There are some jobs you know you'll end up doing as a teacher, even though they aren't teaching. Elementary school teachers often serve as nurses. We all serve as custodians at some point. It just comes with the territory. But, in this pandemic, there are a number of jobs I now serve that I never thought I'd have to.
In the spirit of these posts, I am limiting this list to five. It is not exhaustive. And, to brighten it up, enjoy some bitmojis.
1. Biohazard Capable Custodian
This applies to a lot of staff at schools right now, not just teachers, but let me say that it is NOT a role I expected to fill, nor one I fill well, depending on the piece we're discussing. Sure, every teacher has wipes, disinfectant, etc. But this year, in addition to regular straightening and cleaning, we have various cleaners to help slow the spread of COVID and our custodians are also deep cleaning as well (although I don't know the details of that). A quick list of things in my room: four types of hand sanitiser (2 provided by the district and 2 I bought myself), extra masks (provided by me), paper towels (district), three types of cleaning solutions (1 provided by the school during the last major flu season, 2 provided for this year in specific), and perhaps other things I'm forgetting. We are supposed to clean as often as possible, but it is impossible. Some of the cleaners we cannot use if students are coming within 15 minutes and most of the cleaners have a smell that we cannot stay in the room for.
I am a rule follower. I am not a tattle or a snitch. There are some things I feel aren't my place or I feel put me in a bad position. I am NOT saying that it is required of me by my superiors, school, or district to do this. What I am saying is that stories are appearing from across the country of these unspoken expectations. If you hear things of positive cases, close contact, illness, blatant disregard for safety rules, you might be expected to report it. I should not have to (a) report an adult for anything, but also... (b) I should not have to justify something to a student because Mr/Mrs/Ms/Mx/Dr. X says its okay.
3. Pandemic Therapist/Protector/Parent
One of the jobs teachers fill increasingly is the role of protector, therapist, and parent all at once. Especially now that we do tornado drills, fire drills, and lock down drills. And, while I don't feel we should have to do at least one of these (wink wink), I have accepted that in those situations I must take steps to protect the lives of my students. Now I have to add to that pandemic expert. When students have questions, they often go to their teachers. They are scared. They are confused (especially when parents, teachers, and admins are not all on the same page). Especially with the politicisation of this situation (science y'all), students aren't sure what to do. Now I somehow have to meet those needs. I am not a scientist. As I told one of my classes today when COVID came up, "At the end of the day, there are a number of things we can do to protect ourselves and those we love and care for. We can wear masks, wash our hands, use hand sanitiser, social distance, and more. So, at the end of the day, we have to ask ourselves if we did our best." They didn't train me for this in college.
4. Truancy Officer
Okay, I'm exaggerating a little here. I am not responsible for bringing charges against or serving paperwork regarding truancy. However, teachers across the country are suddenly responsible for all sorts of things that, in the past, they received help for from parents, counselors, admins, etc. This isn't to say that those parties aren't doing their jobs, but the rhetoric increasingly is that if only teachers would do X or Y or if they "just did their jobs" then a whole slew of things would or wouldn't be happening. Be assured, we are doing everything we can. We are emailing, recording all classes, calls, contact. We are calling home. We are engaging with families, students, counselors, and case managers.
5. Customer Service, Tech Support
Again, to some extent we either do this or are treated this way. I am going to address this in my next post, but I truly believe that teachers and parents could work together to stop treating grades as an exchange for service and more like a conversation. However, as I stated in Part IA, this is wholly uncharted territory. Not even the schools already set up for digital learning could have predicted or prepared for this. Technical problems are bound to happen. Grading issues will occur. But there is little in the way of support for teachers due, in part, to the fact that we are all figuring this out as we go. As an example.... Today during a class, I was late due to the one way hallway rule. When I arrived to the room shortly after the bell, I had three messages from digital learners asking where I was and another two saying they couldn't get into the room. I started the digital room up and began printing paper copies for those who needed them in the room. Then I took roll... twice. When I started class, digital learners reminded me that I need to share my screen for them to see the video. After we started our dictation, one student had trouble accessing the document. Another needed help finding the document. A third didn't understand the directions. A fourth wanted to discuss grades during class. All of this was happening over my computer and speaker in a room of about 10 face to face learners. We need the answers, but we don't have them. I don't think anyone has them all.
This blog is dedicated to my reflections on teaching during COVID. These posts are my own thoughts and reflections and DO NO represent anyone else's opinions or policies.