Bow, curtsy, tap toes, wave, smile, nod. These are just some of the handshake alternatives that are enjoying their turn in the limelight. There are also peace signs, Spock signs, salutes, air high-fives.
If you’re my middle school students, you might just take to greeting one another with a squirt of hand sanitizer. (Actually, don’t do that. It just gets you lectured on wastefulness. Ask them how they know.)
At a unique moment in both national and world history where people are thinking hard about being in close quarters with, well, anyone, one thing continues to stand out to me about the COVID-19 crisis. That’s community.
For a country whose very Achilles heel might be our individualistic nature, it is the glimmers of community that give me hope. Even more than seeing a new shipment of Clorox wipes land at my Target.
Speaking of those elusive wipes, I wanted to share one act of community from someone who has never set foot in my classroom classroom and what it taught me.
Guidelines & Wipes
The CDC continues to issue new interim guidelines for how schools should tackle COVID-19. I am not a germophobe typically, but a lot of people I love really can’t afford for me to pass this onto them. In fact, I spend several days a week helping care for someone who is about as high risk as it gets. As a result, I’ve tried to keep up with the guidelines. Not to necessarily learn anything new, so much as to simply reassure myself that I’m doing all I can.
Over the weekend, I noticed a new recommendation:
Provide disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces (e.g., keyboards, desks, remote controls) can be wiped down by students and staff before each use.
I have some wipes that I bought at the beginning of the year, but my stash is dwindling. Before the stock at my local stores was totally decimated, I bought one more canister, but I knew 300 wipes weren’t going to last long. The new guideline prompted me to email an administrator, asking about the possibility of getting the wipes mentioned in the guidelines.
The short version is that it went exactly the way most things seem to go in education lately. Our governor issued a formal disaster declaration but no wipes.
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As I am prone to do, I took to Twitter to
process whine. It wasn’t a crisis. It was an annoyance. Ultimately, I knew I would get in my car, head to a few stores, and hopefully track some down. Tweet, shop, clean, move on. That was my plan.
Immediately, though, internet friends started to ask how they could get me wipes. I demurred because there are plenty of schools with much greater need than mine and Target isn’t even 15 minutes away from my house. But Liz from Chief Mom Officer sent me a Target gift card anyway with a note that teachers shouldn’t have to buy their own cleaning supplies.
My initial instinct was to figure out how to request a refund or send her back a gift card for the same denomination.
I didn’t want the help. I didn’t need the help.
But I also kind of really did.
It isn’t that I couldn’t track down the wipes myself or cover the cost. I cover costs for my classroom all the time. We all do. Teachers pour hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars of their own money into their classrooms, their students, and their professional development. Shopping isn’t why I needed help.
It was being handed yet another task (keep kids safe, calm, and focused on your learning objectives in the midst of the first pandemic to hit social media–you know, the place where my middle schools spend ALL of their time) without all the tools to do the task. Then, when my request was passed on only to stall out, it was defeating. Except I didn’t even truly realize just how defeated I felt about the delay until the opposite happened.
Watching that gift card appear in a matter of seconds made me realize that it’s OK to ask for help. It’s fine for me to not have the solution to every problem. If the solution doesn’t appear immediately, it might arrive eventually.
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Final Thoughts on Clorox Wipes in My Classroom
Whenever there is concern or confusion in any community, that permeates into the classroom. Teachers try to be a voice of reason, calming kids and offering assurances that everything will work out. It’s a hard place to be. It can be disheartening.
But I am heartened.
I can’t do anything with the ever-changing CDC guidelines. Not really.
I can read them, sure, but I can’t use them to wipe away even a bit of anxiety. But that’s exactly what I’ll do with these wipes, and for that I am so grateful.
Thank you, Liz. Thank you to all of my blogger buddies and reader friends who support me, read my words, and let me whine on Twitter. Wishing you all health and community.
Note: Building administration and custodial crews are working tirelessly, now and always. I know, I see it! But they aren’t magicians. A lot of guidelines appear as castles in the sky, leaving people to put the foundations under them. If you have supplies to spare, you might consider reaching out to your local schools to see if they could use some boxes of tissue, some wipes, or some hand sanitizer.