This will be my 31st year as a teacher, and maybe I should have quit at 30.

Sometimes I stay too long at the party and considering how school, especially kindergarten is supposed to look this year I will admit it. I don’t want to go.

Now don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love teaching and I especially love teaching kindergarten. We have so much fun in the classroom and those little ones are not only adorable, but they learn quickly like little sponges. They always amaze me how much growth is made in 10 months.

One of the reasons I love kindergarten so much is that I enjoy teaching kids how to read, and I’m pretty good at it. My master’s degree in reading education and experience teaching Reading Recovery and resource room for many years honed my skills. I use that knowledge every year to help kids learn to love reading as much as I do and that brings me such joy.

Our hands on science experiments done with partners keeps the young ones engaged in learning as they negotiate the process of building “sunbrella’s” for their ice cubes or observing seeds grow in different conditions. Using a variety of manipulatives in the classroom to learn counting, patterns, adding and subtracting with the guidance of a trained teacher helps build math concepts that can be difficult for many children at this age.

I also love to see them learn through play. My classroom always has the most creative structures built with blocks and legos and imaginative dramatic play in the kitchen area with pretend food, dolls and dress up clothes. The research behind children learning self regulation skills through play is impressive and I have always sought to guide my students to the next level of child development.

So, if I love it so much, why don’t I want to go back?

The Pandemic

That is my first reason. Seriously! I’m not getting any younger at 57 years old this September. My age puts me in an at risk group for having complications if I should get COVID-19. Watching the news here in New York back in April and daily broadcasts from the governor and president was frightening. I saw the photos of bodies in trailers waiting to be taken to cemeteries. The haggard faces of health care workers under layers of personal protective equipment including face masks and respirators to help them breathe. And many of them got sick. Some even died.

Until there is some way to control this virus which is contagious even on people with no symptoms, I am scared to spend the day in a building with poor ventilation, and 400 other humans who may or may not be carrying this virus.

The Classroom

No one has confided in me what my classroom will look like in September, but judging from the CDC guidelines, it seems it may look quite different.

Sharing will no longer be a problem since it won’t be allowed. Everyone will have a desk in kindergarten. In my 20 years in the kindergarten classroom, we have never had desks. Children always did their projects and work at tables with their friends. Masks will be worn all day to protect us from each other’s germs. They won’t know when I am smiling at them.

The blocks, legos, easel and kitchen areas will be tossed out to make room for more desks that need to be placed 3-6 feet apart, depending which guideline we decide to follow. The handwashing station will need steps up to the sink and probably a mat under it since I know that area always gets wet and we will be washing our hands constantly.

The kids won’t be leaving my room at all for lunch, recess, gym, music or art anymore. Maybe the gym teachers will come to our classroom so the kids can do exercises at their desks. I can’t imagine how 20 five year olds are going to stay in one room for six hours with no free play time and that just makes me so sad.

And another thought: what about fire drills and lock down drills. Keeping six feet between boys and girls as we line up to go outside and stand on the grass will be hard, but practicing for live shooters in the building by locking the doors and hiding in a corner of the room is probably not advisable.

The Risk

The CDC announced last week that it is critically important for schools to open this fall. They stated that school closures have disrupted normal ways of life, had negative health consequences on our youth, and can lead to severe learning loss. That is pretty bad.

The CDC also goes on to say that young children seem to handle this virus pretty well and don’t get as sick as older adults.

Maybe that’s because on March 13th we closed down schools across the country and parents kept their children home, sheltering in place for months, and those kids have had little exposure to anyone with the Coronavirus.

We know the young adults who decided to go back to bar hopping and beaching became infected. When people get together, this virus spreads. That is what happens.

According to a USA Today poll 1 in 5 teachers surveyed will not return to schools if they reopen in the fall. I know that remote learning is not the best. We teachers were learning how to do it as well. Parents who work will have the hardest time with schools not reopening, but do they really feel comfortable sending their babies off when this virus is still so unpredictable? Even if schools do reopen, what is the policy when a child or staff member is infected? Do we close for 2 weeks and then try again? Or do we just accept that it is a risk and continue on hoping for the best.

Most of the big school districts in the USA have determined to begin the year with remote learning. In New York the numbers of new cases are down so pressure is on to open schools. A hybrid system is being developed where children would only come into school a few days per week and the other days would be virtual. Maybe half the class comes on Monday and Tuesday, then the other half comes Thursday and Friday. But this proposal doesn’t make it any safer for the adults at the school or at home.

I believe we should begin the year with remote learning. Using all the building staff to provide some one on one support with the children in new learning could help parents at home.

I don’t have the answers. Improving the way we administer virtual lessons to the students is imperative to their education. We will figure out how to get through this.

Worrying about the future has never helped me much. If my mom were still here I know what she would say. “Put it in God’s hands. He will figure it out.” Thanks mom. While you’re up there can you please let him know; I don’t want to go.