My school system is supposed to announce its plans for reopening this week. We go back on July 27 (theoretically) and the kids are supposed to return August 5. I’m not in a great place, guys. You see, I normally spend several weeks in the summer on back-to-school planning. That may be the single nerdiest sentence I’ve ever typed, but I stand by it. I love creating my curriculum.
In years past it went like this: During the summer, I check out some books about pedagogy or teaching for empowerment or the latest research about boys in the classroom or maybe all of the above. My teacher friends from other schools and I reconnect so I can hear about any new ideas they tested in their classrooms and loved. I spend more quality time with my own kids and think about the types of activities I wish their teachers would do in the classroom. I read a million articles on social media and in the news and get tons of good ideas. It’s one of my favorite parts of the job. I voluntarily recreate the wheel every school year.
But this year, I don’t have a choice.
It’s impossible to start planning, because I have no idea what my classroom—or “classroom”—will look like.
Maybe it’ll be virtual learning, in which case I have got to do better than I did during quarantine. It was a nightmare. First I assigned too much. Then I tried to differentiate too much and made myself crazy. Then I didn’t differentiate enough and all my special needs kids floundered. I called every single parent whose child was missing an assignment for three weeks, and it accomplished basically nothing. When I tried to make my assignments engaging, they were unclear. I tried to make them clear and simple, and the kids blew them off.
If I’m going to do distance learning again, I need to be in training now.
I need to know the technology plans for back to school so I can read all the books, go to all the workshops, and figure out all the apps. Because I’m committed to doing a good job this year. And I need to start actually creating my online content. Because if we’re doing virtual learning, then so are my two kids. I’ll be homeschooling two children while trying to provide feedback and online instruction to a hundred or so students. It’s not feasible to do all that while creating lesson plans; something is going to have to be prepared beforehand. There are limited hours in the day.
There’s also a chance that we’ll go back in person, in which case I will spend virtually every day teaching outside, with no access to technology.
There’s a real chance that I’ll be heading back to school, even though most doctors say it’s unsafe. One thing everyone agrees on is that outdoor is safer than indoor, so I fully expect most teachers at my school to move their classes outside. Maybe they’ll make raincoats part of the school uniform; we’ll see. Either way, that’s certainly what I’m planning to do. I’m not packing thirty little germ factories into my less-than-spacious classroom four times a day.
But our wifi doesn’t extend much past the school building. I teach at a Title I school, and a lot of my kids don’t have cell phones. I can’t have them share technology due to social distancing. So my super-cute Frayer vocabulary Google Slides? Not gonna be an option. Showing documentaries? Nope. No Kahoot, no Nearpod, no IXL. All the apps and learning platforms we’ve been encouraged to use will be either homework or nonexistent. It’ll be old school, one hundred percent.
To summarize: my first semester will either be 100% or 0% online learning.
Unless the system delays opening, I’ll have approximately two weeks to plan for either one. Or, more likely, both, since plans are liable to change at the last minute. So if you see me in my backyard, hunched over a laptop and crying into a quarantini, don’t judge. In fact, feel free to come join me. Just bring your own drink and your own chair, and make sure you sit six feet away.
What are your back to school plans? Share your thoughts on our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE Facebook group.