It has been almost a full year since our school closed for Spring Break last year and COVID quarantine began. In that time, I have mastered Zoom (most days), digitized all of my files, loaded my entire life onto Google Classroom, and bought some blue light glasses (a daily accessory for me now). I have embraced the online learning lifestyle, and, after a year, I feel pretty confident with what I am doing on a daily basis.
After a year of teaching online, I am asked pretty regularly to say how it is going. My go to answer is, “My kids are learning.” In a time when parents are screaming about how online school is destroying education, I can still hang my hat on the gains I am seeing with my students; they show me every day that they have learned the things I am teaching them, and, at the end of the day, that is my job.
And now, we change our plans again and have started the move to concurrent learning. If you do not know this new teaching term, the gist is that teachers will have students in-person and online at the same time. Double the presentation modes, double the work, and no extra prep time. I cannot even wrap my brain around preparing myself for this upcoming change, but it is coming soon.
The only way thing new normal will be possible is to continue on as is—Zooming into class even if some students are in the room. I will still be teaching, glued to my computer, with the addition of a mask. I am not even sure how many students will choose to return in person. Those who do return will lose the freedom of wandering around their house during breaks or cooking themselves a snack in the middle of a lecture; they too will be glued to their desk in a mask. The situation I imagine in my head is a cross between being grounded and military school.
Most students I have heard from who want to return back in-person want to return to the old normal. They want group work and their teachers sitting next to them helping them with that extra tough question. They want to goof around in the hallways with their friends between classes and go to school dances. I want all of that too, but none of it is possible with six feel of social distancing. It is the sad reality that a return to our school buildings is not going to be a return to normal.
Safety needs to be the priority in any school’s return plan, and that means a lot of what makes school feel normal needs to be re-imagined. Group work will continue to take place in breakout rooms, my turn-in basket will stay packed away in my closet, and I will sit patiently behind my computer screen ready to teach whoever shows up, in-person or online.
Photo by Edward Jenner from Pexels