Back to School? What Teachers Can Do to Prepare for This Fall's Uncertain School Future
Everyone wants to know what back to school is going to look like. You've made it through the first wave of a global pandemic. Overnight and, in some cases, quite literally, like the superstar teachers you and your colleagues are, you shifted your instruction online or incorporated distance learning. You learned new ways to communicate with students and their parents and with administrators and each other. Finally, it's time for a much-earned summer break. So, what's next? What will "back to school" look like, and more importantly, when will it happen? That is the million-dollar question, and unfortunately, no one seems to have an answer . . . yet. What can you do in the meantime? Here are the top three things you can do now to prepare for going back to school (whenever and however it happens!).
#1 - Summer Self-Care
This school year will probably go down in history as one of the most trying ones of your career. While summer break is usually a time for rest and reprieve, for this year, that rest is absolutely crucial. You need to be refreshed so you are ready to return to the classroom this fall.
With the countless hours you've spent online this past semester, be intentional this summer about insisting on tech-free time. Take time to be outside and soak up nature. Get lost in a good book. Enjoy a walk around the park, a hike in the hills, or a stroll along the boardwalk. Whether you set daily screen time limits for yourself or simply make a point to get outside for a bit each day, take advantage of the healing power of nature.
What brings you joy? Whether its music, movies, sports, or family, find time for those things this summer. Breathe deeply, laugh often, and (temporarily) put your teacher hat away. As you unwind, be intentional about all aspects of self-care. Be mindful of your physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, social, and professional needs. If you need a daily reminder, this self-care calendar will encourage and challenge you to make time for yourself each day.
#2 - Practice New Platforms
The overnight shift to distance learning threw a major wrench in most educators' plans. While each new year in the classroom and each new set of students requires us to adapt our instruction and plans, there was little to no time to prepare for a suddenly virtual classroom experience. Now, however, teachers have a few weeks to collectively catch their breath. Given the uncertainty of the new school year, summer may be a great time to learn new digital platforms and attempt to create (or perfect) a distance learning solution. When caught in fight-or-flight mode, teachers are forced to work with whatever is readily available, even if it isn't the best option or solution for their students' needs. Take advantage of a few down weeks and explore all of the digital resources that are available and determine if they may help you more effectively teach virtually if needed.
If you are looking for a way to organize teacher and student communication, share assignments, and post grades, Google Classroom may be a learning management system that you want to explore. The platform works as a digital organizer and can offer your students (and their parents) timely feedback-all organized in one location. This step-by-step article will help you learn more about Google Classroom, what it is, what it does, and how it works.
Zoom quickly became the go-to teaching platform as it was the closest way for teachers to replicate the live classroom experience. While most teachers mastered the basics of starting and ending a meeting, did you know there are other tips and tricks that can make these video conferences even more effective? You can create polls, breakout rooms for student discussions, use annotation tools on shared screens, and so much more! Zoom has also partnered with Outschool to provide free online teaching webinars to help educators learn how to adapt to online instruction.
Additional Teacher Tools:
Summer's downtime may afford you the opportunity to dive in and explore some additional online teaching tools that you didn't have enough time to learn while still teaching. Do you want to learn how to create screen recordings, discussion platforms, or video tutorials? Now is your opportunity!
#3 - Purposeful Planning
If the 2019-2020 school year taught us anything, it's the fact that we need to expect the unexpected. There is a high probability that classroom instruction will look different state-to-state, and it will most certainly look different than it has in years past. Will it ever return to "normal"? It will return to a new normal, for the time being, but even that is subject to change depending on the ever-changing state of the COVID-19 virus and other extenuating circumstances. That being said, how can you plan for next year?
Rethink Projects from the Past
Many teachers are mourning the fact that this year's students missed out on some of the former's favorite end-of-year or content-specific projects. As you think about the upcoming school year, begin brainstorming ways in which you could make some of your favorite assignments feasible in a distance learning environment. How can students still complete and share them digitally if needed?
Pick a Plan B
Plan as though you will be teaching your students in person this fall, but also create a backup plan in case you are called to quickly transition to online. Each teacher has a go-to sub plan folder-the one you can pull out and use in case of a family emergency when there isn't time to create detailed sub plans. Create a similar "pandemic plan b" type of virtual folder. You can easily find a week's worth of ready-to-use instructions and downloadable engaging workbooks from edHelper.com. Consider creating a series for each student in case the virus re-emerges. This would allow your students to continue learning at home while you get all of your distance learning resources in place. The daily learning workbooks are the perfect resource to share with parents as they seek to help their children and free math worksheets or jumbo math workbooks offer excellent review and extend math learning.
#4 - Relax and Be Prepared
Distance learning this spring certainly had its challenges, but it also helped teachers become aware of strategies and tools they may want to continue implementing in their classrooms. While we may not know exactly what teaching and education will look like this fall until the school year is again upon us, the strategies outlined in this article will help teachers relax and prepare for the year ahead regardless of what it will look like. With all of the upcoming unknowns, there is still one thing we can count on: teachers are absolute superheroes! No matter what's to come, you will take the changes in stride and ensure that your students have everything they need to be successful.