Saturday, August 1

Let's Talk About Reopening Schools

reopening-schools
 

Let’s talk about reopening schools this fall. It’s funny that I am saying that because I have spent the last few weeks avoiding the discussion of that topic like it was the plague. Why? The topic of reopening schools has teachers brimming over with emotions. We have been on pins and needles all summer waiting, just waiting to see how our worlds will be forever changed this fall. Each district email has been viewed with anxiety and questions that there are no answers to yet.  We want to go back to school this fall and have our “normal” back. We want to greet students each morning with hugs and high fives. We want to gather our kiddos on the carpet to share a story and discussion. We want to give students manipulatives and let them work with hands on tools, or build amazing projects. We want to work in small groups to help our students tackle difficult concepts and achieve those precious “light bulb moments”. We want to teach students how to work collaboratively. We want to hug them when they cry, show them our smiles, and help them know how much we care. However, we realize that it is impossible in our current reality to go back to school as “normal”. Therefore, I ask you to please let us catch our breath.

 

reopening-schools

Give us a chance to catch our breath and time to process what is being asked of us professionally and emotionally. Professionally, many of us are being told to teach in a way that completely contrasts our teaching philosophy. I believe education should be a fun, hands on, engaging, and collaborative experience that fosters kiddos to seek more and become lifelong learners. I have spent years making my classroom a place where these things happen; where fun and learning are at the forefront of each day. Students know when they come to my room that they will be creating epic projects, learning how to work together, they will move constantly, feel loved, and have fun.

Now, I am being told I must change everything. On a professional level, I will have to alter my instruction style from small groups, hands on, collaborative learning. In its place will be independent work and lecture style whole group instruction. This makes me want to cry because it is not how I teach and see my students thriving each year. So please, pause and let me catch my breath.

reopening-schools


Let's talk about completely changing our classroom environments. My classroom is styled more as a learning café. Students have flexible seating options and move about the room as needed for stretch breaks and to work in their best fit spot. I have big tables, comfortable rugs, pillows, crate seats, kicky bands, and more. Now my students will sit in individualized spots, and desks with standard chairs. The rug must be removed, as well as pillows and other flexible seating options. Students can no longer move around the room as needed. Professionally, everything from the way I plan for and deliver instruction must change. My cozy and colorful room must also change. So please, practice patience and give me time to wrap my head around how I must completely change how I do my job. Give me time to catch my breath.

 

reopening-schools
 

Let’s talk about the emotional rollercoaster teachers have been on since March. We have had our students ripped from our rooms overnight. We learned how to alter instruction and work in the digital world, however we missed our students. What you must understand is that we spend so much time with our students that our class becomes like a little family. We missed them and worried about them terribly. Now, we are being told that we will return in some capacity but it will be very far from “normal”. We will stare out and see little masked faces. Where group projects and hands on learning once stood now stand desks in rows, feet apart. There is no rug for cozy mini lessons or to come together to share the joy of a story. There is no recess for kids to play on the playground, tag, basketball, or jump rope. School is now a ghost of what it used to be. So please, give teachers a minute to process. Allow us time to mourn what is lost; be angry, sad, and nervous. These feelings are justified. We teachers pour our heart and soul into what we do because we love helping kids. We love helping them grasp difficult concepts, grow socially, and conquer feats that they didn’t believe they could. We love building relationships with our students, growing a strong classroom community, and having fun with our kiddos. Now, that will be replaced by masked faces, distance, partitions, and individual work. It is heartbreaking. Teachers have gone through an emotional roller coaster this summer. Every new update is another gut wrenching drop in the emotional ride we have been on. So, please give teachers time to process the new reality. Give time for teachers to grapple with the drastic changes to the job they love. I know it is difficult to understand the emotional trench we must climb out of, especially if you are not in the classroom every day. I ask that you pause before passing judgement on an educator right now. I ask that you jack the brakes before judging and posting a negative rant. If you feel you must share something, give grace. Give grace and time for educators to tackle their new reality this fall. Give grace and a kind ear while teachers process the loss of what school once was. I know there is a great deal to be nervous or angry about in the world right now, but I ask that you do not take it out on teachers. We are doing our very best to plan for an unplannable year and make learning fun even in these strict conditions. Give teachers grace and not grief in this back to school season. We will march on and make the year the best it can be for our students, but please let us catch our breath first.