This is NOT so normal
Dr. Robert Harrison, ACS Education Strategy Director November 2020
Around the country and the world, teachers are having to re-think everything as if it’s their first year on the job. I remember my first year as a middle school teacher. I have never been so tired, before or since.
And this so-called ‘next normal’ sometimes doesn’t feel very normal at all. Students in their seats, apart, facing forward. Parents in their cars. Competitions cancelled. Trips postponed. Chilly classrooms. Quarantines and self-isolation. Travel complications. Tiers and tears. Handwashing, cleaning, masks. Schedules, facilities, transportation and catering, all upended. Not even a little downtime in the staff room to sit close and talk with the friend you need to help you get through a tough day. No Trunk or Treat!
Last month I covered a ninth grade English class for a teacher who was out of school that day. I was 2 metres away from the action, busily disinfecting my desk because it had been recently vacated by another substitute teacher. When it was time for lunch, we all put on our face coverings, and left the room, single file from the back.
We all are thrilled to be back on campus, learning with teachers and students in the same physical space. We are also working harder than ever before to maintain standards and meet the changing needs of our learning communities.
Seventy percent of ACS academic and general staff report that they are spending more time and energy on work than in a ‘normal’ year.
Most school staff have to be physically present to do their job, even in our current national lockdown. The well-rounded educational experience and interactive learning environments that we value aren’t always best delivered at/from home, online. ‘Education and child care’ is one of eight key worker occupation groups in the UK, and rightly so. Schools have a privileged place in community and family life; caring for and educating children is a top national and international priority. That means that staff in the education sector (including independent fee-paying schools) are making a herculean effort to ensure that learning is the best it can possibly be, within the abnormal constraints imposed on us by concern for each other’s health, safety and wellbeing.
Almost everyone is feeling the strain. As winter approaches, and we cope with a second period of national interventions, school staff are often concerned about their own health and the wellbeing of their families. Like other internationally-oriented people, ACS employees have far-flung connections, and are often living away from home and loved ones. The stressors are consistent across the ACS community, and they’ can be heightened for staff who cannot work from home.
No one is feeling all that normal this year. So much is beyond our control right now. I think the only way we will make it through these strange times is together.