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What they don't tell you about working in a boarding school during a pandemic part 1

Updated: Apr 28, 2021

Now let's get one thing straight. I work with the kids of key workers, and I did work throughout the pandemic, but I don't know if I am a key worker... because when have you ever seen House Parent on the posters around town celebrating key workers? I guarantee never - in fact most people don't even know my job exists, except maybe those that went to boarding school themselves.

Let's get another thing straight... yes, I am exactly like Minerva McGonagall, but with better fashion sense and I can't turn into a cat.

I'm in my third academic year now, but let's go back in time to about a year ago. I'd got promoted in the December to start in my new house in the January, and I was being moved to work with the tiny ones ay my school - aged 6-11. As you can imagine, I was beyond excited to be having a new adventure, and to be working with a new age group for me. Fast forward a little to March 2020, and I'm watching the news in my office in the boarding house. I've got a student with me, we're having a chat. There had already been measures in place regarding covid - no parents in the boarding house (which was actually great - made weekend leave really simple!), to restrict contamination and reduce the risk of covid getting into the school.

Side bar: a week before this, a student had come back to school from being on weekend leave, and on the Monday morning had been to an assembly that was talking about covid, and the symptoms and basic knowledge that they thought my gentle year 4s and 5s could hand. I get a call from one of my Year 5 students saying that they had had to isolate my student because they had been coughing... now this is before I'd really taken much notice of covid except for the basic like "oh this is a little worrying, hope we are okay", so I wander over to find this student coughing. This is before masks and I thought hand sanitiser was a myth so I walked over to the sick bay with him, only to have a staff member there scream at me about how dangerous the virus was, and how irresponsible I had been for taking him to the medical centre... anyway I ended up crying and calling the parent to come get him. The next day I speak to his Dad, and he hasn't coughed all the time he has been with them.

He'd heard what covid was and the symptoms in the assembly, pretended to have a cough, because he wanted to go home. Cheeky sod.

Back to the original story, I'm sat with a student in my office and the news breaks that schools are going to shut. Uproar ensues - students running around the corridors screaming, kids crying like oh what is happening, staff jumping around as excitedly as the kids were. And then they started asking "when will we be coming back". I kept saying "Oh a few weeks I bet, maybe after Easter." How naïve was I.

What ensues was strange days - students moving out, packing up the boarding house, and my student numbers went from 30 odd to about 3 in my house, and I think there were only about 30 students in the whole school after the first weekend of quarantine, down from over 1000 boarders. And then all twelve boarding houses got condensed to 1, and students started their learning all together in the dinner hall.

Let's just appreciate THIS WAS ME ON DAY 3! I had already lost my marbles.

That's when all staff got pulled to a meeting and we were told we would be split up, and half of the team would be furloughed. It made sense - even with half a boarding team, there were still more staff than students. I was put into the team that were staying, and when we said goodbye to our colleagues, we were locked down on site for 12 weeks.

We had already been staying on campus for a few weeks because of the risk of covid and not wanting to risk carry it to our families, so I ended up not seeing my family or really leave site from February to June. Thank god my boyfriend works here, and I have a great set of friends who were both on and off site over our school lockdown - you would struggle to find a better support system.

I will write more on that whole experience, because there was a book worth of madness that went on, from writing a song about our Easter Camp, to building a water slide (my co-worker broke her finger because of that water and safety would've had a nightmare had they been on site to see it). I've got so so many stories about this time and I just want to share it now before I forget.

None of that was in my job description, and if it had I do wonder if I would've gone for the job in the first place... I think that's why I think about that time so warmly though, which is strange considering that I am talking about a pandemic.

If you're still reading this then that is commitment well done - if you want to hear more then comment below! And don't forget to subscribe.

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