As we return to the classroom, keep in mind that teachers have a higher rate of COVID than most of the population. One reason we don’t know more is that not enough data has been taken. Most states and the federal government have turned their backs on teachers.
How safe is it to open schools? That depends on how fast the cases in the area are rising. K-12 schools do not spread the virus more than any other place in the community, but they are not safe once the virus has gotten a foothold.“Once you get to a certain point of community infection rates, it does look like being in-person … is associated with COVID spread in the community,” said Katharine Strunk, an author of the study and professor at Michigan State University
It goes without saying that teachers are frightened. They will stand in line overnight if they have to to get the vaccine. Additionally, teacher morale has declined.
It also is important to note the importance of having a teacher who is dedicated to learning and knowledge, is kind and sensitive to different learning styles, and who understands the learning environment of the students. Interestingly enough, it is the teacher, and not the classroom, that helps students learn. Being morally fair and respectful is important in helping students learn. Teachers need to feel as if they want to be in the classroom. Teacher engagement and autonomy is at the core of an effective classroom. Keeping teachers safe should be of utmost importance and can be a learning experience in itself. If we want students to value other people and to care about society, we must keep teachers safe.
What are ways to keep teachers and schools safe?
According to the Mayo clinic, things such as outdoor classrooms, sanitizing, wearing masks, one way patterns in classrooms and halls, providing plexiglass barriers, and allowing for flexibility (some classes held remotely if needed), and keeping class sizes small are all ways to cut down on covid spread in classrooms and schools.
One wrinkle to this picture comes from colleges and universities. Colleges and universities HAVE been associated with increased cases locally. Those which isolated students when they returned to campus, tested them upon return and frequently after, and held on-line classes for the first two weeks of return to campus, were less likely to be spreaders than those that took a less stringent approach. Another thing successful colleges did was to switch everyone to on-line instruction when cases rose over 10%. College sports, especially with fans in the stands, are another vector associated with community spread. If sports themselves contribute to spread is not clear, but not all sports are equal. It comes as no surprise that football, wrestling, lacrosse, cheer, and dance are among the riskiest sports.
Many students do as well or better when college courses are on-line, but not all feel this way. However, switching to remote learning when cases rise and keeping students on-campus is safest for the community.
Teachers feel thrown to the wolves, in the lion’s den, and at the mercy of decisions made by those who are not and never have been teachers. They are tired of being “the giving tree.” On a personal level, I’ve had a hard time sleeping, which can manifest into a hard time thinking. I even did a little sleepwalking during which I changed a lightbulb. Hopefully, a vaccine will make this a thing of the past, but schools need to be better prepared for the next time.