How to Teach During a Pandemic – The Struggle is Real!

How to Teach During a Pandemic - a Hilarious 5-Step Program

The unknowns about what school will look like when we finally return after months away due to the COVID-19 pandemic is likely weighing on every educator’s mind. The word ‘unprecedented’ is hugely overused and kinda cringy, but it’s the perfect word to describe teacher life right now. 

As if attempting to teach over Zoom or Google Classroom wasn’t hard enough, now teachers are faced with a complete unknown as districts and states decide on plans for returning to the classroom. Despite the fact that no one knows precisely how this will all play out, any educator who has been in the game long enough knows we will be expected to do the impossible. But ever the innovators, teachers will find a way to make pandemic teaching look like they’ve been doing it for years. 

Here are five challenges we are likely to face and some ideas to solve them when we eventually re-enter the classroom.

Tip #1 How to Teach in a Mask

The “teacher look” will take on a whole new meaning during the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be increasingly vital for us all to start working out our facial muscles because it is going to be all about the eyebrows, which will now be our most important management tool. Make sure those bad boys have a standing waxing appointment because your entire class will now depend on them to convey:

“We do not blow our noses in our masks.”

“Do not step outside of your designated desk square.”

“Please stop talking while I try to hear one of your classmates, who speaks at a negative decibel, read through their mask.”

And, 8,432 other things.

We’re definitely up for the challenge because the “teacher look” is 99% eyebrows and crazy eyes anyway.

Tip #2 How to Keep Your Classroom Clean When Clorox Wipes Are Now Mystical Unicorns

This germaphobe teacher is legit concerned about the disinfectant wipe situation in the country right now. Pre-pandemic, Clorox wiping of every door handle, desktop, and surface that got touched frequently was a part of the daily classroom routine. Since Clorox wipes are now rarer than every student behaving during an observation, the stress is real. 

Here are some ideas for when we need to return to the germ boxes that our classrooms.

  • Use paper towels or gloves before touching anything in your classroom and look like you’ve reached a whole new level of germaphobe.
  • Make homemade disinfecting wipes with the cheap paper towels you can find, and whatever cleaning substance is available and then give up on that because the paper towels disintegrate two seconds after being drenched in the cleaning solution.
  • Attempt to navigate the Black Market to find Clorox Wipes that cost more than a 48 pack of Paper Mate Flair Pens and buy a safe to store them in because they will now be the most coveted and priceless items on campus.
  • Trust that the custodial crew will clean the school and classroom to your impossible standards.

Tip #3 How to Handle Kids Who Do Not Understand Personal Bubbles

Lord, please give me the strength to handle these special tiny humans who do not understand boundaries. Children who get right in your mouth to tell you they are about to throw up are the kids I am most worry about when we return to school. These little darlings just need more formal social training, but when we are all in the middle of a pandemic, no one has time for children who spray it while they say it…right in your eye. 

Hoola Hoops are going to be what saves us all. They are relatively cheap, and a strap that can be fashioned to keep the hoop in the right spot should be simple enough to achieve. Students would still be able to sit on the floor, in their desk, and run around outside. Students in China have been donning fairy wings and other contraptions to keep a safe distance from their peers for months, but the US might have to follow suit. 

Hoola Hoops are the only thing I see helping keep kids out of each other’s faces. Yes, I realize they will become the next fidget that drives teachers up the wall, but it beats them rolling around in plastic bubble bumper balls.

Speaking of which…

Tip #4 How to Decide if a Bubble Suit Should Be Added to Your School Clothes Rotation

I realize how positively extra a bubble suit sounds, but don’t even try to lie and say you never once considered wearing one during flu season. Imagine how much of a relief it would be knowing that if a child is not adhering to the six-foot rule, you would be protected from their half-chewed carrot spittle during guided reading. 

I do understand a bubble suit would offer up some challenges (using the bathroom on Pajama Day when I wore a onesie comes to mind). Still, there are also some positives, such as legitimately getting away with continuing to work in pajamas and no one noticing your Quarantine Fifty at all. 

I do realize that bubble suits could pose a challenge, like when it’s hot out and your classroom AC isn’t working (as usual), your bubble suit would be like its own tropical rainforest biome. Also, you’d need to add a good 15 minutes to your already zero minutes of dedicated bathroom time. Even so, in my opinion, bubble suits are better than having to torch your clothes when you get home. 

Tip #5 How to Not Lose Instructional Minutes to Hand Washing

The fact that hand washing before lunch is not a regular practice in American schools is a huge letdown, but does anyone on the outside know how long it takes a class of 20+ students to wash their hands for 20 seconds? Let’s do the math. Let’s first take a moment to laugh at the thought of a classroom containing only 20 students. Now, if all those 20 students must wash for 20 seconds, that is 400 seconds or roughly six minutes. That doesn’t sound so bad, except it never just takes six minutes. That is how long it would take if every student were a robot who did what you said to do when you said it. 

Add at least 10-15 minutes onto that six because human children mess around, drag their feet, and make a mess when they do pretty much anything. Add another 10 minutes for all the kids that walk on all fours for no good reason at all, or touch things they’re not supposed to, after already washing their hands, so they have to wash them again. When you add up the amount of time hand washing actually takes, lunchtime is over. 

Because washing hands before eating is an essential habit that all people should practice, it should be given priority, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn and wash at the same time. Instead of singing some fun song, have students recite their multiplication facts, practice vocabulary, or do a GLAD chant. Students will be too busy trying to count on their soapy fingers to flick water and mess around. You’re welcome. 

It will be a monumental challenge to teach in the coming months, whether digitally, in person, or both. But if we band together, continue using our innate ingenuity, and never lose our ability to laugh in the face of adversity, we will all crush this pandemic teaching thing.

Also Check Out:

How to Teach During a Pandemic - The Struggle is Real!

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Katie is a 3rd-grade teacher. She loves buying décor she doesn't need for her classroom, long and repeated walks to the refrigerator in search of Ben & Jerry, and collecting stacks of books she never has time to read. When she is not in the classroom, she is practicing the great art of writing procrastination. Sometimes she actually writes stuff.
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