Dear Parent/Guardian; As we are all too aware, lockdown is over but COVID-19 is not. Schools are now back in session (cue the sighs of many a weary parent around the globe!) however there are a few things that we as teachers would like you to know about schools during COVID.
As expected, pupils are not coming back to the same school set up as they were used to pre-lockdown. In addition to the constant obligatory hand washing and sanitising that is essential to keeping us all safe, there is a mountain of work going on behind the scenes at schools during COVID.
For every single aspect of the extremely varied school day, there is a much scrutinised risk assessment, which is constantly being updated and re-updated.
Simple tasks such as entering the classroom, picking up a pencil or even reading a book have had to be pulled apart, analysed for risks and rethought. This has impacted the entire school day for both pupils and teachers, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
Please remember: this can be unsettling and hard to adjust to, especially for those who struggled with the school day before COVID-19 struck. Now that pupils are physically back, we are still learning of risks that could not have been foreseen before the physical return and therefore need to continue to implement new strategies (e.g. masks in communal areas), in order to keep everyone as safe as possible.
In addition to the countless necessary changes to the school day, the absence of physical lessons has impacted both pupils and teachers in many ways. Despite the tireless efforts of teachers in preparing and delivering virtual lessons, it is inevitable that many pupils will not have reached the desired outcomes, which they may have had they been in the school building.
This is not a reflection of your best efforts to home school (because let’s face it, our jobs would be rendered mute if it were!); it is just the nature of the lockdown beast. Some pupils will have thrived at home, some will have not. Some pupils will have been supported well in their learning and others – through no fault of their parents – will have not.
Every single student has different needs and experience different challenges. It is our jobs as teachers to now ‘catch up’. We must assess each individual student and ensure we are getting it right for them, so that they can continue their educational journey in the most effective way possible.
This will take time.
Please do not groan about your child not being challenged enough at this point in the session – in addition to the academic element of school life, both pupils and teachers are learning to adjust to the new rules and regulations, as well as readjusting to life in the classroom.
Early morning commutes and school bells take time to get used to after a prolonged period at home, so our main focus as teachers is to support the smoothest transition back to the classroom as possible – which may mean holding back on challenging your child to their fullest potential until such times as they are readjusted and comfortable.
Many aspects of the curriculum are currently unable to be taught in the traditional way in schools during COVID. Subject specialist teachers such as music, technical, science (and more!) are limited in what they can deliver to pupils at this point. As a result, teachers are working around the clock to be innovative and flexible yet still entertaining, challenging and supportive to your child in their learning.
Moreover, teachers are striving to implement new safety procedures in a very different environment. Classrooms are constantly being rearranged and teachers must persistently remind pupils about social distancing. Lessons are being fine-tuned and restructured in the hope that learning can remain effective and nurturing, in an evermore clinical and distant environment.
In addition to the (already overwhelming!) workload, teachers are being bombarded with new protocols, paperwork and more emails than the inbox can handle. Hand sanitiser is the new star of the show, hand washing is on constant repeat and classroom cleaning is fast becoming the new regime. At this point in the coronavirus pandemic, the primary focus is health and safety-and this is a steep learning curve for everyone involved.
We’ve all seen the humorous lockdown memes and jokes:
‘Can I get my own child transferred to another class?!‘
‘Oh yes, the kids are in the garden because we’re having a fire drill…‘
But despite the giggles about teacher’s deserving to be paid millions for their patience, many teachers still feel that the profession is misunderstood and underappreciated. As time has ticked on and everyone has grown tired of the lockdown arrangements, the focus seems to have shifted from, ‘teachers are heroes!‘ to ‘when can we get our kids back to school and out from under our feet?!‘.
Like many others, teachers were keen for a return to normality. However we did not want this to be simply because parents needed to return to work, or because they required a break from their children. Safety is key; and despite our love of and dedication to our vocation, teachers are not keen on becoming the guinea pigs of the nation.
With a return to the physical learning environment comes a high level of risk with regards to virus exposure. Schools can be a gathering of literally hundreds of people and many teachers and other school staff are asking the valid questions of, ‘Why are concerts and sporting event crowds banned but schools are in full session?’and ‘Why are local lockdowns occurring and gatherings in households limited, yet large scale school attendance is not?’
We understand that these are unprecedented times, and nobody recognises the value of education more… yet there are a few areas which seem hazy, and almost unbalanced, in their allowances.
This point is more of a reassurance than a statement; teachers will only ask of you what is absolutely necessary. Before emails or letters or phone calls home, there are multiple conversations in-house to ensure that whatever we are asking you for is necessary. Even simple things like asking you to supply indoor shoes or altered school uniform requirements are well thought out requests, made for the well being and safety of your child and each child in our care.
We do not take the label of ‘in loco parentis’ lightly. When your child is in our care we do our utmost to look after their best interests and safety, as we would with our own children. Our duty is to work with you to support your child in the best way possible, we do not underestimate how busy you are or how important your job is either, so if we must interrupt you to ask for something, please know it is only because it is absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, the post lockdown period may require us to ask for your support a little more than average.
When it comes toyour child’s education, no-one (except you!) cares more about them having a positive outcome and experience than we do as teachers. For each and every pupil in our care, we try our utmost to support, nurture and challenge them. We are all too aware, every single day, of our role in sculpting them into upstanding citizens and valued contributors to our society. But most of all, we consistently strive to ensure that each and every pupil is kept safe and supported, enjoys their learning experience and is catered for individually.
So the next time you roll your eyes at another email or request, or you aren’t happy at how much (or little!) homework you child has, please remember: we are trying our best.And as we all push through these unprecedented, and quite unpredictable times, rest assured that we are all in this together and we have one common goal: working together to do our best for your child in schools during COVID.