As a classroom teacher, I have lots of worries and concerns. I want to be back in my classroom teaching, but not until safety for everyone can be adequately addressed and when our numbers have significantly improved. I got into teaching because I love it. I stay because of the relationship aspect of my career; however, returning to school now, is dangerous and counterproductive.
Initially, when I looked at the work study groups that were looking into the return of school, I was relieved. It seemed that great thought was being put into the reopening of schools. However, after colleagues brought it to my attention, I did notice very little representation for elementary classroom teachers. While I value the opinion of a music teacher or literacy coach, they do not see things through the same lens as a teacher. Many of the people in the groups will never set foot in a classroom full of students. They will not be held responsible for delivering high quality instruction, making accommodations for varying skills/students, having high expectations in terms of classroom expectations, assessments, participating in staff development, and answering questions/concerns from parents. It seems to me that the work study groups were heavily placed with Admin or others that spend time with kids, but not in the same capacity that we do. AND the discussions are still on Zoom.
I cannot understand how one of the driving thoughts is safety but no one can answer the REAL questions. The safety questions. The nuts and bolts.
If I think about a typical day in my classroom, I cannot understand how I will do this safely, feeling comfortable and confident, all while being an effective teacher.
9:15 Lining up in the halls 6 feet apart? Have they been exposed at home? Have they been exposed on the bus/carpool? Have they been checked for a fever? Have they been given fever reducing meds? Do they have a mask? Do they have an extra if they sneeze or it breaks/falls off? Have they come from a home where others have been sick or exposed? Have they come from daycare with less restrictions?
9:30 Putting their things away and getting to desks Just while they are putting their backpacks away they are squished. There isn’t enough room. There is no distance because the backpacks and coats overlap? Does this mean hanging those things on the back of their chairs? Does that mean some students should put their things in the hall? How can I have a full class of kids 4 days a week, all day, and 6 feet apart? Does that mean that we reduce our expectations to 3 ft? Not because it is safe but because physically there is no room. Reducing class size? Number of kids per teacher?
9:45 Class meeting on carpet? Nope. So they will sit in their desks looking forward and hope they can read the board or even see the board due to social distancing.
10:00 Beginning reading instruction and rotations I hope they can hear me through my mask. I will have my back to most of them because they are in their desks. They will not see my facial expressions due to my mask and face shield. Read to self instead of around the room will be in their desks. No more read to someone, partner reading. No more flexible seating because I won’t have enough room and I will have to spend valuable teaching time just making sure that no one is too close. I will not want to bring kids back to read in a group. They may not be able to hear me during our words their way lesson- can they differentiate between sh and th without seeing my mouth and watching me say the words. No word work activities such as water colors or stickers or stamps because I can’t clean them or physically won’t have time to clean them all. I cannot have shared supplies.
10:50 snack Students used to eat where they want. They sat in groups on the carpet and they left the room to use the bathroom when they needed. I walked around and sat down and talked with kids about what they were doing and what was going on in their lives. Now, they will remain in desks. I’m not sure, but I am pretty sure that I will stand near an open window because at this point, all masks are off. One at a time line to wash hands??They will all have to line up to wash hands prior to snack and after snack which means either snack is really short or nonexistent for many because by the time they wash their hands the first time, it will be time up.
11:00 line up for specialists we walk through very crowded halls, most of the time crossing over other class lines or waiting for kids to go by. That can’t happen this year. How will that be fixed? By having specialists come to us? I don’t want kids singing and spreading their germs even more in the classroom. Playing instruments in the classroom. Another person entering the room who has been in how many other classrooms with how many other kids? So they stay in their desks still.
11:30 writing I used to have a variety of papers and supplies. Not next year. They will get their lesson from their desk. I used to have kids act as editors for others and they walked around to get ideas/suggestions from their classmates? Not next year. They will stay in their desks. I used to sit down at a table and talk about their work. Give ideas/suggestions and feedback. I did it so the group could all benefit. Nope.
12:00 Recess and Lunch Kids got their things and lined up So they will go to the crowded coat/backpack section (or not?) and get what they need and line up. How long will this line need to be? How will I keep them apart? Will they now have recess and lunch at their desks? Because I will apparently need to clean during lunch time. I will then go outside to eat and instead of share ideas and troubleshoot with colleagues, I will avoid them. I will also use the bathroom that all of my colleagues’ use. It isn’t cleaned but before and after school.
12:45 Calendar. Calendar used to be student centered and on the carpet. Kids shared whiteboard markers to give examples of the date. They all took turns participating in calendar and the daily message. Will this be from their desks? Will I lead calendar and be the only one touching the calendar and the white board?
1:00 Math My mini lesson and then the practicing and reteaching. I used to have the kids come to the carpet (not anymore?) and they would be able to see my face and see my expressions when I was waiting for responses or asking for feedback. I had students come up and share the pen either on the board or under my document camera (nope) before they went back to get their manipulatives to practice. How will they use manipulatives? How will they be cleaned? Who will clean them? These are important aspects of school that I’m not sure everyone is considering. The kids that struggle are then called to the carpet for group work. (No to that too) or to the back table.
1:45 Choice/Snack Kids used to open up cupboards to get puzzles, games, manipulatives, blocks, Legos. They would sit on the carpet in small groups and play. This will not be safe. I cannot let them open those cupboards because everything will need to be cleaned. I will not have the time to clean all of these things. I will not allow them to sit on a carpet. There won’t be space because all of the desks that I have to have in my class will not allow for a carpet space.
2:00 Social Studies and Science Come to the carpet for lesson or reading or BrainPop video. Does this mean desk still? There will be no carpet. Hands on work with partners or groups. Supplies passed out for experiments. Everything that is used will need to be cleaned.
2:45 Clean-up for home Again crowded back packs and lunches and chairs up? Nope. Someone (most likely me) must clean desks
2:50 Recess Is this outside? Do they walk through the halls? Can they do that without touching everything along the way? Others? Their masks? What are they touching outside? I will avoid team mates and go to the bathroom, hoping that I don’t meet up with anyone else that needs to use a bathroom. Not sure I will need to use the bathroom, if I don’t feel comfortable drinking water or coffee that has been in my class all day.
3:15 Meet on carpet to debrief day, plan for tomorrow and read a book or do PBSES lesson Again, no carpet. Not sure that I won’t be too exhausted to read a book. They will be in their desks as I read or show that video. As I debrief the day and intro the next.
3:40 Kids are dismissed. This is also stressful but will be even worse. I have to know where they all go. Every day. The changing schedule. The ones that tell me at the last minute they can’t go on the bus. Is it true? Kids through the halls. Last minute calls from office about changes. I have to have eyes on all my students, through my fogged up glasses, and hope they get to the right place.
Return to class and think about all the sitting and all the lessons/activities that should have been done differently.
After cleaning anything that was used, I will try not to see my colleagues and will get in my car and hope that I am not bringing anything home to MY family. I will hand sanitize and rehash the possible times that I might have been exposed. The parent that brought the lunch to my door. The kid that had been given the fever reducing meds. The OT that travels to god knows how many other schools. The sub who has been god knows where and came to take over for a sick colleague who we all hope doesn’t have IT. My colleague that lives with a “it is what it is” attitude and still goes out with friends.
This is not meant to be sarcastic or facetious in anyway. This is the reality and these are serious concerns and questions that I have. It is too much. I ask that people read through this and share this and come up with solutions for me and my colleagues. I ask that you share this with those that think it is a good idea to reopen schools. I could have gone on and on about the upset parents when my mask and shield scares their young learner. I could go on and on about the kids that will come to school sick because their parents have to work. I could have gone on and on about the fact that the pure act of supervision will be exhausting not to mention the educating and teaching that we are supposed to be doing. This is not the school experience that students are used to or that they should receive. Distance learning and procurement of good resources and training should be the focus at this time, under these conditions.
Teachers need real answers to real questions! Parents need to understand just how differently things will be if there is a return to school while there are still too many COVID19 cases and our numbers are trending in the wrong direction!