Well, I’ve been back in the classroom for nearly 3 weeks now. Are things looking a bit different this year than last year? Absolutely! Are there some feelings of anxiety? Of course! Are there moments of uncertainty? Obviously! Am I glad to be back? You know it!
This school year has started off unlike any other school year. Daily temperature checks for myself and my students. Getting used to extra technology in my classroom that I have never worked with before. Measuring the distance between desks. Just so many unique experiences, but do you know what is still present in my school and in me? Dedication to serving and educating these amazing students!
My school started the year teaching in-person and remotely. It’s challenging! Engaging students who are at home while also engaging students in-person creates obstacles, yet also opportunities. This is the year for teachers to push themselves to try new things. This is the year to take risk with students and rise up to overcome the obstacles. If there was ever a time to let teachers leeway in there lessons, this is it! Let us find new ways to connect with our students in a way that promotes growth through new opportunities.
As a teacher, I want to see my students be better today than they were yesterday, and better tomorrow than they are today. Will students always achieve that? No, but I can help them move forward and build the “want” to be better. Students will falter, but they need to understand the why and build upon that to become better.
Each day starts off with seeing students walk up the stairs and down the hallway. They are greeted with a thermometer to check their temperature. I can’t tell if they are smiling or not behind the mask that they are wearing, but all I can do is provide them with a positive good morning greeting and welcome them back into the classroom. Not being able to see the smiles is a struggle for me. I find that the energy my students bring to the classroom energizes me, but this year is different. I am the one that needs to bring the energy. I am the one that needs to deliver the extra morning boost…and let me tell you this…it’s exhausting!
I am feeling more tired this year than I have in the previous starts of school years that I have encountered. Perhaps this is from the extended absence from the classroom than I am used to, or perhaps it’s because there are so many extra responsibilities that I have to do each day to make sure the classroom is ready for students. Each day I need to make sure the desks have been cleaned, that the desk shields are ready for use, that the desks are still distanced, that the camera and other technology are still working correctly, that I have taken my own temperature and recorded the information properly…all of this along with the regular activities of planning and teaching, ensuring that the student work is available for both in-person students and remote learners, taking the boys in my classes to the restroom and walking up stairs at least 6 times a day, and responding to emails and contacting parents. It very well could be a combination of both, but whatever it is, I do get exhausted throughout the day. I know that this will eventually be decreased, but right now, it is a challenge.
Yet, being back in the classroom is exciting. Yes, I can’t see the smiles and I am getting quite tired each day, but those things are lessened because I’m back where I feel like I belong…the classroom! This environment brings me hope, joy, and strength. I see teachers rising up and using new technology. Sure…the technology may not always work as we want it to, but we still make learning happen. Teachers are working to educate students wherever they are! They are working to make students feel accepted, loved, and cared for by their school community. This is where my hope, joy, and strength come from! There is one greater source of all these for me…and that source is the students.
I have heard educators say that there is no way students will be able to comply with all the new rules and regulations that schools are going to implement in regards to safety measures. Students wearing masks all day? Nope…can’t happen! Students walking down the hallway properly? Good luck with that! Students physically distancing from one another? They’re kids and they won’t do it! Well, students CAN do it and students ARE doing it! You know how you make that happen? You show that you believe in them! You show them that you care for them! Is everything perfect everyday? No, it’s not, but nobody is perfect. Are the students exceeding expectations? They have met the expectations and they are exceeding them! They’re doing it because we have created an environment where they feel supported, loved, and cared for…and we KNOW they can make it happen!Once students feel that, they can achieve anything!
There are so many great sources of support that I have had in preparation for this school year. My amazing wife has been there for me throughout all this! She knows the anxiety that I have faced and has eased my mind so much. My family that has made me feel confident about the preparations that my school has done to welcome students back! My Teach Better PLN and my fellow Teach Better Ambassadors. Having a group of educators there to talk about ideas and support has been amazing. Finally, my PLN of educators on Twitter.
This school year is going to be an amazing learning year! Students are going to continue to build up the feeling of care, love, and support for not only themselves but for each other. I am going to do my best to ensure that each student has a voice within the classroom. I am going to work to support these students through all of these obstacles. While desk shields and masks are seen as barriers between the students and I, these are going to be barriers that I will work to break down…not physically, but educationally, emotionally, and socially. Student safety is my first priority, but the social and emotional well being of each student is right up there. I am going to make sure that being back to school is the greatest educational experience that they have had!