It’s the end of August, the summer holidays are over, and the new school year is about to begin. Teachers are required to be back at school one week before the school year starts officially. The inset week consists mainly of many pointless meetings without an outcome. It’s just a ton of information that sounds important but will have been forgotten by the time Students come into school. Frequent reminders will follow.
This year is a lot different. It’s post-lockdown. Schools are reopening to the students under strict conditions, social distancing, and the aim “to keep everyone safe“.
The day starts with a “staggered entrance”, which means all mask-wearing teachers walking one by one through the school gate that is only open wide enough for one human to walk through at a time. The rest of us are waiting in a socially distanced line enforced by markings on the floor and supervised by two gummy bears, aka security officers. While entering, we are informed that the local police will oversee the socially distant new school year next week.
Am I supposed to feel safe or threatened? If I pose such a threat to everyone, why am I required to come into school? Wouldn’t it be more comfortable and “safer” for everyone to continue online education?
While these thoughts pass through my head, I walk straight into a crime scene. At least this is what it looks like to me. A few meters away from the entrance, I walk into an area marked by what looks like police tape. A form of barrier tape organized into airport lines warns me that emergency services are investigating, thus prohibiting entry. Supervised by members of the school’s administration, I make my way to the queue. Markings on the floor force me to keep the required distance to the colleague in front of me. Conversations are not possible. Firstly, because of the distance, I have to keep and secondly because I’m wearing a muzzle which inhibits proper communication. Reaching the front of the queue, I meet the school nurse who instructs me to frequently sanitize my hands, wear my mask, and observe social distancing at all times. Then she asks me to stand on the markings in front of the screen so A.I. can read my temperature and facial features. Luckily, A.I. informs me that my temperature is “normal”, and I’m allowed to enter the School.
I’m tempted to go up to my classroom on the second floor and meet the rest of my team. Instead, I take a quick look around the school grounds. And here is what I see: more barrier tape. Everywhere. Benches are blocked off; the primary playground is blocked off, staircases have been turned into one-way-streets. The cafeteria, pool area with the new sun cover, football field, and gym are forbidden grounds. Drinking fountains are only to be used to fill your water bottle. You can still order crappy school food from the cafeteria in advance and “pick it up as fast as you can.” Administrator’s offices have been moved a little further away from the entrance, walls have been taken out to make rooms bigger and ensure everyone is far away from each other. The library is closed, but you may still request books online. Nowhere is a place to sit down, eat lunch, and have a chat with a colleague. Later that day, I find out that the staffroom had some sofas removed and seats blocked off. Large banners in all school areas send frequent reminders about the importance of socially distancing yourself from the rest of the world to “keep everyone safe. “
When I reach the second floor, it doesn’t get better. My team of 10 teachers is happy to see each other in person again after five and a half months. The classrooms, however, look different. Two smaller rooms have been joined into one bigger classroom. Our nicely arranged work stations and group tables have been turned into an exam-style arrangement of single desks in socially distant rows facing the room’s front. The Teacher’s desk at a “safe distance” at the other end of the room. This layout doesn’t allow for project-based learning, lively discussion circles, or group work in general. The energy of the room has changed! In a meeting, we will be informed that none of us will actually be teaching in our classrooms but will move across the school to meet our classes in their “learning base”, which students cannot leave during the day.
Here is a list of other surprises throughout the day: Students are not allowed to touch the same materials. It includes everything from books to stationery to learning materials we spent hours to create. Students are expected to sit in their seats from 8 am – 3.30 pm. Toilet breaks are allowed “if there is space” in the toilet (no queuing) and recorded by the teacher on the form provided. For what? Later, the school displays a “toilet pass” – one per class of 20 – the student has to carry when leaving the classroom. One per class, not one for girls, one for boys. One per class. And this is considered hygienic??? Or rather an excuse to demand the use of more chemicals?
But the changes don’t stop here — no swimming or P.E. classes or after school sports activities are permitted. No sharing of food is allowed. Recess and lunchtimes are spent inside. Teachers are required to come up with entertainment, aka “fun games “(what?!?) while supervising aka policing the students during lunch and recess. My teacher workday has been extended to 5 pm! Because “we need to catch up the time missed”. I haven’t missed any time; I was working my butt off during the lockdown! My teacher workday starts at 7.30 am in school. Meetings will take place after school or during lunchtime, which means there will be no lunch break for me on this day. The same applies to days when I’m on lunch duty! Simultaneously,Teachers teachers are told to “keep an eye out” for students whose mental health seems to be compromised. The majority??? And then what?!?
Below is an excerpt of an email that went out to Teachers:
“I thought I would give you some reminders of best practice as we head into this new state of operation at our school.”
Physical distancing is critical at all times!
Teachers should ALWAYS be at least 1m away from each other and students to avoid any potential transmission of droplets. I understand that this will require a change in our teaching practice and will be more stand and deliver than we have experienced previously, but this is what is required at this time.
I’m suddenly turned into the most significant danger for kids to be around?! I HAVE to be in school, I don’t even get the option to stay at home and teach, even though we’re mainly online anyway. On top of it, my regular working hours have been extended to “catch up on the time missed.” I haven’t missed anything! I was working my ass off during MCO. The leadership team seems to have some catching up to do, but of course, they’re not teaching and need to prove they’re worth the money. And it’s much easier to prove if employees are seen around school.
Provide Natural Airflow where possible
Open windows and doors of classrooms to provide a natural flow of air within the classroom. We want to try and avoid an over-reliance on air conditioning in enclosed spaces so try and keep these open as much as possible.
What a joke! The school building doesn’t have ANY natural airflow anywhere, even if all doors were standing open. They can’t because most have mechanics attached to keep them closed to run A.C. on all day! If you switch the A.C. off, the room turns into a sauna in no time. No one is allowed to be outside. There is no natural airflow possible!!!
Wearing a mask within the school is not mandatory at all times, although it is mandatory for teachers and students when entering the School, leaving the school, when going to the toilet and when moving around the School. We have to model this practice for our students and the community. Mask wearing has proven to reduce the spread of Covid. It is a personal choice if Students and Teachers wish to wear a mask in classes. Please be aware of this and remind them of their opportunity to wear a mask.
I would expect this to be an area of focus for the MOE in the coming weeks and potentially could lead to mandatory use of facemasks or protective face shields.
Interesting. So everyone is most afraid of not passing an inspection while performing this circus?! Mask wearing has NOT proven to be an effective way to reduce the spread of COVID. At least as far as my own research goes. And now they project the use of protective face shields?! It’s getting more ridiculous by the minute. Let’s stop here. You have made it nearly impossible for me to do my job, not considering the results you expect my students to achieve. Now it seems you want to make extra sure that I do not pull out another trick to help my students learn. This seems to be the number one priority now.
Rigorous hand washing and drying must be adhered to, and hand sanitizer available at the entrance to classrooms must be used by Students and Teachers alike.
A great excuse to spray chemicals on kids and teachers as often as possible. What’s the reason?
Coughing and sneezing must be into the elbow
No one is coughing or sneezing! You will be accused of COVID even before the sneeze is finished!
Students and teachers must stay home or be asked to go home if they are unwell or have a temperature over 37.5 C
A new device has been installed at the entrance, guarded by the school leaders, the nurse AND security guards to make sure everyone stands in front of it to have their temperature taken and is approved for entrance. The temperature reading is NOT really working but what it does very quickly and successfully is reading your facial features and biometrics! This is of course not communicated. It would be best if you continued to believe that this device is only reading your temperature at 1m distance.
Active Supervision of students is critical at all times
We must be very diligent at all times ensuring we actively supervise students in the class, but more importantly out of the classroom whilst they come into school and leave school, as well as at break times and lunchtimes. Please make it explicit what is expected of them at these times and how they can manage themselves effectively whilst maintaining physical distancing protocols. During these times secondary students can be on devices and you can also discuss potential opportunities to keep them entertained despite being physically distanced during tutor time.
Interesting. After being told for years to come up with rules/activities/ways of teaching to get students OFF their devices and actually connect with you and each other, they’re now told they can be on devices because everything else is forbidden! What a joke!
The above reminders are aimed at helping us to continually refresh our minds as to the importance of the SOPs and the positive impact that these can have on keeping our students and staff safe during this time. As we know, we will be under increased scrutiny from all stakeholders as we return to school, including the MOE, Police, parents etc. but we do not have anything to fear if we simply stick to these guidelines.
Sounds like the number one goal is to keep everyone in fear. If everyone is so scared, why do we HAVE TO be there? What else is possible?