My room has been far too quiet lately. Each day last week there were a couple of students absent. Friday there were six gone. Yesterday there were four. Each room in our building has been reporting multiple absences. And many of those students who are attending are too tired or too weak to talk. They are either getting sick or recovering, or they have been sitting in the doctor’s office or living room with another family member who is sick. We also have teachers who are absent, due to their own illness or the illness of a child.
The flu has hit our community and hit it hard.
A situation like this poses several problems. First of all, it changes the dynamics of the group. There are always students who form strong dependent bonds. They rely on each other, play with each other, and help each other solve problems. J reminds K to put his glasses on before we start the day. M helps A find the art materials he needs. S sits by T at lunch and helps her open packages. The absence of a friend makes many students anxious and withdrawn. And all of the children worry about each other, especially those who are absent for more than a day or two.
I have to be very aware of how each child is coping. Yesterday one of my recovering students burst into tears when I asked her to correct a mistake on her paper. One of my “well” students put his head on his desk and just quit working. No fever, or any reason to send him home, but he will probably be absent tomorrow.
I have to make decisions each day about introducing new lessons or reviewing old ones because I know that the children who are absent will ultimately have to know the same concepts and skills as their peers. Some will quickly get back on track, while others will need some intense tutoring to resume their work with confidence. They were out for two weeks of holiday. They were back for just a few days. Now some have been absent for five days. Even if they return today they will need at least a week to fully recover. If we remain in this cycle of illness and absence I calculate that our classroom will not be fully functioning at pre-holiday level until about the 28th.
So today and tomorrow and perhaps the next...too quiet in my classroom.