The district where I work had students in the grades I teach start back to school this week on Monday. It’s been … interesting. I can’t speak to whether this can be generalized to anyone else’s experience—this write up is just what my week has been like.
First, like many other things the last six months, it’s weird. Some parts are better than online teaching was; some parts are worse.
My district, like many others, has much more emphasis on sanitizing surfaces and students not sharing materials and less emphasis on aerosols. In their homerooms, students can have a pencil box or something with all of their tools in it—pencils, pens, markers, crayons, etc. I don’t want to acquire or store pencil boxes for all of my students but I have had to rethink how I do some things so they don’t need pencils yet.
We are all (or mostly all) wearing masks. I have encountered a handful of employees not wearing them or not wearing them much; it’s frustrating.
It’s hard to stay hydrated when wearing a mask all day. I’m frequently thirsty.
“Pull your mask up over your nose” or some variation of that is the current winner for statement most often used. Most of the students don’t pull them down—the masks just don’t fit well and fall down.
One student yesterday had a mask with tight elastic; it was hurting his ears and pulling them forward. I was able to rig up a strap across the back of his head using two paperclips and a rubber band. It looked a little silly, but he felt much better and wore it happily.
I’m a traveling teacher, and in the car between schools, I take off my mask, drink a lot of water, and sing all the way school to school. I don’t know if it’s the different breathing that singing requires or what, but it feels really good to put on some tunes and sing along for my car trip.
Some students are happy to be back. Others have said they’d rather do school online than school with a mask on and distanced from their friends.
Actually keeping kids six feet apart is an exercise in futility.
When I have enough space, I can seat them that way. Only a few have refused to leave their chair where I put it.
Getting them to and from my room is another matter. At six feet apart, a class could stretch out 30 or 40 yards. (My biggest class has 22 students.)
With students seated spaced apart and masked, the talkers just talk louder. It’s more difficult to know who’s talking. I’m mostly deaf in my right ear and rely heavily on visual cues. Some are still present—kids still look at each other when they’re talking to each other—and many are absent. It’s challenging.
I’ve seen each student three or four times, depending on which small group they’re in and whether they’ve been present in school. I don’t know most names yet. Both of my schools are uniform schools (students wear khaki pants or shorts and specific-colored polo shirts) which makes learning students’ names more challenging. Add masks, and it’s been a struggle. I’ll get there, but it’s going to take a little longer than usual, I think.
All that said, it wasn’t a bad week at all. Just challenging and tiring and different.
And long. I’m grateful to have the weekend to regroup.