'I'm a teacher. We are going back to school. We do not have a choice in this matter.'

"I worry that I may not be worried enough."
"I worry that I may not be worried enough."

I'm a teacher.

I am expected to be back at school to teach children from June 1. I have been back into school a few times already and will be back full time from 25 May.

I have also been teaching online since the end of the "school holidays". I tell you this as some background facts to the rest of my blurb.

I have kept quiet for the past 8 weeks, watching on social media as the public has vilified teachers for not doing enough for the learners online.

I have swallowed back bitter tears when I have read posts calling teachers useless and "taking an extended holiday", I have read emails in disbelief and tears as I take a pay cut due to the fact that parents are not (cannot) paying their school fees. (This is a separate issue and I understand there are those that cannot pay due to Covid)

I work in a very good school, with very good leadership and a very good SGB who are working tirelessly behind the scenes to make sure that the school has enough funds to be able to continue to pay staff and keep jobs.

They are also working incredibly hard to make sure that the working conditions for staff and learners are as excellent as is humanly possible.

Over the past 8 weeks my colleagues and I have provided school work, emotional support, data and airtime, food parcels, guidance, counselling, zoom classes, physical education lessons and constant contact via WhatsApp.

We have calmed fears and answered questions, we have created meaningful lessons and academic content whilst trying to understand pressures that many of our kids are under.

We have made mistakes, with out a doubt, of course we have. Have we taken the criticism and adapted? 

Damn right we have.

For many of us, we have had to juggle this with the responsibility of making sure that our own children are looked after and that their educational, emotional and psychological needs are met.

I know this goes for all parents working from home in this time as well- not here to do a comparison on who has a more difficult time in lockdown - it is not easy for anyone: just want to give context.

We are going back to school.

We do not have a choice in this matter.

I want to go back to work and check in my kids. I worry about them. I worry about their anxiety and stress levels. I worry about how they are coping, I worry about how they are.

I don't want to go back to school because I worry about how this impacts all of our health. I worry about transmission of a virus that is still very young, that we do not know enough about. I worry about the fear mongering on social media.

I worry that I may not be worried enough.

I have no comorbidities (other than carrying too much weight- but give me a break, I am not perfect), I am not on the "at risk list".

But I am still concerned.

I will go to school and police children's natural tendencies to watch to sit close together, I will send children home for breaking protocols that under any other set of circumstances would be ludicrous.

I will send them home to protect your child, to protect my colleagues, to protect you at home and to protect myself and my family. 

I will teach my seniors at school and continue with online lessons for my juniors at home. My day will start at 6:45 as I report to school to make sure I scan temperatures and screen children.

My day will end when the last WhatsApp is answered (I get messages at 2:30 in the morning sometimes from kids who only have access to night time data).

I will send my child to family members to be looked after so that I can teach your children and allow you the possibility of being able to go back to work.

I know that many parents are worried about the return to school, I understand. If you have the privilege of making another choice for your child, I respect that.

If you have to keep them at home, I know how difficult it is. But please do not condemn those that choose (or have) to send their children back to school.

It's a fine balancing act.

For many children in SA school is a safe haven and regardless of the virus it is still the safest place for them. Those children have to be considered- for 2 months many of them have gone without structure, guidance, discipline and regular food.

The reality is for children coming from those environments, the longer they stay out of school, the less likely they are to return. Teenage pregnancy increases directly in relation to time away from school, as does incidents of child abuse. So many difficult social factors need to be considered, as well as the health risks.

I am a teacher. It's not just what I do, it is who I am.

It is woven into the very fabric of my makeup. I will go to school and teach your children, look after them, discipline them, love them. I will engage their minds and hopefully their hearts in this process and during this time.

I will attempt to convey the seriousness of this unprecedented and unpredictable time whilst attempting to calm anxiety and stress around it.

I ask from you that while I do that, please show some support to those who are teaching your children, to those who are putting themselves in the position to be vilified.

We will not always get it right (show me a perfect person, or a perfect system and I'll call you a liar).

Work with us.

Instead of leaping on to social media to complain, go straight to the source, talk to your teachers, talk to your school. Please approach the situation with care and understanding, come with solutions, perhaps we haven't considered that option.

I am committed to looking after your child to the best of my ability whilst they are in my care. Please allow me to do that without adding to my fears and stress.

Teachers are people too.

Whatever choice you make with regards to whether your children return to school or not, I wish you everything of the best now and always and I know the choices you make come from a place of love.

Stay safe.

- Sian


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