Going Back Into The Classroom
I don’t have any words of wisdom in this post. It is my thoughts and ideas about the announcement that was made recently. I found out yesterday evening that my district is returning to face-to-face instruction for those families that choose to go. Teachers are to report back to our classrooms on April 6th, 2021, and students on April 13th. I have so many feelings about this that I need to express, and blogging is the best way to do that. I am sure I am not the only one feeling these feelings. We have been virtual due to COVID since March 13th, 2020. One day we were at school, the next we were online, it happened that quickly. I still remember being in my classroom at the end of the day, no masks, sitting by my teacher friends watching the district tell us that we are closed until further notice. I remember hugging what kids I could find and told them I would miss them. Saying goodbye to my colleagues and heading home. It seems like yesterday when it has been almost a year.
Fast forward a year, and I am teaching online in a new grade level (switched from 4th to 6th) with brand new students, most of whom I have never met in person and probably wouldn’t recognize if I ran into them at the store. When we go back in April, we will have less than 2 months back before we go on summer vacation. I know there are different opinions on this, and I respect yours, but I do not understand why we are going back with only two months left. I miss my kids, I am looking forward to seeing them and teaching them face-to-face, but honestly, it seems like an unsafe and unnecessary choice to me. When we go back in April, we would have been online this school year for 9 months. Most of my students have finally caught on to distance learning, they understand what is expected of them, and many of them are excelling. Why are we changing things up right now? I know there are reasons, one being that I live in California and a new bill recently passed (Senate and Assembly Bill 86) and I know there are many other situations that cause a need for students to be in school. It is just a hard thing to adjust to, but I will get there.
Some of the things I am struggling with:
Social distancing of desks. I have 31 students, and I know that 31 of my students will not be coming back. Based on a recent poll it is estimated that about 70% of our students will return for distance learning. This means about 21 of my students are estimated to be back in class. Our district plans for half of the students to go back Tuesday and Wednesday, with the other half going back on Thursday and Friday (everyone is online on Mondays). Can I safely fit 10 to 11 desks in my room?
Lesson planning. How on earth am I going to lesson plan for this? My mind can’t figure it out! Not all my students are returning, which means I will need to be on camera for them. Plus, how am I going to assign work when half of my students are in class and the other half at home? I have no idea how this is going to look, but it seems like a disaster waiting to happen. I know that teachers have been doing this since the school year started, and I know from watching vlogs that it can be done, but it seems very overwhelming to me. Advice?
Behavior problems. In a class of 31 students, I have 5 who are considered to have tier 3 behavior problems, and those are just the ones that I am aware of. I know from talking with these students and their families, that they will be coming back for face-to-face instruction. These students were already struggling with tier 3 behaviors PRIOR to school closures and now they have been away from the classroom for over a year. I am struggling with wrapping my brain around how classroom management is going to work when I have those students back in class after being gone for so long. Sadly, these are also the students who are not engaging in class, so in addition to having some behavior challenges, they are also going to be further challenged because they have missed almost a years' worth of instruction.
COVID and masks My district has another meeting scheduled tonight, where I am hoping to gain more information, but right now I am struggling with what happens if one of my students or a staff member gets COVID? (we had the meeting last night, and to my knowledge, this was not addressed). By the time we return, I will have been fully vaccinated, but my students will not have. I have a daughter at home who has health issues and a weakened immune system due to medication and I do not want to bring COVID home to her. Does my school shut down; my class shut down if someone gets COVID? Will my students wear their masks in class? At recess? At lunch? How am I going to teach in a mask ALL DAY?
There are MANY aspects about returning that I am excited about and I don’t want to dwell on the negative aspects of returning to the classroom. It is just overwhelming, but with a positive attitude I know I can make it through.
Seeing my students in person. I already had a relationship with many of my sixth graders because I taught them when they were fourth-graders. I am beyond excited to get to see them in person, and talk to them, get to know them better, and quit talking to circles all day. The thought of not sitting in front of my computer all day is AMAZING.
Getting out of my house. I feel like I have been cooped up in my house for the past year. Well, I feel like this because essentially, I have been cooped up for the past year. I rarely leave, except to run errands. Now I get to go to work and see other people, other adults! I get to get dressed up and interact with people outside of my immediate family. This sounds amazing to me. I am sure many of my students feel the same way I do about getting out of their houses.
Lose weight! When the new school year started I slowly but steadily gained weight. It is hard sitting in front of the computer all day and not being as active as I was when I was physically in the classroom. Sitting in front of the computer also causes me to snack, which has steadily increased my waistline. I am hoping that being back into the classroom will help with losing some weight and give me the motivation to keep the weight off.
My students' lives can start to return to a new normal. I understand that abuse rates have gone up, as have suicides and depression. I have “kids” at home who are struggling to be online all day and having their former lives taken from them. COVID has hurt many of my students on many different levels. Returning to the classroom will allow my students to start getting back to their 'normal” pre-COVID lives.
I am excited to get back into my classroom, it is just overwhelming and honestly, scary. The pandemic has been scary for many of us and as a parent of a brain cancer survivor, and of a child with many different health issues, I have kept them both very sheltered this past year. Leaving all day and being around people again sounds great, but worrisome on the COVID side of things. What are your thoughts about returning to the classroom?