Welcome to the 49th Teachers COVID–19 Teacher Diary, a blog series that takes a look at how teachers are coping with the pandemic. What will classrooms look like this fall? How are teachers feeling about all the changes? How can educators, parents, and students all cope with overwhelm, communicate more effectively, and support one another?
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Written by Peel District School Board Teacher Librarian Allison Hall
This summer has not been as per usual: a time to rest, reflect, and plan for the upcoming school year. As an avid reader of historical plague novels, it all seemed so interesting, until it was actually happening to me. When you mix a penchant for information with a tendency for anxiousness, the results are not ideal. My usual inner, calming myself down dialogue is no longer relevant:
World: Presents a perceived anxiety inducing situation.
Me: Stay calm. Be rational about this. Think about the facts.
World: There’s a pandemic racing across the globe.
It’s been a summer of waiting. Waiting to hear plans about how schools will reopen in the fall. Waiting to hear if my teacher librarian role will still exist this year. Waiting to see if schools will reopen at all. I have so many questions: With a student population of 1,100, how long will it take to get students inside the school in the morning while maintaining social distancing? How will students eat lunch if they are closer than two metres apart with their masks off? How will the washroom breaks work?
Most of all I wonder how I can go from staying home, not socializing with anyone outside my bubble, and wearing a mask anytime I am inside, to working in a school with hundreds of students plus staff, many of whom are not mandated to wear masks or be socially distanced. And did I mention they will all be in stifling classrooms where the windows only open half an inch? Deep breaths…
For months I’ve been reading plans and guidelines and not one of these has mentioned the teacher librarian. In the past, TLs have had to advocate for their roles, living in fear of budget cuts and the disappearance of their assignments.
In the last few days, my board has finally released its Staff Operating Procedure for back to school. I was surprised and relieved to see that the teacher librarian will still have a central role to the school community. We will offer curbside pick-up of books for students or perhaps deliver bins of books to classrooms. We will provide teachers with online resources and lessons. We can still assist students and create library orientations for our very new and adapted role. I am thankful that my board sees the value of the TL and notices the support the position gives to the school as a whole.
As much as that news gives me some relief, I’m still not sleeping through the night. I’m tired and irritable a lot of the time. I have headaches and sometimes burst into tears spontaneously. There are so many questions that remain: What happens if community transmission goes up? Do I feel confident enough to send my own children back to school? Will school become a scary, anxiety-inducing place instead of a warm welcoming one?
As a person with mild anxiety at the best of times, I understand how difficult it is to face scary situations that are not in your control. But fortunately there are some things we can control. I will wear my mask and face shield. I will keep a comfortable distance away from other people. I will eat my lunch in my car. I won’t bring my shoes in the house. I will fight to make the environment I work in as safe as possible.
Some of my colleagues and I have weekly virtual coffee chats to speculate, and try to problem solve based on many hypothetical situations. That helps. Talking to other people and discussing your fears helps. Knowing that you are not alone in this helps.
As teachers, we will carry on. We’ll advocate, problem solve and do our best to provide a safe and nurturing environment for our students. We just can’t forget to take care of ourselves as well.
Allison Hall is a Teacher-Librarian at a K–8 public school in Brampton, Ontario. She is passionate about creativity and empowering students. She is also a bit of a Lego addict.