May the 4th be with your students

Anyone else feeling a bit gutted after hearing the news that we will not be back in our classrooms until May the 4th? (writer raises hand) While listening to the Minister of Education deliver this news today I ran a range of emotions. Firstly, I am thankful that the government was proactive when it came to our collective health by insisting on physical distancing and staying at home.* As a result, the lives of 2 000 000 students, 200 000 educators, support staff, and their families will benefit greatly from being apart. For me this seems like light years away.

Heeding the Chief Medical Officer of Health’s suggestion to close our schools beyond March Break was a prudent move, but it all happened so suddenly that we were all left with a great deal of uncertainty heading into the time off. With such short notice, it was hard to orchestrate a full scale instructional response to the news. Like so many of the #onted family, there was some concern because information was not forthcoming. I remember saying to my students(Gr 7) that it was more important for us all to follow the advice of doctors to do our part to limit the spread of COVID 19 than it was to worry about homework.**

Our last day in the classroom before the break was supposed to be a celebration of hard work to start Term 2, but instead it was a sombre send off with more questions than there were answers at the time. I only find consolation in this now knowing that the timing of this year’s March Break probably saved countless members in our schools from illness.

Not having our students in classes eliminated millions of potential interactions that would have undoubtedly accelerated the spread of the COVID 19. I am very relieved not to be in a workplace that’s traditionally susceptible to transmission of known/unknown and unchecked viruses. We have all been in a classroom with a student/teacher who should have stayed home that day. I am not lying when I say it feels like germ warfare in school sometimes. It is a relief, to be doing my part in social isolation especially as I have a 96 year old and a severe asthmatic at home.

In fact, although really missing my students/collegues, I am thankful that we have all been given the chance to stay at home in order to slow the spread of COVID 19, to look after our own health, and to tend to the wellbeing of our families. This is hard on all of us in so many ways because it is all so new. As I shared with a number of people, “Normal” is sick and its replacement “New Normal” is here bringing with it some good and bad to each of our days. The problem is that it keeps changing faster than we’d like.

Today’s announcement lifted my spirits because it meant that if we all do our part, then we have a date for a return to Normal. It also means this time can be curated to engage our students further in this year’s learning. Not knowing what was going to happen had me struggling to remember what day of the week it was since my routines were put in limbo with each postponement. No more days when, suddenly at 7 am, I wake up thinking I was late for work only to realize my body was dealing with the “New Normal” while still on “Normal” time.

Even though we will only be meeting via Google Classroom, our class will be back in session. After contacting families and students this week, it is clear they are excited to be back, even if it will only be digitally until May 4th. Fingers crossed it won’t need to be longer. In the meantime we will get on with the connecting, communicating, and learning for now.

Whether we return to the classroom on May the 4th or not, I couldn’t help but repeat the wish I shared in the title. May the 4th be with your students, and while we stay at home may every one of us be healthy and safe.

*Although arguably, essential and non-essential jobs may be a future debate topic.
** I did promise them some work via our Google Classroom once March Break was officially over.

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The Author

Will Gourley

J/I lead learner and SERT at Adrienne Clarkson PS in the YRDSB. Focused on disruptive, and divergent modern learning. Member of the global TED-Ed(Club) movement, 1 of 110 TED Ed Innovative Educators, and Global Math Project Ambassador. Twitter @willgourley Proudly blogging here and at https://escheweducationalist.wordpress.com/

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