When school opens in the fall it is likely that for at least a portion of each day or week students will be in physical proximity to other students and staff. This reality means that some expectations and guidelines will be needed beyond the behavior expectations to which students have been accustomed.
A typical response to this need would be to add a supplementary list of rules for students to follow on top of rules in place before the pandemic. However, there is another way to view and communicate about the situation that recognizes its uniqueness and positions the expectations as something more than additional rules for students to follow.
You may have noticed over the past few weeks articles featuring the concept of “COV-etiquette,” or appropriate behavior considerations when dining out or interacting with people in a public setting during the pandemic. The term, obviously, is a modification of the historical term, etiquette, referring to proper behavior when interacting with others. Central to the concept of etiquette is behaving in a manner that is respectful of others and reflective of your good manners.
As you think about necessary shifts in procedures, desired behaviors, and the need for safety, consider approaching your communication through the lens of respect for others, good manners, and protecting the health of everyone. This “COV-etiquette” approach invites students to be a part of a larger effort to make school and learning safe and successful for all.
You can build on this concept by finding ways to state the new behavioral expectations in terms of what students are to do rather than what they are not to do. As examples:
- Wear a mask whenever you are at school but are not eating or drinking.
- Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer whenever you touch something that may carry germs.
- Follow posted signs regarding which direction to go and which hall to use to move from one part of the school to another.
- Maintain at least a two arms-length distance from others whenever possible.
- Speak clearly so that what you say can be understood even when your mouth is not visible.
Where practical, include the rationale for each expectation you present. As examples:
- More germs are spread when face coverings are not present.
- Hands are more likely to carry germs than other parts of the body that are covered.
- When all students walk in the same direction there is less likelihood that germs will be spread to people who might be walking in the opposite direction.
- Research shows that maintaining appropriate distance from others decreases the spread of germs.
- Even though we are wearing masks, it is important that we are able to hear and understand each other.
Finally, introduce the “COV-etiquette” expectations as a way to reinforce and strengthen a culture that considers the needs and safety of everyone. When everyone contributes, everyone benefits. If this is your culture already, you have a significant advantage. If not, now is a great time to start building a sense of belonging and shared responsibility.