As I think about my virtual learning experience in the time of quarantine, I will say the feeling that is more dominant than most is “dislike.” I won’t say I hated it, but this was an unusual circumstance into which we were thrown.
Maybe if I had had more time to prepare for my virtual learning lessons or if I had been consistently able to hold my students accountable for their work, I would feel different. Granted, this wasn't always the case, as some students were diligent working from home, but if I had had the means to follow up with all of my students every day, I know things would have gone smoother. There are several maybe-ifs that come to mind when I reflect on that month or so of online learning, but all of that (thankfully) is in the past.
In my last post, I offered advice on how to make it through online learning during quarantine, and I did try to take my own advice sometimes (even though, yes, I did get behind with grading—another maybe-if). But I would like to look upon this fast-approaching school year with fresh eyes and a clear mind (as we all would). And as much as I would like for the year to start off as normally as possible, I do not think that will be the case. At the time of this writing, how I will begin the school year is still up in the air. Yes, my school system has a plan in place, and that is for families to be able to choose to send their student to school or to do online learning. However, the rumor mill is starting to swirl that those plans may change. Plus, my schedule isn’t really set in stone yet, so I haven’t been able to plan like I’d hoped. But this is just the state that we are in right now. We want to do what is best for everyone—best for the students, teachers, parents, administration, and the whole school. And those ideas for how to best accomplish this are constantly changing. But I do think there is one thing that we do know for sure: our classrooms are going to look different this year. We may have reduced numbers or be teaching our students virtually. And if we do have students in class, group and independent work will look differently, as will changing classes, just to name a few.
But no matter how we start back, I have decided (to the best of my ability) to try not to let this school year be overwhelming. And I can be most certain there will be tough days, but there are three things that I am going to think about or do to make this school year smoother:
Take it one day at a time
Even though this statement is cliché, it is one that helps keep me grounded. When I was completing my master’s and teaching full time, a fellow classmate told me, “Hey, I’m just going to take this one day at a time.” And sometimes, when you have a lot on your plate, that is how you need to look at things to put everything in perspective. Make a manageable list for the day, and get it done. (And if you don’t get it all done, you don’t—we’re not going to be overwhelmed, remember?)
Look to others for help
When it comes to teaching remotely (when it eventually reaches that point), I feel like I can do it well with some planning, but I also know I have a lot I can still learn from others. That’s why I want to speak with experienced teachers about best practices as well as check out social media for what other teachers are doing in their classrooms.
Sign up for professional development sessions online
Finding professional development where you can learn from experienced teachers is another great way to figure out how to navigate this new school year. And that is made easier because Social Studies School Service will be starting its webinars back up in the fall with some topics on remote learning. I will definitely be signing up for those!
I think if we start here—doing our jobs and tackling them one day at a time, with help from others when needed—this year will not seem as daunting!
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Jessica Hayes has been teaching for six years. She completed a bachelor's degree in social science education at Auburn University in 2009, and a master’s degree in English education from Jacksonville State University in 2014. Recently, she has received her instructional leadership certificate. In her work as a certified trainer for Active Classroom, she builds curriculum maps and trains educators on using the program. In her spare time, she loves reading and learning new technology/productivity skills.