Teacher Stories: Caitlin Gioe, Stafford Township School District
I teach in an elementary school in the Stafford Township District. I’m on the volunteer committee to re-enter school. The committee started in June, and it comprises different segments of the school, from custodians to teachers to a parent group. Everyone is tossing out their ideas: what is going to work, what isn’t going to work, and it changes every day. Last week we had two plans. One plan was kids in school five days a week, but half of the class would be with a teacher, and the other half of the class would be with a ‘special-area teacher,’ which would be an art teacher, a music teacher, a computer teacher. It would be in a common area with kids learning the lessons that they would typically learn in their original classroom. The second plan is remote-learning, which the governor said they can do on the computer at home. And now there is a third option, which just came out of our meetings last week, which is a hybrid, which would be the first plan, but the extension kids could do their work at home instead of in the classroom with the art teacher or music teacher, etc. So, the kids would have one day in school learning, then alternate the next day with at home learning, three on, two off, two on, three off, rotating that way.
I am still trying to figure out what the mornings will look like for the students entering the school. Typically the buses come, drop off the kids, and they all just filter through the closest door. Well, they cannot do that anymore. We will have to be very methodical as to which doors they enter and making sure they are spaced out six feet apart. Parents are being encouraged to drive their kids to school as much as possible to cut down on the bus use, but we already had a long car line on a typical school morning, and we will have to manage the increase of cars coming in the morning. There is just a lot to figure out.
What we have been told is that desks will be six feet apart in every classroom. Kids will have to wear masks pretty much all the time except when they are sitting in their desks working. They will eat in their classrooms. The kids will have very little moving around in the school. I think that will be very hard for the kids, almost impossible. We will give them brain breaks, and get them outside. The pre-k and kindergartners cannot have manipulative toys, and they cannot have dress up, and they cannot play in those cute kitchens the classrooms have. That is going to be so hard for those kids, I feel so bad for them.
I think the focus is going to change so drastically in the regular classrooms. The district has said we will need to wear masks, and they are providing us with shields. The kids are not going to be seeing our faces, and we will often not be able to see theirs. How will we be able to see emotion? They will not be able to see our emotions and social cues. And that is such an important part of the students’ growth as students. And we have to worry about both their health and safety, and make sure they wash their hands often, but these are kids. They cough, they sneeze, they pick their noses, they do all of these things, and I cannot even imagine how hard it will be for them.
Interview by Gregory Andrus