This year marks my 24th year in the classroom. I would be lying if I told you that I was ecstatic about school starting tomorrow. The hard truth is – I am having a really hard time with our “new normal” in the life of school & my classroom.
I will not be seeing a group of 20 children. I will not be greeting former students with their parents in the hallway. The just does not “feel” right. I will be posting assignments online and having virtual meetings. It is not the same. In three weeks, I will see half of my students at a time in our classroom. We will be following some new procedures. It will take some adjusting.
First of all, I completely understand & I fully support all that we are doing to keep our students and staff safe. But, I desperately need an outlet for my thoughts & feelings. So, please let me share.
Let’s begin with class environment. Educators have been spending the past several years building a classroom culture based on community & collaboration. Our physical setup of our classrooms have embraced that as we have brought in flexible seating and design to ease collaborative teamwork. The new social distance & CDC guidelines make these practices rather challenging. It is suggested students be 6 feet apart and that they all face the same direction.
Our instructional practices have shifted over the year to encourage more of the following: problem solving, collaboration, differentiation, small group, discussion. Our students are in the habit of collaborating on some projects digitally, but they are in the habit of working side by side-not 6 feet apart. Our children are also in the habit of sharing materials. Oh, they do such a nice job of sharing materials. Now, this is a huge problem especially in elementary schools. We have saved money for year by purchasing the bare minimum of books or math manipulatives because children can share. Now, under the pandemic circumstances we are unable to share because items need to be sanitized between uses.
As I am sitting here, I am digging deep. I am sure I’m not the only one. This is going to be a year of innovation. As a teacher, I am going to need to reach my students in ways that I haven’t before. I am also going to be asking them to engage with others. I will be asking them to take risks in ways that we haven’t even dreamed possible yet. We have an opportunity. None of us asked for this opportunity. It is what we make of it. Education may be altered forever…
It is time to give it a go and do what we can with what we have for our students.