Public school teacher Rabeena Khan was so sick with the coronavirus, she couldn’t even “get out of bed” — but even as she battled the vicious bug, she never missed one day of work.
“For any kid, whether they are your neurotypical kid or a student with disabilities, they thrive on structure, they thrive on consistency,” Khan, a seventh grade English Language Arts teacher at the Queens School of Inquiry in Flushing, told The Post.
As many of her students dealt with the horrors of the virus, seeing their family members die or get sick while living within the pandemic’s Big Apple epicenter, Khan knew “it was definitely not a time to take any days off.”
“I think school is what’s keeping a lot of students anchored and centered during this time because they know ‘alright everything in my crazy world is going on, but I still have to be online at 8 a.m.,’” said Khan, 27, who also teaches health and wellness and literacy and is a coordinator for PS 24’s after school program.
At the end of March, Khan was suddenly overcome with intense “exhaustion” that she thought was related to the stress of having to change over to remote learning with little preparation.
Then some respiratory issues came, but again, “maybe it’s just allergies,” she thought.
“I didn’t think that I would get sick,” Khan said.
“But once I started feeling it, it was the flu times 10,” the teacher explained.
“It honestly felt like someone had like just knocked the wind out of me. And there were definitely some days where I started having trouble breathing and that’s when I was worried.”
Khan lives at home with her sister and parents and suddenly, everyone but her sibling had symptoms.
Her mom, who has high blood pressure and is diabetic, was at particular risk.
“That was also adding to the stress, just making sure that she was okay,” Khan said.
Still, despite the stress, Khan pushed through her own symptoms, including a pervading feeling of “mental fog,” so she could be there for her students, many of whom are special needs.
“Our best tool is having the kids know that there is somebody there for them,” Khan said.
“Just making sure that we’re a safety net for our kids, and that nothing’s happening at home that’s getting by us and it’s just being there for the students, that’s really it,” she said of her decision to not take off.
Luckily, Khan’s co-teachers were able to fill in for her live instructions while she focused on building lesson plans and keeping the kids on track with their work.
“There were a couple days that I was [live instructing] where I felt like I took my cough medicine, I wasn’t just coughing all over the place, and the kids were anxious to see me, they kept messaging me asking if I was okay, checking in on me, which I thought was so sweet,” Khan said.
“We’re doing our best to keep that sense of normalcy for them at a time where everything feels like it’s getting pulled out from under their feet. Parents losing jobs and parents getting sick… and not being able to just leave that at home and come to school. I think it’s definitely taking a toll on our students,” the educator went on.
But, “if you show kids that you care about them, and that school cares about them, they will care about school and they will stay engaged and they will stay with you,” Khan said.
“These kids know that we’re here for them and we’re not going anywhere, despite what’s happening.”
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