SOCIAL DISTANCING 201 FOR TEACHERS
By now, every professional educator knows the basics of teaching while simultaneously minimizing COVID-19 spread. Whether you’re currently holding classes virtually, in-person, or both, you’ve probably had a hundred new rules drilled into you this calendar year: Master the right software. Space out classroom seating. Disinfect everything regularly. Provide hand sanitizer near all communal surfaces. Wear your face mask correctly, and make sure your students (if old enough for masks) do the same. Take your temperature every morning and get tested regularly for COVID. …
And be prepared to see any of the above change on a few days’ notice, subject to the latest information from health experts and local authorities. And don’t forget that your supervisors and your students’ parents are depending on you to see that every child stays healthy and gets the same education as in healthier times.
The stress can be enough to make you sick—with or without assistance from a virus.
To help you while you help young learners, here’s a list of do’s and don’ts for protecting your health and emotional resilience:
Do remember that your fellow educators, your students, and your students’ families are under stress too, so do make a point of being empathetic rather than defensive when someone snaps at you. “A gentle answer turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1, New International Version of the Bible), and also eliminates much of the tension and hostility that illness feeds on.
Don’t waste energy worrying that in-person teaching (if that’s what your school district mandates) will lead to a spike in COVID cases. Most schools (and other public places) are now carefully managed to minimize risk; besides, thinking positive is much better for your immune system.
Don’t, however, confuse thinking positive with being lax. (Small informal gatherings are now a primary source of COVID spread, largely because it’s easier to assume, “Everyone here must be fine.”) Do be consistent about taking all reasonable precautions.
Once you’ve done what you can, don’t hold yourself solely responsible for keeping your classroom or school 100 percent virus-free—or for pleasing everybody regardless of their preferred health practices or political opinions. Don’t automatically blame yourself (or accept blame from anyone else) for any problem that surfaces. Do allow yourself the basic human right of being less than omnipotent.
Do remember that you are appreciated for the hard work you put in to keep society functioning in these tough times. Search online for “thanks to teachers [your area]” to turn up plenty of encouragement—and when someone thanks you directly, do record those moments for future reference!
Do be good to yourself by getting adequate sleep and nutrition; counting your blessings daily; saving time for personal-enjoyment activities; and spending time (virtually or in your home) with loved ones. Do take time to relax and enjoy your winter-holidays break!