Today, I had to go to work. I don’t say that as a complaint given that I have been fortunate enough to be able to teach from home since March 17. I say it as a fact. Going in the school today was very surreal. Due to Covid-19 there are new protocols that must be followed: temperature checks when entering, masking wearing, staying six feet from co-workers, limiting the number of people in the school, etc.
The day began with parking in the front of the building in an area that on a normal day would be filled with buses dropping students off for school. Today on a “normal” day, the students would have been jumping over puddles (okay, even in high school some would have been jumping in them). There would’ve been the buzz of chatter about what everyone did over the weekend and groans about having to get up early and come to school. Instead, there were teachers running through the pouring rain to get to the line at the front door. Then, there was a line of teachers spaced six feet from the next, wearing masks, and waiting to get their temperature checked to determine if they could enter the building or had to go home. As an adult, I understand the necessity of the new protocol. From the perspective of a student, I could see how it would be terrifying.
From a young age, we are taught that school should be somewhere we feel safe; school should be somewhere that we feel like someone cares about us. For me, it is hard to fathom how kids could feel either of those when they can’t come close to a teacher to tell them something in confidence, or a mask has to be worn hiding facial expressions. I also cannot imagine how kids can foster an environment of developing social skills and friendships when they have to remain six feet from one another. Imagine, having lunch and having to sit six feet from your friends. There won’t be any swapping your chocolate milk with someone for their chocolate chip cookie!
Beyond lunch, I think about how many kids like to share with one another. They share phones, games, iPads, clothes, etc. Most of them naturally have something that they want to share with someone else. Now we have to tell them, “No, Johnny, don’t share with Susie. Yes, it’s polite, but there is a pandemic.” On the plus side, this could help with PDA problems.
I feel like today was just a taste of the future for teachers. I believe that it was a tiny insight into what the coming school year could – emphasis on could – be like for us and our students. Do you want the truth? On a lot of levels, it is heartbreaking. Most of us who went into teaching entered the profession because we care about people namely kids. We want to be there for them as a mentor and educator. We’ve done our best this spring through NTI, and we’ve put on brave faces as we’ve done Google Meets and videos for our kids. However, on the inside our hearts were breaking wondering about our students. Are they okay at home? Are they eating? Are they healthy? Do they have all the necessities? Seeing them in our classrooms each day was sometimes the only way these questions could be answered. Returning to school will alleviate some of that heartache, but I feel like it is going to open us up to a whole new set of emotions if things aren’t “normal”.
I applaud all of those who are having to make difficult decisions right now that impact our students. My hat is off to principals, superintendents, school boards, state department of education workers, and anyone else in decision making capacities. You are making decisions that no one could’ve ever told you that you would be making. When we were all getting our various degrees there was no class called “Dealing with a Pandemic 101”. And though the future may taste bittersweet, I know that you all are doing what is best for our students as a whole. Thank you for that.
To all of our students, don’t be scared about the future. Even if we are behind masks, we’re still here for you.
The Great Kaysby