03 Jul I’m a teacher… and my school is in COVID lockdown
“I’m angry and I can’t stop coughing. I’m angry because my students will suffer. I’m angry and I want to know who I was working with who thought that their selfish needs trumped everyone else’s right to safety and health.”
What happens when a school, or other workplace goes into COVID lockdown? How does it impact staff, students and the school’s reputation? We got an insider’s view from Mr S, a teacher at a school currently in the middle of a Coronavirus crisis.
The Alarming View from Inside a Coronavirus Crisis Hotspot
There was a point when we all thought this had come to an end.
We had close to a term’s worth of online learning and we gradually drifted back to the classrooms. The kids were different. They appreciated the face-to-face teaching more and reflected on the fact that, quite possibly, they hadn’t paid enough attention during online learning. They’d logged onto lessons, put themselves on mute and drifted off. They’d delayed handing in work (or hadn’t handed it in at all). They’d missed their friends. They’d even missed (gasp) their teachers. They were happy to be back and happy to be learning again.
We were happy to be back, too. Online learning and working from home certainly had had its benefits (tracksuit pants, anyone?) but being back with our colleagues and our kids was where we were supposed to be and it felt right.
So we relaxed. We thought it was over. We had strict protocols in place for safety and cleanliness around the school. We got our temperatures checked daily. There was hand sanitiser in every classroom, children practised (for the most part) social distancing in the playground, we had COVID safe meetings of only a handful of people spread across a large space. It was quickly becoming our new normal and we embraced it.
But then? Oh, but then…
The Terrifying Call
As school was closing for the term, we received notification that an undisclosed number of staff members (and possibly students, details were murky) had tested positive for the virus. Panic stations! All staff were alerted as quickly as possible and now we’re facing a MASSIVE period of uncertainty.
The decision has been made to return to online learning for next term. That’s fine, we’re prepared and we’ve done it before, right? Sure, it wasn’t as successful as it could have potentially been but there’s always room for improvement. School has been firmly SHUT which means that if you didn’t take your resources home you were going to have to make do in terms of your holiday preparation for term three.
The biggest concern right now, though, is our health and the health of our loved ones.
Here’s what that looks like from my perspective.
The first port of call was to ensure that all staff were tested for COVID-19, on the day that we were notified. The school has been a little sketchy on the details as to how many people have been infected so we made the best of the information we had at hand and everyone trekked off to get tested. That meant HOURS waiting in cars across Melbourne and the handing over of the details of the school. Our tests were stamped in red as related to outbreaks and we were informed of the procedure from there.
That meant that all that came next was a whole lot of waiting. Not only for the results from the tests (anywhere form 24 hours to 3 days to wait) but until we had clearance from the Department of Health. That will take place some days after we are cleared of the test because they have to factor in contact tracing. That means total quarantine (a nightmare if you’ve got small kids like I do) and acting as if we had the virus in terms of how we react and interact with other people. Social distancing once again!
To further complicate matters, I have a tendency to get bronchitis, particularly in the cooler months. I think I’ve got it right now, in fact. But I can’t get in to see a doctor because the symptoms align too closely with COVID. Add to that, my doctor discourages visits from people who are waiting to hear back on their results. Just great, huh?
Every Breath You Take
So the wait continues. I’m waiting for the results of my COVID test. I’m waiting for my clearance from the Department of Health that says whether I can go outside or not. I’m waiting to see if this really is bronchitis or something more serious and potentially deadly. I’m waiting for more notice from the school about what their next steps will be.
And I’m angry, you know?
I’m angry that we had members of our school community (and their extended network) who flouted social distancing rules and decided that they were above safety measures. Like they didn’t have to follow the same rules everyone else did. Like they could have parties and large family gatherings with no consideration to how insidious this lurgy actually is and how quickly it can move.
I’m angry that the school hasn’t been more supportive and given more guidance beyond the bare minimum. I’m angry that I’m having to rework my lesson plans because of someone else’s selfishness and stupidity. I’m angry that I can’t go and see my friends and family because someone else chose to believe they were above everyone else.
I’m angry and I can’t stop coughing. I’m angry and my workplace is infected and getting a deep clean. I’m angry because my students will suffer. I’m angry and I want to know who I was working with who thought that their selfish needs trumped everyone else’s right to safety and health.
2020 has been one terrible ride and we’re kidding ourselves if we think it’s over yet. As I write this, Melbourne is moving into postcode related lockdown. My suburb’s not impacted yet but I’m surrounded on all sides by ones that are. The teachers from my school, we don’t live in the postcodes that are locked down.
When the school bells ring at the start of next term we won’t be there. But the virus will still be around us out here. And I’m angry that this is continuing because people are too selfish and stupid to see the bigger picture.
This virus doesn’t muck around, and neither should we. And you can bet your chalk that the teachers of the other schools who are in shutdown mode as well feel the same way that I do.
Mr S, A Typical Teacher at a Typical School in a not-so-typical time.
Are your bosses protecting your workplace with professional commercial cleaning and sanitisation?
Mr S is anxiously waiting at home. The parents of all his students are anxiously waiting at home. The school’s short lapses in vigilance triggered an outbreak that will cost its families dearly – in terms of lost study time, or worse. The school will suffer too. Its reputation is on the line. Teachers worry that the community backlash will mean coming out of Coronavirus Lockdown, into joblessness.
When staff do return to work, will the workplace culture suffer from this anger? Will it turn to absenteeism or even legal action? So much is at risk when you don’t model flawless outbreak management behaviours in the workplace.
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