The most important lesson I learned from a brush with Ebola – Episode 055

By Juan Campos

The Seal It With A Smile Podcast is where high performing Educators come to learn actionable brain building strategies. These brilliant minds understand that learning happens through relationships! This show will make you more responsive, more insightful, more congruent, and more effective so YOU can serve as a SUPERMODEL for your kids. Master teachers understand that higher performance in the classroom starts within themselves.

This is my seventh year of teaching.

As I headed into my new teaching career back in 2013 (without any formal teaching experience) I was also in the midst of recovering from a job loss and recovering from a mistake I made in my marriage.  Six years in therapy working on myself, my marriage, my parenting, all of it.

What I did have going for me, probably the main reason why I did get a teaching position aside from my BS in chemistry and my minor in psychology, was my 8 years in beekeeping. Not only was I a beekeeper, but I worked in a honeybee laboratory studying honey bees. In addition to that, I had spent the last two years teaching beekeeping classes for a honey company in the Dallas area. My classes were up to 30 students with an age range of 8 – 89.

Going into my new teaching career I was focus and committed. Not only was I going to be the best teacher I could be, I had to be the best in order to support my newly pregnant wife at the time as we were expecting our son.

I also had to be the best for my almost 200 other children.

Surviving the first year of teaching was exhausting; working a full time job, two part time jobs, children, and a new born. But I survived.

Then October 2014 came.

We had all heard about the Ebola patient being in Dallas, and we had all heard about the nurses. But what none of us in that auditorium that fall afternoon had expected to hear, was that there was a small remote possibility that one of our students family members might have come in close proximity to one of the nurses. The school superintendent that afternoon, in a dry monotone voice, went further to explain the entire school was to under go a top to bottom wipe down that night. He went further on to explain how this was occurring, not out of a necessity, but out of an abundance of caution.

The silence back in our teacher conference group was sobering, but not as sobering as the quiet drive home, where my emotions were running high. Here I was, yet again, in another situation where I had failed; I had possibly brought a deadly virus to my home, infecting my family, infecting my new born son.  Right when my life started to gain a positive rhythm, right when my decisions were beginning to make sense, another obstacle in the road totally sabotaging life as I know it.

By the time my wife (now ex-wife) arrived home with the children, I had left all my clothes outside and wiped down almost all surfaces. Using every scientific understanding of contamination I could remember and reason, I cleaned my house from top to bottom, and explained to my wife the situation we were facing.

Her acceptance was reassuring and that evening continued as normal. That night, after putting my babies to sleep, I did all I could do at that moment; read.

I found all the scientific articles I could about the transmission of Ebola and created a powerpoint of the information. I even went into the biology of why hand washing was so effective, and stumbled upon Ignaz Semmelweis, the “savior of mothers”.  The doctor who figured out that hand washing between treating mothers in childbirth reduced the mortality rate and increased their survivability! Surprisingly (or not surprisingly) even with his data, no one believed him until decades later after his passing.

The next morning I arrived into my classroom armed with all of this information. The prevailing guidance from the top at the time was “keep things as normal as possible”.  The presentation stood ready; just in case.  Then my first student walked in the door.
“Mr. Campos, Mr. Campos, we’re all going to die! You’re going to die, I’m going to die, my momma doesn’t love me, she dropped me off at school!”
Every student after him came into my classroom, repeating the same woes, crying the same cry.