It's a new school year. For some schools, it has already started. For my school, today is D-day.
Every year is different. Every group of students will bring in different challenges.
But it's been mostly fun.
However, the past two years...
The 2019-20 school year was going along great. I had been moved back to the fifth grade from middle school. Don't get me wrong. It's not that I disliked the students or the curriculum. But for the majority of my career, I had been a fifth-grade teacher.
This fifth-grade class was supposed to be tough. But I was enjoying it. There were three or four students who were challenging, but overall it was fun.
And then, March 12, 2020, arrived. I had been concerned about COVID-19, suggesting to my principal that we come up with a plan. I was told there was no need to worry. I still planned.
As my students departed for the day, teachers were all talking. As of that Monday, March 16, schools in the state would be closed for three weeks. That night, we received word that we would be closed starting March 13.
Having served in the Marines, I remembered a well-known saying: When in danger, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout.
Actually, I didn't, but I felt like it.
Instead, I came up with a three-week plan of lessons. It was not difficult to follow. In all, 38 of 40 students turned in the work. In that three-week period, I came up with lessons for the rest of the school year because I figured it would be safe. I put humor in them. I made them user- and parent-friendly. Again, 38 of 40 turned in the assignments.
We tried a couple of times to have Zoom meetings, but 40 fifth-graders who haven't seen each other for a couple of weeks on “social media” were about as productive as a train wreck.
Last summer, I learned Google Classroom. I had heard about it, and then, once I started to play with it, I realized what a great tool it is. I wrote lessons for those who could learn that way and I made videos for each lesson.
Again, I put humor in it. In one, I started off a math lesson in German. About three or four phrases in it, I started speaking English. A few times I acted as if I had computer problems and began speaking in a long, drawn-out voice. I wanted the kids to be entertained as well as learning something.
Now, it comes to this year. I'm preparing for a regular school year, but the past two years have taught me to be prepared for anything. And more importantly, to use what I've learned to help the kids.
I saved all my videos. I will post them on Google Classroom so that if they have problems at home, instead of driving their parents crazy with questions, they can watch my video. I also have links to things such as Mathantics, a great YouTube series.
We received Smartboards in all of the classrooms. I first got acquainted with Smartboards in 2006. My school received five of them. We passed them out. I found out later the librarian was using it as a projector screen to show movies.
Masks? Right now, there is no plan for mandating masks. I will wear one because I'm dealing with 10-year-old kids. They cannot be vaccinated, but they can carry the virus. I had it last spring and I really don't want it again. I will encourage my students to wear a mask. Last year, only three out of 26 had trouble wearing one in the classroom. There were times they did not have to wear one, so they did have breaks from it.
Social distancing. Yes, of sorts. There will be no grouping. My desks are arranged with about 3 feet between them. But last year, we had these annoying screens on desks. We have none of those.
Remote learning? Last year, parents had the option of sending their children to school or having them learn remotely. This year, there is no option. But will school close for periods of time?
I have no idea. If I knew, I'd also know the winning lottery numbers.
Take care, and let's all have a great school year.
Brian Love is a freelance writer in Cleveland.