Who/What/Where/How/Why of Pandemic Teaching

It’s been a year since I last posted here, and it has been a YEAR. In the past 12 months so much has changed professionally and personally but one thing remained constant- we, as educators (parents, and even humans) cannot plan for tomorrow while a global pandemic rages on, dictating each decision we make- or each decision that is made for us.

Over the past year my school was fully remote, hybrid, remote, hybrid, and in person full time (for half the kids in my class, and fully remote for the other half). My own kids had a similar year, full of in-out-in-out. My daughter came through Kindergarten reading where she should be, my son learned to multiply, and everyone is off to the next year of… who knows what.

I think back to March of 2020 and how, at that time, we could have never fathomed that we’d be entering a third school year that is completely ruled by Covid protocols. We would have never believed that we’d still be doing “this” (whatever this may be) instead of “that” (whatever we deemed normal in the “before times”). It’s unfathomable to me that in 3 days I will meet a new crew of fifth graders, and 85% of them have not stepped foot in school since March 13, 2020.

So, with that in mind, the “plan to not plan” is even more unique this year. Last year, when I wrote my last post, I was concerned with the logistics of WHERE we would be. I was concerned with the logistics of HOW we would do it. Where and how were the two forces keeping me up at night. I couldn’t see through the weeds of those two obstacles. In the end, the where turned out to not matter (I actually really enjoyed teaching remotely-go figure) and the how found it’s rhythm (man, kids are resilient little things!) The WHY was always the same- we do it for the kids.

But… as I think to this year coming up. I have to say, I am wondering a lot about the WHATs of the year. WHAT will it look like for the families in my district where I teach who desperately are still fighting for a remote option? Or WHAT about the families where I live desperately fighting a mask mandate? WHAT will teachers do, knowing they have kids in their rooms who come from families in both groups- families who desperately still want their kids home, and are petrified of Covid, and parents who want their kids unmasked in the same room, because they truly believe that should be their choice. WHAT does a teacher do in these situations?

WHAT does a teacher do to bridge the gap of abnormal schools for the past 1.5 years for these kids? Many kids kept up last year- they attended classes online and they learned, leaving at approximately the level they would have if they had been in the building. But not all. And even those kids who kept up academically, there is the matter of social and emotional growth that hasn’t taken place the way it usually would without the peer interactions that occur in school. WHAT does a teacher do in these situations?

I know the WHERE and the HOW can still change. I’m not entirely confident we will make it through this whole school year in the building for all 180 days, just based off of what I see coming out of the schools in the South that are open. The WHAT will change. It will change, and it will change, and it will change. But I realize, if I truly focus on the WHY, it’ll hopefully drown out some of the noise from everything else. Kids are kids. Kids have always been kids, and kids will always be kids. There’s a reason I didn’t go into a field where my day is spent with adults, and it’s because… I prefer kids, their outlook (usually far more optimistic and positive), and their adaptability. I like that kids tend to surprise you in ways you can’t expect, and impress you in ways you didn’t foresee.

So…. off to another year with no plan. Off to another year where the only thing I know to expect is that it will be unexpected. But, this year, I know my room will be full of kids. I won’t be talking to them through screens, I’ll actually see them in person. My WHY will be more concrete when I can see them in the room and see them in the environment where they belong. So, we may not know WHERE we will be all year, or HOW we will do it, we may not know WHAT we will teach them, but we will get to know WHO they are… and that has always been what this was all about.

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