COVID–19 Teacher Diary: Making the Best of Back to School 2020

Welcome to the 49th Teachers COVID–19 Teacher Diary, a blog series that takes a look at how teachers are coping with the pandemic. What will classrooms look like this fall? How are teachers feeling about all the changes? How can educators, parents, and students all cope with overwhelm, communicate more effectively, and support one another?

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Thank you for reading. If you’re an Ontario educator and would like to contribute to this series, please send us an email.

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Written by Peel District School Board Teacher-Librarian Jonelle St. Aubyn

When school ended on March 13th due to the COVID-19 pandemic, teaching as I knew it was about to change dramatically. We went from teaching and learning in classrooms to going completely online, with very little time to prepare. Teachers are resilient and we are the masters of making the best of challenging situations. Shifting gears, we were able to still provide quality programming online for staff and students and adjusted to our new reality. Although I didn’t mind having a virtual LLC, I really missed my students. I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye in person to graduating students that had volunteered with me for years. I didn’t get to hug colleagues who were moving on to new locations but were like family to me. But everyone was safe and healthy and I was grateful for that.

As the upcoming school year approaches, I feel a mixture of the usual back to school excitement, and the unusual feelings of fear and trepidation about what this school year will look like. There are so many conflicting emotions that it’s hard to deal with at times. I want to be back at work. Few things in life make me happier than being in the LLC and working with students. Teaching has been my passion and my calling for twenty years and time flies when you are having fun. But I’m also afraid. Afraid for the health and well being of my students, colleagues, friends, family members, and myself. Despite the claims from the Chief Medical Officer of Ontario that the “evidence” says there is little risk for our return to work, having large groups of people together has been one of the biggest causes of community spread. I realize and understand that a no risk situation would be impossible, but I can’t help but worry about what might go wrong. And there is a lot that could go wrong.

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I am an asthmatic. For the most part, I’m generally healthy and flare ups are rare. When I get sick, having asthma is very problematic. Getting better often requires multiple inhalers and decongestants to allow me to breathe. COVID-19 could have a devastating and long-lasting impact on my health. I also care for family members who are immunocompromised. My aunt is the recipient of a heart transplant, my other aunt is a cancer survivor, and my mom has myriad health issues. But once I go back to work, will I be able to continue visiting and helping them or will that have to stop? My increased potential exposure to COVID-19 not only puts me at risk, but puts them at risk as well. Our bubble gets blown up with my return to work and that causes me a great deal of stress and anxiety.

[Photo: Jonelle St. Aubyn, her mother, and her aunts]

Despite all of the concerns around my return to work, I’m trying to find the bright spots in this generally less than ideal situation. I feel like this can be an opportunity for teacher librarians to really show what they can bring to the school community in so many ways. Teacher librarians lead the way when it comes to helping teachers and students find innovative ways to use technology for teaching and learning and we will be needed, now more than ever, to provide assistance with that.

This is a chance for me to expand my use and creation of HyperDocs to collaborate with colleagues for their inquiry projects. With virtual author visits, more students will be able to participate as we are sometimes limited by space in the LLC and virtual visits are often more affordable than in person visits so we can have more of them. I can work with student book clubs virtually and as a school we can participate in the FOLD’s (Festival of Literary Diversity) new young adult book club. We will look at running our Human Library virtually this year to keep our Human Books and student participants safe. And this is my chance to follow the lead of many colleagues and universities and build an online makerspace community. I also hope to connect with departments who have not heavily relied on the library learning commons in the past and build and strengthen relationships. The LLC team will continue to provide PD opportunities for staff and weekly updates with resources that support equity and inclusion. The situation we find ourselves in may not be the best, but we can make the best of a bad situation.

Would I rather have the LLC open and have it hustling and bustling with students? Absolutely and without a doubt. I’m disappointed that the library learning commons will be closed to students. But more than anything, I want my students and colleagues to be safe and we will still be open for business, just in a different way. My support for staff and students will be there during this quadmester and I’ll be doing my best to make things easier for everyone in my school community.

It is my hope that we will eventually be back in the LLC, but until we can be, I’m still going to be working hard and doing my job to the best of my ability. It may require a little more creativity, but teacher librarians are innovative and are flexible enough to evolve with changing situations. I don’t know what the future holds or what will happen next, and that is very scary and uncomfortable. But I’m going to prepare as best I can for whatever lies ahead. It’s all any of us can do.

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jonelle

Jonelle St. Aubyn started her teaching career with the Peel District School Board as a Health and Physical Education and Family Studies teacher at T.L. Kennedy Secondary School in 2002. She opened Louise Arbour Secondary School as the Head of Physical Education and transitioned to the Library Learning Commons in 2015. Since then, she has been the full-time teacher-librarian at Louise Arbour.
>> See all COVID–19 Crisis Teacher Diary posts

August 28, 2020
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