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Just Another (Chaotic) Day in the Life of a Pandemic Teacher


Just Another (Chaotic) Day in the Life of a Pandemic Teacher

It’s been said that teachers make more decisions, minute-to-minute, than air traffic controllers. Now add in a pandemic and all the decisions that come with attempting to keep a class of 27 kids safe and educated in 2020, and you’ve got the perfect storm of stress brewing. Welcome to a day in the life of a pandemic teacher! 

5:30 am: Wake up bleary-eyed after a disturbed sleep featuring visions of colorful masks dancing in your head instead of on students’ faces where they should be.

6:00: Shower, mask-ne skin treatment, caffeine, breakfast, more caffeine.

7:00: Pull into school parking lot. Exit car juggling mask, swipe card, coffee cup, teacher bag, purse, laptop, water bottle. Put mask on crookedly with one hand, enter the building.

7:20: Arrive at your classroom. Weave your way through an obstacle course of desks in rows less than 3 feet apart. Dump your belongings, grab today’s math assignment, and head to the photocopy room. Sanitize photocopier by spraying with disinfectant and wiping all touch surfaces, make 2 copies, fix paper jam, make 25 more copies. Re-sanitize photocopier. Punch holes in math sheets, sanitize 3-hole punch. Back to class.

7:45: Sanitize hands then lay out individual piles of paper, rubber bands, Bristol board, popsicle sticks for the building of flying machines for the afternoon’s Science activity.

8:00: Crack open laptop to prep Smartboard lesson for Math. Ignore 10 admin emails, for now.

8:20: Bell rings and students begin lining up outside 6 feet apart. Well, 3 feet anyway. “Starfish! Be a starfish!” you yell as your sixth graders half-heartedly swing their arms around to make sure they’re not touching each other.

8:30: Everyone’s in, seated at desks. You stand at the front to address a sea of masked faces, your welcoming smile hidden by your mask but your eyes sparkling (you hope, that is, if the caffeine did the trick, and the bags aren’t too big). You scan the room, trying to notice mood, energy levels, preparedness. Is W feeling low again today, tired of the world, hood pulled over eyes, mask covering what’s left? Did B get enough sleep?

8:35: Morning announcements. You go over the day’s schedule, answer questions, remind C to pull her mask over her nose, remind A to take his off his head.

8:45: Math begins. With only 12 Chromebooks available, you pair the kids up. Only one may touch the Chromebook. The other records. They bring their chairs and spread out in the classroom and down the hall, distanced yet still collaborating. Yes! They are engaged and learning! W put the hood (mostly) down and B looks lively. She informs you breathlessly that 1.4 BILLION chicken wings were consumed on Super Bowl Sunday. Fascinating! You obsessively sanitize your hands in between each pair of students you conference with.

9:45: Time for second-language class. The traveling teacher enters, since students cannot work in any other classrooms, she must run from class to class. She looks like a plastic filing cabinet with legs. Prep time: Google Classroom needs updating – in addition to teaching your students at school, you’re also responsible for posting each day’s work and lessons for quarantined students at home. New content posted, five online assignments given feedback, and the ten admin emails dealt with… thirty minutes speed by. Time to get back to class. 

11:10: Lunch is in ten minutes, time to start the handwashing process. Again. You stand by the sink, soap in a squirt bottle, and dispense it as they line up 3 feet apart.

11:20: The bell rings, and the students remove their masks to eat. Every day, twice a day, for twenty minutes, they eat at their desks, talking, laughing, and eating less than 3 feet apart. You take advantage of the downtime to answer more emails from students at home, log in to Google Classroom to give feedback, and maybe grab a bite to eat.

11:40: Outdoor recess: handwashing again, then students happily line up in the hall to head outside. You feel like a drill sergeant reminding them over and over again to keep apart.

12:00: Recess is over. Kids enter one at a time again, sanitize hands, and begin independent reading. You have twenty minutes before gym to hand out 22 new book packets and meet, with three of your reading groups to listen to their book summaries.

12:10: Outside for gym. It’s Team Yellow vs. Red. What a game! Tiny little V gets four flags AND a pick-six and her thrilled teammates take turns to elbow-bump her. Teams Green and Blue practice throwing and catching while you ref the game. Everyone’s happy as they troop inside half an hour later. More handwashing.

12:40: Writing class – a quick lesson on there, their and they’re and on to paragraph writing. You patrol up and down the rows, helping with spelling, sanitizing your hands each time you touch a student’s work to point something out, as pencils scratch on paper.

1:10: Writing is put away to launch Science. It’s time to building flying machines! The projects must be independent, no partners, but you’ve told them they can share ideas. Everyone’s flying machines are taking shape and the class is full of (slightly muffled) chatter. Another success as a pandemic teacher – hands-on science can still happen!

2:00: Last block of the day. The home stretch! The students return from recess, wash hands and replace masks. X approaches, he looks pale. “I have a sore throat, a headache and I’m not feeling well”, he states. You call the office, have him pack his things, and off to the isolation room he goes. You sanitize your hands out of reflex, even though you had resisted the urge to check his forehead for warmth. The custodian sneaks in to sanitize X’s desk.

3:20: Dismissal approaches. Students write in their agendas and wash hands for the tenth time today. The bell rings, you wave cheerfully, and they’re off!

3:40: More emails to answer and planning for tomorrow. A couple of colleagues stop in for advice, or just to vent. A couple hours later, you finally pack up and head home where you’ll finish all your grading. Netflix awaits.

9:00: A couple emails ping onto your phone… a few students just logging in to Classroom now.

9:01: Bed, at last! Time for a long, restful sleep (here’s hoping) so you can do it all again tomorrow…

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Just Another (Chaotic) Day in the Life of a Pandemic Teacher

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Anne Lefebvre

Senior Member

I grew up in the city but now call small-town Ontario, Canada home, along with my husband and two teenage boys. I’m a passionate elementary school educator, but when I’m not at school you can find me playing a sport, reading, or drinking a cup of tea.

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