School in the Time of Coronavirus
“Okay, as we come inside – wash your hands. Oh, you came in quickly – have you washed your hands?”
” With Soap?”
“Oh – I’ll be right back”
” Miss I’ve got Teddy to show you”
“Ah now, remember we don’t bring things in from home. Pop it back in your bag and wash your hands”
“Miss, I used soap now – here – smell”
” That’s good – now don’t put them near my face, remember? Go and sit down in your seat”
“Miss, can I go and hand in this form to the office?”
“Yes, off you go…Oh wait, no, that’s the other bubble isn’t it – here leave it on that table there. No Jimmy, I don’t want your homework now, remember, your Dad was going to sign in your diary to say you had done it. Oh, you’ve lost your diary – right – I’ll message your Dad. Okay , lets start the register – right, Sarah? oh of course, Sarah is at home – right who is the Google Classroom monitor today? Okay, could you login and see if Sarah is on there and say Hello? Great, thanks!”
This could be the typical conversation in any primary school up and down the country. This pandemic has affected schools in many different ways. Schools have had to take an almost obsessive approach to assessing risk; to cleaning, visitors. We have amended the curriculum to better suit the lack of trips, or to help fill gaps. We have produced back up plan on top of back up plan for home learning , isolation learning, bubbles bursting and full lockdown.
Our pupils too have adapted thoroughly; severely restricted in their movements in their own school they have lost various chances to mix and to lead – reading buddies, playground leaders, digital leaders and many other ‘small’ activites they were used to have gone. Other routines that they have been using for the last few years have disappeared or changed. Different playgrounds, different lunchtimes, not meeting their friends in other classes or chatting to their favourite teachers. Our youngest children are starting school with minimal physical contact, and very little home / school sharing. Parents may feel shut out, or helpless as their access to teachers is appointment only and virtual.
Schools are being inventive with school and community activites too. Think about those traditional activities that we would be doing now, especially at this time of year; the Christmas Fayre, the carols, the Harvest Festival. Every event is now planned through a filter of infection control with audiences moved online and all of that extra worry about just how the technology will work.
Teachers meanwhile are losing their support networks and their chance to reflect and work with colleagues. Chatting online from your classroom does not feel like the time to bring up just how terrible yor last dision lesson was. Zoom fatigue feels like a real thing – fifteen minutes of online teaching feels like an hour, whilst difficult conversations are even harder to have when not in person. Handling lessons online and talking to parents only on the phone is not a natural way for us to work – especially with younger children or those vulnerable families.
We should be so proud of how we have adapted to this way of working; but we should also be aware of the consquences.
There is no easy answer to how we can be supported – this post is not about finding answers – this is a plea for understanding and a reminder to the profession to go easy on ourselves. Of course, government could help immensely by taking the pressure off and funding appropiately. But, whilst we wait for that, lets all take step back and reflect on just how much has changed over the last six months.
Consider your own progress: Just how many times have you stepped out of your comfort zone in order to go to work? How are you tackling your own worries to answer the worried questions of parents and pupils? How many times have you not seen your own family and friends because you feel you an increased risk?
As you think about these take the time to breathe – and to find a way to be pleased with just how far our school communities have come – after all the post pandemic planning may be just as much of an upheaval.