Like most teachers, I had been managing to keep a level head regardless of the immense pressure I am under in today’s classroom climate. Doing my best to provide quality virtual, hybrid instruction; remain positive and upbeat for my students; and having an overall optimistic demeanor in the face of a deadly pandemic.
So naturally, I enter the week ready to take on the world’s challenges and the challenges in my classroom. However, Monday had another story for me. The inevitable finally occurred, and a student fell ill during my first period ELA class. He was sweating profusely, gasping for air, and complaining of dizziness. From my desk, which is obviously more than 6 feet from the students, I could tell that something wasn't right. And then he says 4 words, that may not have prompted as much fear in 2019 as that did that day, “I don’t feel good.” My response? “Go to the nurse!”
Then what seemed like an isolated moment in time, became the longest period of anxiety I have ever felt in my 8 years of Education. Not long after sending the student to seek medical attention, an announcement is made “Teachers we will not be transitioning to the second block, please hold your students until notified by the administration.”
For the next four hours, myself and the 12 face-to-face students who were in look down with me, tried our best to not succumb to fear. When faced with a COVID scare in the classroom this is what I’ve learned:
Your Students Are Watching
As much as I wanted to panic, concerned for my own safety, I knew that my students were regulating their temper on how I kept cool. Although this pandemic has proven to be more of a reality for some than others; it is a collective experience that we all react to in our own ways. While some students were a nervous wreck, others weren’t phased. While some students were contemplating hard on every interaction they had with Student X, others were making light that they sat close to him on the bus. I knew that ultimately the mood of the environment was dependent on my reaction. So keep cool, stay informed, and provide students with an honest yet hopeful reaction to the circumstances.
You Will Face Uncertainty
Even though we would like to be kept fully updated as to the moment-by-moment plays in the incident of an outbreak, be prepared to not be informed. Likely, your administration is moving quickly to assess the situation and determine the best outcomes for individuals who may have been in contact with Student X, as well as the rest of the school population. For example, while we were on a 4-hour lockdown; there was not much information provided from the administration team. Instead, many teachers speculated the cause of the lockdown amongst themselves. Which may not necessarily ease your worries. Expect to have to wait it out to get a clear direction and a clear understanding of the situation.
You Can Take A Moment If You Need To
At the end of the day, students need teachers who are also healthy; mentally as well as physically. It's perfectly natural and perfectly okay to take a moment to catch your own breath, or even to say a prayer. I communicated with my students about my moment, and that if they were feeling a little antsy, that they should take a moment too. Additionally, when you are potentially exposed, there is no fault in taking the day to get tested. In fact, your administration should be doing all that they can to make sure that you, Student X, and any other students who were in your class are properly quarantined.
Ultimately, teachers, you are dealing with more than you have ever had to deal with before, and sometimes it can get pretty scary. We know that we can do all we can to enforce mask-wearing, proper sanitation, and social distancing practices. And yet, there will be a case where a student is feeling bad, but not “bad enough” to stay home. All we can do is be prepared, positive, and find a place of peace during a global pandemic.
For more information on classroom protocols during an outbreak or isolated incident, visit the following links: