Coronavirus and the Classroom: What Teachers Can Do

Worried about the potential spread of coronavirus and COVID-19 among staff and students at your school? Veteran teacher Heather shares some tips for promoting good hygiene in your classroom during this uncertain time - and they're also applicable for cold and flu season, too.

Encouraging Words for Teachers During Covid The topic of coronavirus and COVID-19 is on the tip of everyone’s tongues. From news reports to social media and blogs, this new virus is causing concern (and panic) globally since there is no vaccine for it just yet. With news reports igniting fear, it’s easy to understand why parents are starting to question their child’s safety at school where germs can spread like wildfire. Recently, several schools have closed in Washington state due to a student who tested positive for the virus, and a school in Oregon closed as well due to a staff member who was also confirmed to have tested positive for the virus.

As a classroom teacher, there are things that you can do to keep everyone healthy and calm in the face of flu season.

You should also be prepared for any immediate closures if anyone in your school is suspected of having the virus. Here are some things to consider and ways to support sick students and family members in your community.

Talk About Germs

Students need to understand what germs are and how they are spread. Consider reading a story with your younger students, watching a video clip, or reenacting how germs can quickly move from one person to another by conducting an experiment.

After talking about germs, practice washing hands and entice the students to the sink with some shiny new soap dispensers that you can pick up at your local dollar store or ask parents to donate them. You would be amazed at how much more likely kindergartners are to wash their hands if they are pumping soap out of a Disney character, rather than a standard school dispenser!

Encourage handwashing for 20 to 30 seconds each time. Students can keep track of the time spent by either singing the "Happy Birthday" song in their heads, or reciting the alphabet. Both approximate the amount of time necessary to wash hands thoroughly.

Make it a point to schedule regular handwashing breaks, just as you would for bathroom breaks.

Younger students might benefit from more visual reminders - use a germ awareness coloring page to make a bulletin board, as an example. You can find all of our handwashing videos and resources here.

Err on the Side of Caution!

If you notice one of your students is especially sneezy, is lethargic, seems to be taking strained breaths, or simply isn’t acting like himself, don’t keep him in the classroom. Send them straight to the nurse to get checked out. While many families, thanks to heavy media support, have pledged to keep their students home from school when they are at the onset of flu-like symptoms, you as a teacher can never be too sure! Don’t hesitate to issue a nurse pass if a student doesn’t feel well.


Disinfect High-Touch Surfaces

Your school custodians are on high alert when it comes to cleaning your room and the rest of the building, and have protocol to follow. Even with the thorough steps they take to ensure the health and safety of the students and faculty, there’s still no harm in you going over high-touch surfaces each day as well. Before you begin the day, wipe down desks, computers, pencil sharpeners, handles, anything that your students regularly come in contact with.

You also want to consider spraying down some hard to clean items, like chapter books, recess toys, prize basket items, and student supplies. Force of Nature offers many non-toxic cleaning supplies that are safe to come in contact with children yet effectively kill 99.9% of bacteria and viruses.

Set Up A ClassDojo Account

ClassDojo is a free online resource for educators. It is a safe education site where learning can take place if a student is absent or a school is closed.

After creating your class, send home invites for parents to join. In just a few easy steps, you are able to post messages to the group or individual parents/students, video clips, printable worksheets, and even assignment directions.

There is also a discussion forum where parents can also respond to one another, all under your monitoring and control.

If you happen to have a school closing due to a coronavirus scare, or if a student has become a confirmed case, you can certainly continue on with your daily instruction with this tool.

Consider Seating Changes

Most educators have students seated in groups. If you think about it, this could spell out real trouble during the cold and flu season. Sneezes and coughs literally could land on one another with no effort at all. As a preventative measure, you may want to consider putting students in spaced-out rows rather than clusters. This may not be ideal for the layout of your room, but it may play a role in preventing the spread of illness.

As an educator, you have to remain in the know about the coronavirus and COVID-19, as it could directly impact your school or classroom.

By talking about germs, using proper handwashing techniques, and educating your class about communicating how they feel, you can play a role in the prevention of the spread this virus. If there is an outbreak in your school or community, keep things moving smoothly by utilizing online resources so your students can remain in quarantine, yet in practice of what you’re teaching until school is safe to resume again.

How do you promote good hygiene in your classroom? Share with us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Heather Aulisio is a third grade teacher in Pennsylvania. She has been a teacher for nearly 15 years and holds multiple degrees and certifications. A freelancer for The Mailbox and other education-related clients and publications, she enjoys writing in order to help and entertain fellow teachers. She currently resides with her husband, Bryan; son, Matthew; and two pugs, Lily and Leo.

About the author

Heather Aulisio


About Heather

Heather Aulisio (B.S., M.S. Ed.) is a 5th grade math and science teacher. She has been teaching in a public school setting for 19 years. Heather has previously taught third… Read more

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