The Hidden Curriculum Manual: COVID-19 Edition

Caitlin Gawlowski Uncategorized

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The fresh feeling of a new year, and a clean slate, often brings my thoughts down memory lane for a moment. It reminds me to think of things I have learned, or ways that I have grown, and things that I want to continue, or stop doing, in the New Year.

Today memory lane brings me all the way back to my personal experiences in elementary school. I would like to invite you to think back to your experience in school and things that you learned in class. Something that always sticks out in my mind is learning about plant and animal cells in 6th grade Science, and drawing and labeling elaborate pictures of the parts of cells. I remember trying to get my mitochondria and nucleus to look exactly like the pictures in the book, and for a reluctant artist like myself, this was a big deal! I asked my husband about what he remembers learning about in school, he talked about giving presentations and public speaking in primary grades. He has always been charismatic, and remembers feeling proud when he excelled giving presentations at school.

Usually when one thinks back to things they learned in school he or she thinks about topics or activities related to the state standards. However, there is more learning happening in school than the curriculum standards for Reading, Writing, Math, Science and Social Studies; there is more than the school and classroom rules that we are familiar with. There is a hidden curriculum that has been in place in our schools and classrooms for a long time, and teaching this curriculum is a critical step in having a classroom and school running smoothly.

Hidden curriculum is discussing the norms that are coming out in our society that are already placed in there. It is not the curriculum that we bring into our classroom, but something that is already there. Think about how students walk in the hallway, wait in line, ask for help, get supplies, eat and dispose of their lunches, play on the playground – just to name a few. There are specific expectations for the ways students engage in these activities, and students need to follow these procedures properly to be successful at school. How students complete these activities are what is called the hidden curriculum.

COVID has bought about new hidden curriculum to our society in general, with societal norms such as standing six feet apart from other shopping in a grocery store, washing your hands or using hand sanitizer often when out in public, wearing a mask when going to a public place where social distancing can be difficult to maintain, and definitely not letting your toddler rip your face mask off in public to give you a kiss. I am sure this sounds familiar. This hidden curriculum, our new societal norms, have taken a while for adults to adhere to with some either forgetting or ignoring social distancing guidelines while out in public; refusing to wear a mask, sometimes even throwing tantrums the rival my almost two year old’s tantrums over wearing a mask in public. Adults initially struggled with adapting to this new curriculum, but it seems like most have it figured out by now.

Bring in the new “Hidden Curriculum Manual: COVID Edition”. There is so much more for teachers to teach their students so that they can be successful, and safe, in school in addition to the hidden curriculum that was already there. Some items are similar to things our students see out in public, such as standing six feet apart from others, wearing a mask, washing hands for 20 seconds; others are exclusive to school such as eating lunch by yourself in silence, playing without playground equipment for half of recess, absolutely no sharing with friends, washing your hands every time you enter or leave the classroom, and working only independently in class among many other new procedures of hidden curriculum.

I long for the day when COVID-19 will be an unpleasant part of the walk down memory lane. I hope that by following the Hidden Curriculum of COVID-19 both in the classroom and out, will help us put this behind us, where it belongs.

What are some other parts of Hidden Curriculum of COVID-19 would you add to this list?


I was born to be a teacher, although I did not realize that teaching was my calling until I began college. I have always loved to write and began college with the mindset of becoming a journalist. Before I began my freshman year of college, I changed my major to Elementary Education on a whim and have never looked back. I graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Arizona State University and won the Outstanding Student Teacher Award during my student teaching experience in the Cave Creek Unified School District. I spent 7 years in the Washington Elementary School District teaching 2nd and 3rd grade. I became a National Board Certified Teacher in 2018, and I hold a certificate in Early and Middle Childhood Literacy: Reading/Language Arts. The 2019-2020 school year marks the beginning of my 8th year teaching, where I will be teaching 3rd grade English Language Learners, and supporting other National Board candidates on their journey toward National Board certification. If I am lucky enough to have free time, you can find me planning my wedding, spending time with my infant son and fiancé, taking group fitness classes, or enjoying a good book.

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