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Uncharted Waters

Here we are, weathering the storm in uncharted waters on so many different levels. Social distancing, self-isolation, adapting to working from home and remote learning, just to name a few!

The weeks leading up to the school holidays, being based in Victoria, were very challenging for us all. Schools were being urged by our leader to remain open as this was the best option in this difficult situation and it was safe. I was still expected to maintain a normal program in my classroom yet listen to the social distancing measures implemented to keep everyone safe. Was there any thought given to the impracticality of such measures in a school? For me to implement social distancing, I would have half of my class outside!

As the seriousness of COVID 19 became apparent, the push to close schools became greater and the anxiety in my students became evident. They had seen the news, spoken to their parents and the usual playground chat. They were worried and as the week went on, I had parents asking me my thoughts on sending their kids to school. To be honest, I was scared myself yet had to remain professional and reassure them that they were the only ones who could make that decision. This was as my grade gradually became smaller by the day. As a teacher, I am used to having at least one student in my class who is sent to school with anything from a runny nose to those who vomited last night but came to spread the love the following day. There was no love felt from this COVID 19 virus, in fact, just fear and uncertainty as to who was unknowingly carrying the virus. A student, a colleague or a parent? No one knew and that was the scary part yet we were still being reassured schools would remain open.

It became very apparent that schools were to remain open to keep the economy going. Yes, schools were to remain open so that parents of those students who are referred to as ‘frontline workers’ could remain at work. As soon as schools closed, they would have to stop working and look after their children. I could see the concerns about grandparents having to look after their grandchildren so parents could keep working, yet the health implications and the spread of this virus through students to teachers and vice versa outweighed the economic benefits. Apparently as a teacher I was not a so called ‘frontline’ worker yet it was ok for me to teach students whose parents worked in healthcare roles and were also potentially being exposed to this virus and unknowingly, a carrier? This did not sit with me well at all. It was at that point that it dawned on me, I was now a glorified babysitter for our economy. Teachers are already seen as second rate in this country, but this was a slap in the face. I felt like a sacrificial lamb and completely undervalued and I wasn’t on my own. We were promised hand sanitizer, guaranteed there would be soap in student toilets at all times and that all measures would be put in place and we were to remain open. That was until someone finally saw the light!

Daniel Andrews went against the advice of our country’s leader and closed all government schools and commenced school holidays early. Victoria was in a fortunate position as students would have their term cut short by four days. This enabled schools to set up remote learning, again, uncharted waters for many schools. There was a lot of questions as to how we could implement this and how our students would still benefit from an engaging and meaningful education. Students were on holidays, teachers were not. We had a crash course in various programs that would enable us to meet as teams via video conferencing and plan together. I have learnt a lot and have been able to help my fellow colleagues adapt to this type of teaching.

Now this has been set up, we wait. We wait to see what will happen next term and what next term will look like. Will I be back in my classroom face to face teaching with my grade? Will I be teaching remotely from my classroom? Will I be teaching remotely from home? The other huge implication and reality of this, is that there will be some students that won’t be able to benefit from remote learning for so many reasons. I worry about those students where being at home in isolation is not safe or healthy. Sometimes, school is the safest place for students, where they feel valued, loved and supported. At the moment, as a teacher and a mum, that is my biggest concern, not necessarily ensuring my students learn their times tables!

I have always said it takes a village to raise a child. This is a time where parents will need to step up, be present and work with the schools and the various platforms of remote learning that schools will roll out. There will be glitches, there will be families that don’t have enough devices for their children and will need to adapt but I also know, as a passionate teacher, I will be doing whatever I can to support my students and families through this storm known as COVID 19.

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