Making the Tough Decision to Sit Out the School Year

Michelle Gonzaba avatar

by Michelle Gonzaba |

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For the past three years of my life, August has been one of the most stressful months of the year. For others, August often is the beginning of that weird time between summer and fall. But for teachers like me, it’s the start of a new school year. From lesson planning to classroom decorating, I was always in panic mode. While I was eager to meet my new students, I also dreaded the workload I knew would overwhelm me.

However, the typical feelings I normally have at this time of year have been replaced by something else this year: guilt. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and my myasthenia gravis (MG), I’ve decided not to return to the classroom this year. Although I am vaccinated, I don’t feel comfortable spending eight hours a day inside a building without a mask mandate. I don’t know if I would feel differently if I didn’t have MG, but at this point, there is no way I can risk catching COVID-19 and having a possible myasthenic crisis.

MG has never stopped me from teaching before. I did have a minor flare-up during my second year due to stress, but I was able to carry on with some help from my reliable friend Mestinon (pyridostigmine). But before my fourth year of teaching began, I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle the fear and anxiety I would inevitably feel.

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I’ve tried to convince myself that I’m doing the right thing, and most of the time I can, but guilt seems to always creep in every time I see a back-to-school commercial. Why can’t I suck it up like other teachers and do my job? Am I giving up on my students? Why am I letting fear stop me? The moment these questions run through my head, I quickly shut them down.

Now more than ever, I know I need to put my health first. I’ve learned to put my pride aside and do what’s best for me and for my family’s health. Although my MG has been in remission for a while, I know that any kind of illness can trigger its reappearance. Yes, I wish I could teach this year, but I believe I’ve made the right decision.

Although I’m sitting this school year out, I’m still learning. If I don’t put my health first, everything else will fall apart. Maybe it’s my turn to be the student for a while. (But not for too long — I love being in charge way too much for that.)


Myasthenia Gravis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.


Judy Shone avatar

Judy Shone

Michelle, I taught with MG for years, and know you’ll miss the kids, their faces, the interactions. I just cannot imagine the anxiety of being in a classroom in today’s COVID world, without mask mandates. The conflict of emotions that must create…taking care of yourself vs wanting to be out there teaching… I get it. Now, 50 years later, for the last 10 years. I’ve been a dedicated caregiver, for one now in late stages of Alzheimer’s,…in a way those self-care choices and emotions never go away, just the situations change. I wish you peace in your decision…in my mind, you had no choice. Be well. Keep writing your story, I love reading your column.

Amy scolese avatar

Amy scolese

This disease is such an unknown in how it affects people differently . I think it’s the smart thing to do.

Cyndi avatar


Good for you for making your health a priority! I would have made the same decision.


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