Last Saturday was graduation day at the university I teach at. It looked different, because the world is different.
No crowds of students in caps and gowns, no families vying for parking and cursing the early start, no diplomas – or in our case, “Welcome to the Alumni Association” papers (grades aren’t official until after the ceremony, so diplomas are mailed.)
However, there were still faculty members in regalia reading names of students and celebrating their achievements, it was just over zoom instead of in person.
Many classrooms are winding down much the same way – end of school celebrations have become virtual and the countdown is on. There is so much uncertainty about the fall.
Government officials are saying that it is unlikely that the level of testing needed, or a vaccine, will be available by the time school starts in the fall. It’s leaving teachers in limbo wondering how to prepare for back to school.
All the “What Ifs”
Like many people, I have felt anxious about what to do about preparing for the 2020-2021 school year.
- Will we go back to campus or will we teach online again?
- If we go back, what changes will need to take place in our spaces?
- In our routines?
- Will it only be half of the class at a time?
- Will it be shorter days?
- Will face masks be required?
So many “what if’s!!”
It was leaving my head spinning and feeling helpless to be able to share advice and recommendations. I was upset and confused but then all of a sudden it dawned on me; I had a week – one week! – when all of this hit to figure out how to take my course from face to face to online.
I had been a participant in plenty of zoom meetings, but never led one. I had zero experience with distance learning and the next assignment on our syllabus was a community observation where the students go out and observe literacy in a community setting outside of school – how in the world were they going to complete that when stay at home orders were in place?
I had more questions than answers, but like usual, all my teacher friends rallied together.
All of a sudden there were dozens of zoom trainings, ideas for instruction, and for the elementary classes, tons and tons of free online resources. Huge companies like Zoom, Google and Epic! made their formerly paid resources free to help with the transition. So, I figured it all out, as did every teacher I know, and actually finished the semester on a positive note making learning meaningful and developing our relationships further. All in one week. In a global pandemic.
Let that sink in for a minute – I completely changed gears and restructured my entire course in one week – just like every elementary teacher I have met. When you think about it, it is pretty darn amazing how quickly we all figured out our new reality.
So, like a light bulb going off over my head, it occurred to me that it was silly to worry about how to plan for next year for two reasons.
Some things won’t change
I realized some things won’t change – the format of delivery maybe; but how I connect with my students, formulate best practices, and what beliefs I hold—no.
Who I am and what I believe about good teaching doesn’t change no matter what platform or proximity I have. To paraphrase Brendon Burchard, I am still going to build on my beliefs in the summer and launch my classroom in the fall, whether that is remotely or in person.
And two, if it just so happens that I plan for one thing and actually get another, well then I will just channel my inner Ross from Friends and PIVOT! I’ve done it once in an extremely short time, so I know I can do it again if I have to. I cannot let the “what if’s” win!
To that end, I have designed a summer workshop series to help prepare for back to school, whether it is year one or thirty-one for you!
As always, there will be some topics that are particularly relevant to those new graduates I mentioned at the beginning of this blog post –
- tips for interviewing (whether it be in person or online),
- what to prioritize,
- how to connect with new colleagues,
- and developing relationships with students.
I am also planning a book study – I’ll be polling the members of my Facebook group (Happy Classroom Collective) about which book will serve their needs best. There will be freebies here on the blog too to go along with many topics.
I know many of you are wrapping up your school year and everyone needs a break, so we won’t start until June 1. Check back here or on the Facebook page for updates.
In the meantime, what topic do you for sure need me to cover? Let me know in the comments or on FB… And happy teaching!
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