It's you against...well, everything.
School environments provide ideal conditions for transmission of infectious diseases. This chapter discusses the prevention and control of infectious diseases in schools. Because infectious diseases are transmitted primarily by direct contact with hands, a stringent hand-washing program can be effective in reducing transmission. The most effective prevention strategies must also encompass regular environmental cleaning.
Unfortunately, as a teacher, you work in a petri dish. 15 to 30 carrier pigeons fly into your classroom several times a day and you have no idea where they have been flying nor what they are carrying.
I know, COVID is “over”, but disease never is and COVID could be the least of your worries. Hopefully the pandemic created a reason for your school to change many of its protocols and procedures, perhaps they purchased new air cleaning equipment or maybe you even have been granted access to new training. My recent findings is that many of the steps taken during the pandemic have now been shelved and schools are operating much like before 2020.
This leaves your health up to you... the teacher.
It is almost impossible to avoid getting sick. There are multiple kids in our classrooms. That’s multiple drippy noses, double the number of dirty hands, and countless things that we all touch.
As the school year begins, let’s look at some basic stuff that may just give you a fighting chance.
First, wash your hands. What I mean is, wash them a lot. This may seem like a small thing in light of what we have all just gone through, but this is your first and best defense. From books to paper, from pens to “high-fives” at the end of class, you touch a lot of stuff as a teacher.
Take a few moments throughout the day to wash your hands to avoid getting sick. It’s not such a bad idea to make it a daily activity for your class.
Avoid touching your face. Now that I wear glasses, I find this incredibly hard to do especially since I wear reading glasses which I am constantly adjusting. There can be many reasons to touch your face, but really try to refrain from doing this during the school day. There may be a clump of mascara near your eye, an itch on your nose, or a piece of hair in your face. It’s putting yourself out there to get germs in your mouth, eyes, nose and ears! Or if you need to do it, wash your hands before and after doing it!
I know you are sick of hand sanitizer, but when you can’t wash your hands, use hand sanitizer as much as you can. Have a large hand sanitizer dispenser inside of your door and train your students to use it as they enter or return from restroom breaks. Carrier pigeons…
Sleep, exercise and eat healthy. I know this is much easier said than done to avoid getting sick. Teachers tend to eat small snacks while avoiding meals due to long days and grading papers but it is important to maintain your own health before you enter the classroom. You are fighting a war each and every day against all kinds of transmissible diseases and you do not want to be weak for the fight.
A well-rested and well-nourished body is less likely to get sick. So, be proactive and try things like meal prepping and scheduling out your workouts to make it easier to follow through!
Disinfect everything. I know your school has some sort of janitor or environmental control personnel that run through the school at night emptying trash and wiping down dirty surfaces but do you want to leave your health up to these midnight marauders armed with Windex and paper towels?
Keep a personal supply of disinfecting wipes and spray handy so that you can swipe at desks, projectors, chairs, and anything else that has you worried. After 40 minutes in front of the class, you will see the cluster of sniffles and know which desk to wipe down at the end of class. As much as you would like to, please refrain from spraying students in the face with Lysol while wondering what kind of parent sends a sick kid to school.
Be aware. Use your hips or elbows to open and close doors, instead of using your hands. Take a wipe and put it over your hand before you pick up a dirty tissue that may have fallen on the floor. Wipe down items like the classroom phone, computer keyboards, and drawers that get used frequently. Call the custodian if there is a bodily fluid spilled in your classroom – that’s why they pay him the “big bucks” (not really).
In conclusion, take sick days when you need them. So many teachers decided to push through when they are sick. This is not the movie “Dangerous Minds” and you are not LouAnne Johnson.
Taking one sick day when it is too late will inevitably turn into more sick days. Take your sick day when you feel yourself lagging and your body will heal quicker and you will be able to give more attention to your students because you will have more energy.
Now that we have covered all of that, you might be ready to head off to that beautiful land of teaching and learning, giving and taking. Just try not to take anything home.