This is Not a Drill: Thoughts of a Teacher Going Back to School

This is Not a Drill: Thoughts of a Teacher Going Back to School

Every year in school we have fire drills. We practice and practice how to get out safely. We time it and try to do better next time. My job is to be the last one out, close the classroom, grab my attendance folder, then turn back into the school towards the fire to check the bathrooms for stragglers. Only then do I exit the school.

Every year in school we have lockdown drills. We practice and practice how to hide quietly. We startle when someone hammers the door and try to be quieter next time. My job is to be the last one in, make sure they’re all crouched silently in the cloakroom, close the door and cover the windows. Only then do I join them in hiding, with my body the closest to the door.

But we don’t have a pandemic drill. We haven’t practiced this one. My district’s plan is an experiment.

We’re going back to almost-business-as-usual. Sure, my 6th graders will be wearing masks. Hopefully properly. Although they do have to take them off when they eat. Plus there will be about 150 people in my building who won’t be wearing masks since they’re not mandated for kids under fourth grade. I will have PPE provided to me so that’s good. I’ll attempt to space the desks out a meter apart, even though people in stores must stay 2 meters apart. I’m not sure if my classroom is big enough to do that yet though because I’ll have at least 10 more kids over the recommended number. So if there’s not enough space I guess we’ll be even closer. We’ll stay in our cohort – just me and 26 of them, even though an indoor bubble is supposed to be only ten and even though I’ll share a building with 300 people when the maximum is supposed to be 50. We’ll try to distance while lining up, entering and exiting. I’ll greet my students from afar instead of at the door like I always have. I might even get a smiley mask to replace my real smile! I honestly can’t wait to see them.

But I’ve never experimented with my kids’ safety before. We’ve never played with fire to see how it goes. We’ve never invited armed criminals inside to see how it goes. But now we’re messing with a deadly virus to see how it goes.

Here’s the thing. If I walk into the flames in a real fire to check on the kids, I’m risking my own safety. If I shield their bodies from a real shooter, I’m risking my own safety. I signed up for that.

But if I accidentally take that virus in to school, I’m risking my STUDENTS’ safety. If I accidentally take that virus home, I’m risking my FAMILY’S safety. I never signed up for THAT.

I know that there is no easy solution, nor one which will meet all needs. I feel for the experts who have to make these recommendations when they’re just learning about this brand-new disease. And I want to be in the classroom. I do. I will be there on the first day back to class to greet my beloved kiddos, smiling ear-to-ear under my mask. But it’s intensely worrying to think that while I smile, I’ll be hoping that I don’t hurt anyone just by doing my job.

This is not a drill.

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This is Not a Drill: Thoughts of a Teacher Going Back to School

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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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