The author of this story is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons. The feature image used is a stock photo.
There’s a lot the government could have said to make me feel better about walking into work on Monday morning.
They could have acknowledged that social distancing is impossible in a school scenario, but that the cancellations of assemblies, before/after school groups and sporting were a huge step towards preventing the spread of COVID-19.
They could have reassured teachers who are immunocompromised or aged 60 plus that there will be additional sick leave and no questions asked if they need to take time off work to protect themselves. They could have acknowledged that for Australian teachers, the simple act of doing their job is a little frightening at the moment.
Watch: Mamamia’s Claire Murphy breaks down your most asked questions about COVID-19. Post continues below.
But these things weren’t meaningfully addressed in the sweeping email from Mark Scott (Secretary, Department of Education) that landed in NSW public teacher inboxes on Sunday night. Rather, Scott just urged the use of the very same hygiene measures I’ve implemented for 10 years of being surrounded by coughing, sneezing children during work hours.
He continued: “Your work is on display to the whole community and how you respond will affect people way beyond your classroom door. While many are panicking, I ask you to remain calm”.
On you go, chin up, it’s your job to keep the peace, was the subtext.
I try not to complain about the lack of teacher recognition in this country, especially given our decent salary and the lifestyle options that school holidays afford. But when office workers are gradually being moved to the safety of their own homes, the advice for teachers to continue entering environments traditionally rife with germs (do teenagers ever wash their hands? Who knows?), sounded particularly harsh.
And yet, despite the somewhat superficial advice given to us educators, I do believe schools should be open.
For months now, I have been conscious of high anxiety amongst my students. Some had bushfires come close to their homes in December, others were afraid to leave the house for the smoke through January, and by the time Term 1 started, many were in two-week quarantine after visiting China for the school holidays, or had family in lockdown in Wuhan.