Schools & COVID Protocols

I am an American; I’m an American whose initial teacher training was influenced and molded by a sense of urgency–we only have so much time; our kids are behind; there is so much to do and so little time to do it all.

Maximize. Every. Minute.

I was the teacher that brought flashcards during bathroom breaks to make sure waiting in line wasn’t a waste of time. My kids–stereotyped as well as statistically known to be behind their affluent peers–needed these extra minutes of practice.

I was the teacher that didn’t allow for downtime–you could relax with a book, you could go to the extra practice bucket and find something to review. There’s always something to do. My big line was: be productive. We don’t have time to waste here.

And granted, all of this helped offset boredom, which prevented behavioral issues too; it was strategic beyond learning. And granted, I was working in the state and district with one of the shortest instructional days–Nevada, Clark County School District.

So, while it was at times draining, I have no regrets for instilling or creating an environment that stipulated every moment could be utilized; we had breaks but that was for later. And again, I taught mainly in strategically marginalized and under-resourced communities–many of my students were behind academically and socially thanks to the discriminatory and biased policies that exist in order to foment such disparities. In a way, I was purposely subverting the inequitable systems at-hand and I am proud of that.

Despite all of this, I do understand the importance of slowing down. I do–at times–wish I had had less.

But that was before COVID.

In my original job, this year, we had COVID protocols to ensure safety.

Now, I am pro-safety, but it was maddening, and frustrating, and draining, to do all the things required. Even in a school that was incredibly privileged and could afford the added wasted time–arguably afford it at least–I found myself just despondent over the amount of downtime, truly idle time.

Taking a class to wash their hands *10 times* a day. Switching masks at least once as a class. Cleaning tables–over and over and over again. Staying distant. Reminding everyone to stay distant. Isolating materials for individual use only. Reminding myself and my students to put their mask back, or move it up, or change their mask . . . it was a lot. A lot of effort that simultaneously led to an inordinate amount of idle, lost, instructional time.

I haven’t been in a classroom, teaching, in-person, for about 5 years. Coming back was rough. I do believe in COVID protocols and safety. I can also separate those emotions and beliefs from the real-life facts that COVID protocols, schools, and kids are just not working well. I can say these two things exist: I want safety, I also want more time for actual learning.

Perhaps we all need more time, all routines and changes take time. Perhaps it will go away, eventually, and we can manage our time differently, better. Perhaps in the long-run it’s not something to stress over. Regardless, I must say that while I wanted more downtime, while I wanted to be able to step away from my hyper-focus on maximizing every minute, this is not what I meant . . .

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