I have been teaching for nearly two decades, and up until this year I have never felt as if there has been a threat to my health and safety while at work. I've felt protected, supported and have absolutely loved coming to work each day. COVID-19 has changed all of this.
Now I go to work and have no idea if I am safe or if it will remain that way, it's really just a roll of the dice.
Watch: Premier Daniel Andrews announces that masks will be mandatory across Victoria. Post continues below.
I'm currently a VCE teacher for Years 11 and 12 at a Melbourne secondary school. The school I teach at is within an area that has one of the biggest COVID-19 clusters in Melbourne, and has recently been closed for deep cleaning due to a student who was COVID-19 positive.
The situation is very real. It is extremely overwhelming. It is scary. It is anxiety inducing and it is getting worse by the day.
Students at the school I work at (apart from those with medical conditions) have to wear face masks, and as a teacher I do too - except for when I am teaching, because even with the surgical masks it is difficult for students to hear me. But despite this, schools are by no means safe for any of us. There's a set of different rules that seem to apply to primary and secondary schools, but no one else.
Take for example the normal social distancing guidelines enforced pretty much everywhere in order to protect people, but that don’t apply to schools because of the ‘impracticality.’
The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) said that they don’t believe that the venue density rule of no more than one person per four square metres is appropriate or practical in classrooms or corridors, nor maintaining 1.5 metres between students during classroom activities. Therefore social distancing at schools, for the most part, is essentially not expected and definitely not followed.
And while I agree it may be ‘impractical,' it is also completely unsafe.
Currently in the Melbourne and Mitchell Shire areas, the Prep to Year 10 curriculum is being taught remotely, with the the exception of children of essential workers or those who attend specialist schools. All VCE subjects, however, are still being taught on site. Which means as a VCE teacher I am expected to be at school, even though it's the last place I want to be because I feel so unsafe.