The Corona Classroom…
As a teacher I will be so happy when words like social distancing, learning pods, face masks and, fever watching are no longer a part of my everyday worry. I am a First Grade teacher. I teach in a small private school. We are one of very few that went full time in person this fall. So far we have held fast to the guidelines put out by our state. We have met or exceeded these expectations to keep our students safe. Meeting these expectations have come at a cost.
My prep periods are spent cleaning. My lesson plans have changed. My students are set in neat little rows. Loneliness from not being able to interact with other teachers.
This teacher is TIRED!
So much has changed. My lesson plans can no longer include small groups or field trips. Groups of children that are close together. No more small group games, no more small group activities. No more…for now. Games and activities that enhance what is being taught. For children who long for movement and activity, this is hard not to use. In its place, I have introduced movement activities but they do not have an academic connection. It is just to move. Field trips are out. We need to keep the children at school and safe. No apple picking. No going to a play. No outside extras that enhance the academic process.
Cleaning. My hands are raw from cleaning. Due to COVID restrictions, we are now being asked to eat in our classrooms. That means cleaning after morning snack, lunch, and afternoon snack and the end of the day. Then there is sanitizing twice a day. This is a spray we need to put on every surface and let it sit. That means hitting every light switch, faucet, desk, chair, and any other high traffic surface. Twice a day! If a bucket of toys is used, that bucket needs to be cleaned. Think of the number of items your child may touch during the day and multiply that by 16. Think about snacks and lunches. I can’t tell you how many juice pouches I open during the day or yogurt sleeves. Between each item, I need to wash my hands to prevent cross-contamination should this invisible virus make its way into my classroom. And trust me when I say that the sanitization process is not limited to spraying on surfaces. Some of my fellow colleagues told me that the school authorities might be planning to decontaminate the entire building regularly with the aid of commercial disinfecting services provided by firms like LHI Services. I can just hope now that these preventive measures help reduce the transmission of this virus.
To be honest, I have never been one of those quiet teachers. Rarely can you hear a pin drop in my classroom. Learning can not be done in silence. Children are learning to read. Part of that practice is sounding out letters. I have earphones to help keep the noise down but there will be noise. Children are counting fingers. Children are laughing. Children are being children. I used to have my desks in groups. Cooperative learning. Children can and will learn from each other. That is until now. Due to COVID, my desks are now in neat little rows. All facing forward. All distanced. I spend most of my day feeling like Atilla the Hun telling children to “turn around and face forward.’ “Stay in your own space.” “No, you can not share markers! ” It almost seems cruel to treat them like little soldiers instead of children.
I am lonely! Part of being a teacher is mixing it up with other teachers during prep periods, out at recess, in the lunchroom. Being able to bounce an idea off of another teacher is so valuable. Having another adult to talk to throughout the day is refreshing. That is gone. My classroom is its own little cluster. The only times we are outside of these 4 walls are for PE and for outside recess. I have made my classroom a bright happy space. I have large floor to ceiling windows. I made my theme for the year “science” to take away from the fear of Corona. I decided to embrace it and make it part of our daily routine. They have little lab coats for messy projects. We talk about science daily. Part of that narrative is the COVID situation. I have given the children the power to talk about it. With that said the same 4 walls day in and day out can be claustrophobic. I miss connecting with other adults. Don’t get me wrong…I LOVE MY JOB and I LOVE MY KIDS! It would just be nice to be able to have company as I open juice pouches and yogurt sleeves (cleaning my hands between each one). I miss the people I work with.
I have heard the term “it’s only for a season” said over and over again. I am not so sure about this. I think this pandemic has opened up pandora’s box. I am not sure we can ever go back to the way it was. I hope it does. I pray it does. For now, I feel like it is holding children hostage. Holding them from receiving a solid education. Holding them from being able to have a normal childhood.
As I look around my classroom I will do what needs to be done. I will clean. I will be creative in other ways. I will push myself past exhaustion to try and somehow give my students some sort of normalcy. Why? I am a teacher and this is what I was created to do.