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The New, New Normal

Rachel Perugini Current Affairs, Life in the Classroom, Web/Tech

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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

 

I am originally from Pennsylvania where I earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Shippensburg University. In 2012, I moved to Arizona to teach on the Navajo Reservation; I liked the state so much I decided to stay. I taught language arts, reading, and journalism for three years at Many Farms High School. During that time, I earned a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction for Reading. In 2015, I moved to Flagstaff where I currently teach 10th and 11th grade English. I have been an avid reader all my life, so I love that my job gives me that chance to read amazing books with my students all day long.

Comments 3

  1. Maria Fallon

    Rachel, you hit the nail on the head with “The New, New Normal”. It is difficult that right when we feel comfortable, our “normal” shifts. Your flexibility and perservance are a true gift to your students! Keep doing you!

  2. Nicole Wolff

    You are so right about student expectations. They want to go back to school as it used to be. They really want their old lives back. I completely get it, but it’s just not safe right now. As teachers, the best we can do is provide alternatives for student interaction. It sounds like you already have great plans in place. Your students will do great!

  3. Yolanda Wheelington

    Thank you for this piece. I was in this exact place before Spring Break. Right after, we have returned to a hybrid of in-person and online. We kept the same schedule, so students are all online so that their at-home peers can participate in the lesson. At this point, my goals are to teach kids something every day, keep work posted in Google Classrooms, go home on time, and get through this school year.

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