I’m a Teacher. Here’s What I Expect a Pandemic-Era Classroom to Look Like.

Image via Shutterstock.

By Kim Mackey

June 4, 2020

With the coronavirus lingering, one NC teacher says students and parents will face a major challenge when schools reconvene in August.

Earlier this week I asked my eight-year-old son: “If you could choose between going to school in the building or at home on the computer, which would you prefer?”

Instead of answering he asked, “Will the virus be gone?” 

He wasn’t thinking about school without thinking about the virus.  Won’t that be the case for students as the state requires them to attend school in person when they return in August?

I told him the scientists are still working on it.

“Then I’d rather do school on the computer at home.” 

His answer surprised me since it was coming from the same kid who groaned in frustration when told to get to work, and while wrestling with the computer to complete it.  

Even as a veteran teacher I played dentist with my own child, pulling teeth to get him to complete his online lessons. I thought for sure my active son would jump at the opportunity to resume school in buildings as usual.

“Guinea pigs should be class pets, not classrooms.”

His response reminds us there will be no “school as usual” even if we’re back in buildings in August.  Whether attending in fact or in spirit, coronavirus will be a new student in each school.  Not as the kid who doesn’t cover coughs, but as the kid who distracts you from your work.

Instead of starting third grade learning how to take an extended-time standardized Beginning of Grade test, my son, his kindergarten sister and your child too will spend their first experiences back in buildings learning how to go to school during a pandemic.

There is no business as usual in a school trying to keep children from their social impulses and preserve social distancing.  

Effective classroom management requires only a few key rules and sticking to them.  Even the most well-behaved students can be overwhelmed in successfully following the many new rules necessary to protect their health and the health of their families and school staff.

We all learned to walk in quiet, straight lines through the school but now add 6 foot spacing.  

How do you use your “inside voice” while working on a group activity with classmates sitting away from you?  

Learning is a social activity.  Preventing violations of pandemic-era guidance will distract from learning, the rapport among students, and relationship with their teacher. 

Students learn more in a physical classroom than remotely on a computer.  We must also acknowledge that learning in a communal building during a pandemic will not result in the same quality of education that existed in classrooms before COVID-19. 

We don’t have to choose between public health and education – triage this year by starting with remote learning as we catch up with testing and tracing.

My daughter starts kindergarten in August.  The weaknesses of remote learning bother me less than having her first association with school formed under pandemic-era classroom restrictions.  

How do I convince her this isn’t normal when this will be her baseline for how school works?

As a mother and teacher, I want to resume in-person classes – when it is safe.  Knowledge is key in our classrooms and must be key to reopening schools.  Without widespread testing and tracing to reflect the location and concentration of a “novel” virus we’re still learning about, we don’t know what we don’t know.  

Guinea pigs should be class pets, not classrooms.

While teaching remotely, my students who are the Class of 2020 discuss future plans, including graduation.  Many express concerns in not wanting graduation ceremonies to contribute to the virus’ spread.  

Our leaders need to be as conscientious as our students when commencing a new school year.


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