A key lesson learned during the pandemic is the important role teachers play in ensuring that learning continues. As schools reopen, a lot will depend on teachers to ensure that children will be able to continue their education in a safe and healthy environment; and make up for knowledge and skills that may have been lost.
As a teacher, knowing the facts will not only protect yourself but also your students. Be aware of fake information and dangerous myths about COVID-19 circulating that are feeding fear and stigma.
Physical distancing at schools
When it comes to physical distancing, it is important that you establish some classroom ground rules in accordance with the procedures established by your school’s administration, as well as the protocols established by your respective country’s Ministry of Health and/or local health bodies and authorities. Recommended measures include:
- Maintain a distance of at least 1 metre between everyone present at school
- Increase desk spacing (at least 1 metre between desks), stagger recesses/breaks and lunch breaks (if difficult, one alternative is to have lunch at desks)
- Limit the mixing of classes for school and after-school activities. For example, students in a class will stay in one classroom throughout the day, while teachers move between classrooms; or classes could use different entrances, if available, or establish an order for each class to enter and leave the building/classroom
- Stagger the school day to vary the start and end times and avoid having all the students and teachers together at once
- Consider increasing the number of teachers, if possible, to allow for fewer students per classroom (if space is available)
- Advise against crowding during school pick-up or daycare, and if possible avoid pick up by older family or community members (i.e. grandparents). Arrange school pick up/drop off times differently (according to age group) to decrease any large gatherings of children at a given time
- Use signs, ground markings, tape, barriers and other means to maintain 1 metre distance in queues around entrances
- Discuss how to manage physical education and sports lessons
- Move lessons outdoors or ventilate rooms as much as possible
- Encourage students not to gather and socialize in big groups upon leaving school grounds.
Health and hand hygiene
Teachers have a critical role to play in ensuring students understand the precautions they should take to protect themselves and others from COVID-19, and it is important you lead by example in the classroom.
Hand washing is one of the easiest, most efficient and an effective way of combating the spread of germs and keeping students and staff healthy.
Teach the five steps for hand washing
- Wet hands with safe, running water
- Apply enough soap to cover wet hands
- Scrub all surfaces of the hands – including backs of hands, between fingers, and under nails – for at least 20 seconds. You can encourage students to sing a quick song at this point to make it a fun habit
- Rinse thoroughly with running water
- Dry hands with a clean cloth or single-use towel.
Identify some practical steps/activities you can take to demonstrate good hygiene practices to your students. Examples include:
- Creating a hand hygiene song to sing with your students
- Have students draw hygiene posters for the classroom
- Set a hand hygiene ritual. You can select a specific time during the day, such as before/after lunchtime for everyone to wash their hands/apply hand sanitizer
- Physically demonstrate how to wash your hands and apply sanitizer
- Keep a points system in your classroom, giving points to students each time they wash their hands or apply sanitizer
- Have students create a public service announcement on hand hygiene and place these posters/ announcements throughout the classroom or school in highly visible places
Mask wearing in schools
If wearing fabric masks is recommended in your school, then make sure your students are familiar with when they should wear masks and any related school policies, such as how to dispose of used masks safely to avoid the risk of contaminated masks in classrooms and playgrounds.
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