The world is a scary place right now. It is not my intention to start off this article with those words but I like to be truthful, factual and straight to the point. And even though we are all craving some sense of normalcy in the world around us, the reality is that we are going to have to come to terms with what is considered the “New Normal” of teaching safely.
Those things that dictated how we behaved and interacted with other people are no longer acceptable in today’s new world. I understand that as a teacher, you love your job and you want to be able to connect with your students.
But at the same time, you are concerned about your safety, the safety of your students, the safety of your family that you will eventually go back home to as well as the safety of the family that your students will eventually go back home to.
These are a lot of factors to consider and it can cause stress for a job that is already stressful.
However, we are not going to focus on the problems alone. In this article, I will be sharing my ideas on how you can still carry out your job as a teacher effectively without compromising your health or that of your students’.
It may seem far-fetched and perhaps carry an undertone of gloom because you will slowly come to the realization that things are no longer going to be the same. That said, the first step to this journey is to accept this new reality. It is sad that you can no longer hug your student like you would love to or give them a pat on their back to encourage them but there are numerous ways you can achieve that same level of connection that does not require you to actually have physical contact with them.
So, before we get into the steps, pause, take a deep breath, release the anxiety and tension from your shoulders and then, tell yourself that: You are capable. You are innovative. You are creative and most importantly, you can do this. Follow the guides and stay safe in the classroom the best you can.
Stick with the Facts and Stay Updated to keep you and your students safe
There are a lot of conspiracy theories that are going on about the covid-19 pandemic. While some people do not believe that this is real, there are those who believe that it is not as serious as it is being portrayed in the media.
Do not make an attempt to formulate your own personal opinions based on these different perspectives. Instead, focus on authoritative information being distributed on platforms like the CDC, the United Nations as well as UNICEF. These organizations are backed by scientists and leaders who have the ears of some of the most informed people on the subject.
They will give you proper information on the progress that is being made as well as the things you can actually do as a teacher to ensure your safety and that of your student. Anything else is only going to increase your anxiety levels and possibly compromise your safety.
Maintain a Strict Hygiene Practice
After staying informed, the next line of defence when it comes to the coronavirus is hygiene. You have to practice the highest standard of hygiene whether you are at home or at school.
Here are a few reminders you can set for you and your student, staff and everyone else.
- Have a small bottle of hand sanitizer with you
- Have tissues avaible to grab door knobs and other frequently touched areas
- Keep your mask on when others are talking and only expose the mouth when you are talking
- Immediately remove clothing after getting home and wash hands
- Use hand sanitizer as soon as you enter your car
- Do not touch your face or wash your hands first before doing so
- Keep a safe distance from others
You have to understand that between the school and your home, there are a lot of places where you could contract this disease from if you let down your guard. So, by making good hygiene a habit, even when you find yourself in familiar situations like a grocery store or having lunch with friends, you are still able to do things that keep you safe like wearing your masks, washing your hands frequently and having a hand sanitizer with you always.
These are little things but they go a long way to keep you protected. In a school environment, you cannot rely on children to responsibly keep up with this practice if you yourself are unable to do it.
You will have to be a leader and a role model, so ensure that you have made this a habit. If you find yourself being constantly distracted, have a reminder on your phone to alert you every hour or so to either wipe your hands with sanitizers or wash it. This may seem excessive but it is better to be safe than sorry.
Follow the School Safety Procedures
Schools are given directives by the government and the CDC on how to manage the learning environment during this period. Whether it is going to be a virtual learning experience or children are actually returning to the classrooms, there are protocols to ensure that both the staff and the students are safe while at the same time ensuring that there is continuity in learning.
The education of children is important but if their health is compromised, education becomes secondary. So talk with your colleagues and the school’s administration if you are concerned about safety protocols in the school. Also, endeavor to be a voice for your students in situations where you feel that their health is not being made a priority.
Continue to share relevant information with your peers on the subject so that everyone is on the same page when it comes to these safety procedures. I cannot emphasize the importance of this enough because if you and your colleagues fail to collaborate on what is deemed right for both the students and the teachers, your safety protocol might collapse even before you get the chance to implement it.
Above all, while this is a scary time for everyone, you have to ensure that your actions and decisions are not based entirely on fear because this might yield the opposite result when it comes to your safety. Instead stay informed. However, do not overwhelm yourself with negative information that could cause more stress, focus on the facts of the matter and what role you can play in everyone’s safety.