I Don’t Want to go to Kindergarten… This Fall

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.

runawaywidow

View posts by runawaywidow
At the age of 51 I unexpectedly became a widow. For the first 6 months after my husband died, I was in shock and numb. I journaled and with the help of friends, family and therapists was able to get back to living my old life, even if it is now very different. Before I was married, I had spent a semester in England and backpacked around Europe. My husband and I moved from New York to California for 8 years and started a family. Travelling took a back seat to raising a family and going to work everyday. Since the loss of my husband I have visited a lot of places with family and friends and took a solo trip to Thailand. I am enjoying sharing my stories and adventures as well as some of my insights to how I am traveling the path of being a widow. I hope to share my stories and adventures as well as some thoughts on being a middle aged widow. While I have some great experiences traveling to Thailand and cruising to Central America, some of my adventures involve a trip to see a Broadway show in nearby Manhattan and a shopping trip at Bed, Bath and Beyond. If I can inspire anyone to go out and continue to live a good life that would be my greatest accomplishment.

8 Comments

  1. Oh gosh, Kristin, I don’t think I’d want to go back into a classroom this fall either. I can’t even imagine what it’ll be like for the kids, too. No good answers. And that last line had me laughing. Love your writing!

    1. Thanks Kim. I’m glad you agree. It would be awful under these conditions. Like you said, no good answers.

  2. I don’t know how to answer – life in New Zealand under the Pandemic is quite different

    But what resonated me was your “teach a person to read” and I wonder if that is where you should focus…take leave of absence if that is possible and work on how to make that happen – possibly best on “one2one” basis – or via the computer. And not just children but also adults who may have had a lot of difficulty with “home schooling” as it has happened.

    I’ve met a number of mainly men, over the years who couldn’t read (fell through the gaps) and when their children came along, they suddenly wanted to…they wanted to be able to read that bed time story…

    1. That is such a wonderful thought. I hope to continue teaching reading as it does bring me joy to see such success.

  3. Fellow teacher here (currently on leave!) and I don’t want to return this year either! It’s not because I don’t love my job – I do! And my passion is teaching young kids to read, but I honestly don’t see how that will happen this year with all the protocols that will be put in place, if they’re put in place. It won’t be a welcoming and safe environment, like we should be making it. Like others have mentioned, is there a possibility of taking your passion and doing it online? I’m currently doing that with summer camp, and although it’s not the ideal situation, it’s working better than I expected!

    1. That’s good to hear that summer camp worked out better than you expected. I have lots of apprehension about how it will be back in the classroom. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  4. Great post. I’m really tired of hearing all of these politicians (and some health experts) talk about how physically resllient kids are to COVID, while never mentioning that there are adults in the classroom whose health is vital to the entire operation! I can’t imagine trying to get students of any age (perhaps especially those in middle school) to keep their masks on the entire day while at school. It’s going to be one long onslaught on the part of teachers and administrators, I bet. My sympathies and thanks for being on the front line like you are. – Marty

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