Last week, I was reading an article written by a teacher and the following phrase caught my eye:
“If anyone thinks social distancing can be done in a school, they have clearly never been to a school or met a child.”
I thought these few words are the best argument or the most accurate answer to all those ‘experts’ who preach about schools opening again under the social distancing system or with the new rules.
What are the new rules or restrictions for the majority of schools not only in the UK but worldwide? How can you separate pupils or rearrange their seating plan when an average primary classroom accommodates approximately 30 children?
How can you provide the teaching staff with the appropriate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) when the school funds are being cut every year and as a country, you struggle to provide equipment even for your hospitals? Are we going to rely on donations again?
I don’t only refer to the country Ι am currently living and working in but also to the rest of the world, which will struggle to cope under these ‘new regulations’ that the new situation and reality will demand.
There is no doubt that school leaders need time to prepare and they also need the appropriate training to be able to apply all these measures in their everyday practice. When the education secretary decided to close all schools in less time than it takes to hard-boil an egg, most of the school management teams had to face a considerable shock of preparing for the unknown the following day. Headteachers went from running an ordinary school to organising a virtual school, a childcare centre and a food delivery service. They had two days to turn it around.
In other words, this was a good solution to stop the virus from spreading. Still, we would wish to have the training for such a case, just like we do for Fire Awareness or for a Fire Alarm emergency and we take pupils out of the building with great confidence and professionalism, as we practise this every two weeks or so. We can blame nobody, though, as we never expected that something like that could happen to our modern, fully equipped and technologically overestimated world!
So now that we are wiser, what we should do after we all go back to normal? Will it ever be a ‘normal’ life again?
For a decade, headteachers have witnessed every budget cut to children’s services and endured every slice to the cash pot for psychologists, nurse or a school police officer.
One thing that we, teachers and teaching staff, should be aware of is that when this is over, society will be fundamentally changed. Children and their families, as well as school and college communities, will need considerable support to deal with illness and bereavement, changes in employment and housing situation. When we come out of social distancing and isolation, children and their families will need support to manage mental health, self-esteem and relationships.
Headteachers, teachers and school staff are working hard even now to deal with the new school reality and lots of them are still at a high risk of getting infected.
In conclusion, I would like to say to everyone, parents, governors, the entire public, to go easy on schools. They cannot be perfect at this time but they will be tomorrow. When the world changes in nine minutes, it rarely changes equally.
One thing is certain; schools will always be there for children’s wellbeing, not only for their education.
I have been writing since I was very young.
I don’t always know what I write about, but I write.
The person who had the greatest influence on me as a writer was Dr Dimitris Aristidopoulos, a great Greek modern philosopher. He read one of my stories when I was, I think, 11 years old.
I will always remember what he said when he commented on my writing; it was something like:
“Brilliant! One can say with confidence that your strength is in your hand!” and he pointed to my hand!
At that moment, I thought he was talking about my handwriting, but later, I understood.
No matter what I ended up doing for a living, I should never quit writing.
At present, I am working as a specialist teaching assistant and school librarian at St Cyprian’s Greek Orthodox Primary Academy. At the same time, I am studying for my diploma to become a fully qualified teacher. I still have a long way to go. But time flies!
I finally decided that this was the best course of action for me to take. After completing my studies in Professional Translation, learning 4 foreign languages, gaining work experience as an editor for renowned Greek publishers (Vimagazino, Athinorama magazine, Eleftherotypia newspaper, Status magazine and Greece travel magazine) and obtaining my Tour Guide licence with several and amazing trips in Greece and abroad, as well as a background in jewellery design (this was a result of my contact with Mr Ilias Lalaounis after he employed me in his jewellery museum in Athens – such an inspiration!),I knew I had to write again.
I am currently focused on writing for children.
And after all, what better inspiration could be for this than actually working with children?
It’s a great pleasure and honour for me to be a member of Greek Teachers!