As we wrap up this school year, I have to stop and reflect on everything that I have learned while teaching in a pandemic. It has no doubt been the most interesting and memorable year of my teaching career, as I’m sure is the case for every teacher around the world. As odd as it has been, I definitely consider myself lucky that we were in-person for the majority of the school year. (We started out on an A/B schedule, moved to full-time, went fully remote for 1 1/2 months, and then went back full-time in person.)
Even though this year has brought many challenges, we have definitely learned a lot as well.
We have improved our technology skills and resources.
I would assume that this is true for most schools. Since we were thrown into needing to connect with students at home, our school corporation sped up the process for getting Chromebooks for teachers and students. Even though this was in the long-term plan, it was achieved at a MUCH faster rate. As stressful as it has been this year, we have also learned so many new technological skills that can be used for teaching.
Teachers, principals, teaching assistants, etc… are AMAZING!
While I have always known this to be the case, this year has just continued to prove it. As I think back to this past summer and all of the unknowns, I realize how much was thrown at us and how much it all changed from day to day. We truly had to roll with the punches. Teachers had to change their “normal” classroom layouts. They had to learn how to teach through a computer. We had to change how we do group work, use supplies, and even our recess procedures. There was so much to navigate through this year.
I realized that I can rethink some things that I have just “always done.”
One of the main things that I am rethinking after this year is my community supply tubs. I have ALWAYS had tubs of extra crayons, pencils, and glue sticks for my students to grab when they needed them. Since we were not allowed to use community supplies this year, I did not put these items out for use. Let me tell you…the students were WAY more responsible with their supplies! While I did replace some pencils, crayons, and glue sticks throughout the year, it was an extremely small percentage of what I normally supply. I honestly do not know that I will ever put them out again.
Teaching in a mask is NOT fun, but it is doable.
The #1 thing that I dreaded the most about going back to school this year was having to teach in a mask. It took a lot of trial and error to find masks that were not suffocating, especially when I was reading aloud to my students. Even though it ended up being fine, I cannot wait to teach without a mask, and I am definitely ready to see my students’ smiles and not just their eyes. There were some positives though…a LOT LESS nose-picking and tooth wiggling was happening this year!
Kids adapt really well, but we still need to check in on them.
I am sure that you have heard “Kids are resilient!” over and over again during this pandemic. While I do agree to some extent, I think it is important to note that kids and adults everywhere are dealing with so many more mental health issues from all of this. Kids will adapt well to most situations, but this past year and a half has been STRESSFUL! Even when we think that our students are handling things well, it may still be having an affect on them. One of the most important things that I hope comes from this pandemic is the importance of breaking the stigma of mental health issues. We need tons of support in our schools and our communities.
I have come to appreciate the “normal” much more.
As things begin to feel a little more “normal,” I realize how much more I will appreciate the little things. Seeing my students’ smiles. Reading without a mask on. Having parents in for school functions. I am hopeful that within the next year or two, this will be behind us, and we can just say, “Remember when…”
To all the teachers, principals, parents, school staff….WE MADE IT!