What a start to the school year! I can’t believe that I am just 10 days in with students and that it’s already the end of September. With a delayed start and Covid-19 precautionary measures, this year is truly unlike any other. As I learn in-class with students, I’m trying to find the balance between honouring all the feelings that come with being out of the classroom for the last 6 months and attempting to return to some semblance of what school was before the pandemic.
I must admit that although my students are incredible, it’s been a challenge. I’ve always been a firm believer in teaching self-regulation – not compliance but rather the idea of knowing what you need and asking for or doing it, in order to successfully navigate a situation. When students need to go to the bathroom, there’s a sign-out sheet. Please don’t ask my permission, just go as you need. I use the sign-out in case of an emergency so that I know quickly where everyone is. You’re hungry? Get what you need. This was quite easy prior to the new measures being in place and now I find myself checking to see that we don’t have too many in the washroom at the same time. I worry about people eating in close proximity to others because they don’t have masks on. We created a hand-washing order and miraculously when the sink is not in use, I find myself asking who washed their hands last so that we can keep things going. This week I had a student ask, “Ms. Lambert, what about all that self-regulation stuff you taught? You know, where we do what we need when we need to?”. Navigating our learning environment with these new parameters is in direct contradiction to who I am and what I have taught students to do. I’m struggling with how we keep each other safe and still teach in the way that many of us have come to enjoy so much – collaborative, using technology, and flexible. I kept my tables for this very reason. I’ve divided them in half and have spaced them out – luckily I have a cohort of 15 at the moment – but if I get any more students, I might have to revert to rows of desks which really contradicts what I know to be good pedagogy.
I’ve seen the pictures on social media of tight spaces and know that the challenge is in every public classroom in Ontario – and beyond. I wonder, what are the ways in which educators are making the in-school experience positive for students? Because I know that for many, the experience has been positive. My nephew is in JK and was actually disappointed when he woke up on the first Saturday of the school year and he wasn’t able to go to school. I have to give a huge shout-out to his teachers because they are connecting with a child who was definitely not thrilled about starting at a new school, particularly during a pandemic. He’s enjoying himself and making friends. He’s learning and sharing that learning at home.
How might we ensure that more children experience school during this time like my nephew? It’s a question that I have been asking of myself during a time where I’ve never felt less sure of myself. I wonder if I am striking the right balance of learning while in the midst of a pandemic. My students and I have been hard at work learning and building our classroom community. How are things with you? What successes are you having? What are the challenges? I’m hoping that during a September unlike any other, that we are moving on the right track and taking some time to reflect. If you have any ideas or suggestions of great tips that are working in your classroom spaces, please feel free to share them in the comments. Please continue to take care of and be gentle with yourself during this very difficult time.