Covid-19 lockdown day 5: 'It's now constant worry'

College teacher Sarah Simons is concerned for the wellbeing of her students forced into isolation by coronavirus

Sarah Simons

Coronavirus lockdown day 5: I'm constantly worrying about my students, says Sarah Simons

All three of us have started to get a bit "are we nearly there yet?" about not seeing other real life humans for an eternity (five days). Conversely, the dogs are cock-a-hoop to have us at their beck and call. I’m a bit nervous about how our pair of needy fur-bags will cope when life goes back to some version of normal.

It’s really odd today knowing that schools and colleges are closed to most staff and students. Even weirder that GCSE grades will be taken on teacher assessment, so no exams for our lad. With our family having checked out early, it feels like we’ve missed experiencing a huge chunk of the action. I’m not complaining. From what I’ve heard, it seems like lots of Year 11 kids are finding it extraordinarily stressful to have the last day of school come unavoidably crashing down on them with no build-up and no emotional preparation.

Background: Covid-19 lockdown day 4: Let's form a club

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My lad’s OK, though. He’s extremely robust at the best of times and is able to articulate his feelings to us with far more self-awareness than I have, even at my age. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still a typical teenage knobhead, but he’s given me little cause to worry, yet… 

Students isolated by coronavirus

I am more worried about some of my own students who I’m unable to speak to. In my adult groups, I’m worried about the ones for whom those two hours a week at college, doing a bit of English and having a bit of a giggle with our group, was the only form of social contact they have. Some have no family or friends. Some were already isolated before this global emergency. I’m worried that this might be the tipping point for some of them. I’m very open about my own mental health struggles, but I have a loving family, brilliant friends and colleagues who support me when I’m poorly. I also have the privileges and the agency that come with being educated, confident, and not skint, yet… lots of my students are not in the same boat and need a cheerleader to support them. I try to be that cheerleader if they need it.

I’m worried about some of the younger ones, too. Not necessarily the young students who are already surrounded by a social services army. Being aware of kids who are vulnerable hopefully fixes a spotlight on them. No, it’s the ones who you have a slight niggle about, who you’re keeping your eye on, just to be safe. Where nothing is actually reportable, but the change in behaviour suggests that something might be a bit off.

Bloody ‘ell, I’m looking forward to the "really getting into your hobbies" portion of lockdown to kick in because this "constant worry with no power to do owt about it" portion is a steaming slice of shit pie.

The chancellor's announcements

At the five o’clock briefing from the government, Fantastic Mr Fox (AKA the chancellor of the exchequer) took centre stage. While he told the country of unprecedented measures to support business, I got a couple of texts from pals. Otherwise respectable, middle-aged, professional women sent messages such as "He would totally get it." They’re not wrong.

The day ended with watching The Invisible Man – a good weekend night film – ruined by the effect it had on my husband, who for the rest of the evening went on to pretend he was either invisible, or had an invisible colleague in the room. I couldn’t quite twig the narrative of his new daftness. A cushion, a magazine, a slipper were suddenly hurled across the front room while he acted casual, "Who did that?" This progressed to him lurking in the shadows of our house, ready for me to notice him and widdle my drawers in shock, shouting "PACK IT IN! YOU ARE NOT INVISIBLE!" 

By bedtime, my nerves were worn down to a nub and I was ready to murder. And we’re not even halfway yet.

Sarah Simons works in colleges and adult community education in the East Midlands and is the director of UKFEchat. She tweets @MrsSarahSimons

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