Back to school

Just before lockdown, a student in one of my classes sneezed whilst talking to me in the office. Another member of staff shouted at them, saying they shouldn’t be in school, it was dangerous, didn’t she know about coronavirus, she shouldn’t be so selfish etc. The student cried, we had to call in support, the student was checked out at medical, all was fine so she came back to class, but the lesson had been derailed for her in her upset about the incident.

But it did make me realise that whatever we are thinking and feeling, whatever anxieties we have, we must make sure that we don’t project them onto the students. I’m reading so many tweets at the moment where teachers are angry. Much of it seems based around anxiety around going back to school, which is understandable, much as it is understandable that students might be feeling the same. But it is happening and we are returning.

Some students will come back and, for whatever reason, not have been following the social distancing and hygiene rules that we will expect them to follow at school. We know that restrictions weren’t always followed by some in lockdown. We have to be careful not to be frustrated with them for making mistakes in the first few days; instead we should explain the reasons why we expect them to follow the protocols. Students do tend to understand the ‘whys’ if explained to them calmly and rationally. What they don’t like, and I don’t think any of us do, is for people to treat them like they are stupid, or get angry with them for not knowing.

I’m not personally anxious at all about going back to work, I miss the human interaction it brings. I’ve seen what my school has planned, communication has been brilliant and I know the school has done everything they can to keep everybody as safe as possible. Things will be strange, we will have to work in a different way, there might be quick changes and we’ll need to pull together, and that’s ok. But I do know that others might be anxious or worried, and that’s ok too. Hopefully that will change as people get into a routine. We have to be honest that this is going to last for a long time, for months, possibly years and life might never be the same way again. I’d like to be able to live as much of a life as possible and I do want our young people to come out of all this as mentally unscathed as we can help them to be. That bothers me more for the long term, if I’m honest.

If a student chooses not to wear a mask in an area of the school where it is optional, then that doesn’t make them a bad person. If a student doesn’t follow social distancing rules, a calm conversation explaining the reasons for doing it might mean they think next time. We have to make a decision about what is actually wilful, what is forgetting and what is not understanding.

So whatever our opinions, we need to be careful they are not projected onto the students we teach. We will probably all make mistakes, we are human after all, but this crazy world isn’t the students’ fault. They are living through it as much as we are, and in some ways we, as adults, are perhaps in a better position to understand and deal with it all.

I hope everyone has a good start to the year and we can all get through this, one step at a time, even if it is one step forward and two steps back for a while. Keep breathing and keep smiling and enjoy the fact that we get to see some of our young people again, because they are generally the most brilliant people to spend our days with.

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