SSchools in England reopened on March 8 with periodic new tests and the use of masks in classrooms. Both have been recommended by the government for secondary schools, but are not required, causing concern among some teachers and students.
Two teachers and a student have talked about their first week back to school.
‘It would be better if we had blended learning’
When students return to elementary school after weeks of online learning, they bring with them “a different kind of stress,” said Louise Neve, 51, a teacher in Hampshire. She has been frustrated this week by the safety guidance for elementary schools, as social distancing is largely unrealistic for the younger classes. His “bubble” of 28 students, ages eight and nine, receives hand gel and the classroom windows open an inch or two.
“Covid is now known to be transmitted through the air rather than primarily to surfaces,” Neve said. “It would be so much better if we had blended learning, with smaller classes and kids coming in in shifts.”
Neve, who is clinically vulnerable with several health conditions, including asthma, was recently vaccinated, “so she hasn’t started yet.” She worries about catching Covid from her students or passing the virus on to her 16-year-old daughter, who has chronic post-viral illness. “If I picked it up from one of the asymptomatic children, I could take it home,” he said. “It’s not as simple as saying that children don’t get sick – there’s a bigger picture that no one at the top level seems to be looking at.”
The mood among the teachers is mixed, he said. “For those who are vulnerable, it is more worrying because we are in contact with a greater number of children. But it is a lower workload than when teaching online. “
‘I imagined there would be more whispers with the masks on’
Joanne Humphrey, 50, an English director at a secondary school in Oxfordshire, also has “mixed feelings” about returning to the classroom. While she is glad to see her students again, she is “exhausted” after a week of teaching through a mask. “It’s difficult to project your voice,” he said. “I try to listen to students if they raise their hands and say something. I don’t want to ask students to repeat themselves four times, because eventually they will give up and stop raising their hands out of embarrassment. “
However, to Humphrey’s surprise, most of his students, who are in classes 15-24, have complied with the new rule. “Motivating and controlling the class has not been as bad as I thought. I imagined there would be more mischief and whispering with the masks on. With that being said, I teach from ninth grade onwards, so maybe that’s more of an issue with younger students. “
And it certainly beats online lessons, he added. “Our students have worked hard at home, but most feel like they learn best in person. Some have said they were nervous about asking questions online; they felt like they would look silly. They don’t feel that pressure in the classroom. “
‘It’s almost impossible to socially distance yourself with 30 people in a class’
Imamul Ahmed, 18, a student from Birmingham, agrees that it is better to go back to school. “Learning at home was very stressful,” he said. “You can end up feeling lonely, but at school the environment is completely different. There is a sense of community that you just don’t get from teaching online. “
Ahmed, who is studying biology, chemistry and 3D design at level A and hopes to become a dentist, said that he had liked seeing his friends, but that it was sometimes difficult for him to wear a mask all day. “Sometimes they can make it hard to concentrate and at the end of the day you can’t seem to breathe.
“It is also almost impossible to socially distance yourself with 30 people in a class. It makes me laugh when you watch the news and it shows a small group spread out in a room, that’s not what it feels like. “
Ahmed said that Covid testing at his school of 1,100 students had gone quite well so far. Lessons were canceled on Monday and students were asked to enter, with time slots provided for each form group of roughly 20 to 30 students, with six to eight booths in the hall for them to use.
“I think it’s okay because we can do it ourselves,” he said. “There is privacy to do the test, but two people share a cabin.” We had to provide our mobile phone number at first, so once you’re done, please walk out of the room and get a text message with the result. “
As an A-level student, Ahmed is concerned about exams, especially after falling behind in November when he received Covid from school. “We are not having traditional exams, but we still have smaller exams. I’m checking everything I can, but it’s getting a bit overwhelming, ”he said.
“Many of us had wishes and thoughts for our senior year, but it has all been thrown away. Teachers are doing their best with the changing direction of the government, but morale is low. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism