. You do you, Rachel! It’s what makes us all unique individuals. I have so much respect for you as a blogger, teacher, and internet friend!

  19. Do what feels right for you, it is no business of anyone else that your wear a mask. Stay strong!

  20. Ha! (?) Oh the joys! 😂😩🤪

  21. I still wear a mask on public transit. Since the pandemic started, I only forgot a mask once on the subway and I felt so exposed the whole time. Even if not for COVID, flu and cold season are starting up, and I don’t want those either!
    I love how you can improve yourself in teaching, and form those bonds with the students, and how rewarding it can be overall. It’s hard work, but never boring!

  22. Have a great new school year and God bless you.


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