Mask? - check
Handwash? - check
One way system? - check
Social distance? - check
Temperature check? - check!
And we are off, once more. Day 62 in a cross between the Big Brother House, and the Truman Show. Life in Covid times is not quite what it used to be. Welcome to our school, but don't come in. Good to meet you, but don't shake my hand. Come on a tour, but not in person. All a bit strange, and stress levels are climbing.
When politicians pronounce about schools being open, and it being important for the pupils, they do mean well (I am sure!), but they don't know what it really means. Watching the cleaners tour the site continually, gloves, face masks, Mr Trump's disinfectant locked and loaded, it can feel as though we are in some science fiction alternative reality. When you throw into the mix guidance that seems to change even while you are reading it, the spirit can flag. When it does, though, remember that for the children, life cannot go on hold. Next year they will be a year older, and whether the vaccine brings back normal or not, they will be going on to A Levels, or off to university, or up to senior school, so we must not just stop and wait for it all to pass.
It is funny how all of us end up moaning about little things. I heard from a friend in another school that his teachers were up in arms because they were not allowed to eat their lunch at the time that they normally did. Here, although the pupils really do try to follow the rules, they want to be together, they want to be able to mix with one another. The academic education, even when supported by music, sports, drama and other activities, is not enough, and suddenly we realise that we have taken for granted the social education that happens at school all the time. Learning how to be a friend, working out what it means to be in a relationship, and picking up the pieces after it goes wrong - all of these are skills that children develop at school, and in a covid neutralised context, it is that much harder to develop.
As we know only too well, most teenagers are in the fortunate position of knowing everything already, but at times of doubt, they are likely to turn to an adult. This is one of the reasons that this situation is particularly tough for them, because this time, the adults don't know the answers and can't necessarily help them out. When will it end, will there be exams, when can we go back to not washing our hands? Well, hopefully the answer to the last of those is that we will still remember to wash our hands in the future, but for the other two, the adults are as uncertain as the children, and that breeds doubt and anxiety.
So, even if you cannot see the smile behind the mask, remember to share a smile whenever you can. Tell the children that they are doing really well, just getting on with things, and that anything else really is a bonus. Tell your colleagues how well they are doing, and mean it, because they are, even if they aren't happy about their lunchtime. And try to do at least one kind thing a day that you wouldn't normally do, because it might just keep someone else going long enough to get through the next few weeks and months.
Have a very good weekend.