Will 2022 be the year we establish new, sustainable routines during this period of continuous uncertainty?
Perhaps we should embrace the uncertainty. Show our fortitude and resilience. Prepare. Review lessons learned.
And yet, time has been compressed, and making it through the day is still more important than planning for tomorrow.
At the end of 2020–2021, we were all spent. It was like we were on a boat, bailing water over the side, instead of trying to fix the leak, because we didn’t have time for that.
The boat made its way to shore somehow, and we disembarked. We crawled to our cars one last time and headed home for a much-needed break.
What Should Have Happened in the Summer of 2021?
Many of us put our minds to the heady task of rebounding from what was decidedly a dreadful school year, once we emerged from that much-needed break. Still tired, feeling not a little beaten, we did what teachers do: reflect, strategize, plan, and plan some more. We brought to school our ideas for helping students ease back into in-person schooling.
On the one hand, it would have been helpful if all that had been more coordinated. On the other hand, I’m not sure how many people would have been keen on sitting through yet another online conference.
What do you think? I’d love to read your thoughts.
What Happened in Your School?
News articles and blog posts warned all of us that all stakeholders in the learning community were still exhausted, even after the summer break. There was evidence of it in schools throughout the country: teachers and staff resigned, the substitute list shrank. We still are. I wonder how many of us will resign or retire at the end of this year? How many students will choose other methods of schooling?
Personally, the apathy shocked me. I thought most of us would be thrilled to return to in-person learning. I was prepared to see some reticence, but not as much as I actually witnessed. By the way, I was also not prepared to feel that way myself. If you read other posts on my profile, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how I was going to return to school refreshed and invigorated.
There were several reasons why many of us went into a depression. If you experienced something similar, please comment. The only way to rebound is within a supportive community dedicated to rebounding.
Where Are We Now?
Throughout the learning community, the struggle to acclimate to an in-person learning environment is still evident. Those who had been online for 18 months still struggle with in-person socialization and schooling.
That struggle is most evident in my school among the ninth and tenth grade students. Not only were they returning to in-person learning, but also entering an unfamiliar school for the first time. Some acted out in ways we did not expect.
They are still struggling. Some students are addicted to the phones they had easy access to during online schooling. They are tired, and their sleep schedules are still not what they were before we all went home. Some have forgotten the rules. Some have lost their filters and speak their mind, often to the detriment of others. How do we combat all that when time is still compressed, and making it through the day is still more important than planning for tomorrow?
How do we deal with the negative outside forces that have pushed into our classrooms? Delta, school boards out of control, politics, inexplicable anger, mental-health crises, bullying, Omicron, mask-mandates, the substitute shortage, TikTok challenges, physical insecurity… All these and more serve as a reminder that school and community are inextricably linked in good and bad ways.
How do we readjust? How do we still teach to standards and address social-emotional issues and trauma? How do we reengage ourselves and our students?
This is how it feels: we made it to shore, left the boats where they are, crawled back to our cars, took a break, prepared for a new year, and returned to the same boats this school year without enough sealant to plug the leaks before we embarked on another school year. Now, we are back to bailing out.
I think we need a cruise ship to pull up alongside us and rescue us.
What is going on outside school ultimately affects what happens inside. We are still in a pandemic, but pandemic fatigue is real. Many want to return to normal; they are fed up. I get that, but if we embrace the uncertainty — as we must — we cannot expect to return to normal operations, normal day-to-day.
Instead, we need to stay in the moment. What is happening right now that we can fix? Stop for a moment — all of us — and identify the leaks. Time needs to decompress again. In my opinion, we need to stop thinking several things.
- We can help students “catch up.” Catch up to what? How about we address the needs of the students where they are, instead of where we think they need to be? There is too much pressure on these kids to achieve artificial goals, meet artificial standards. If we launch from students’ prior knowledge, what they know and learned during the pandemic, instead of what we think they should know, I think we will be amazed.
- We don’t have time to explicitly address SEL and trauma-related issues. I think it is time to add classes to the schedule taught by counselors and teachers. We need the expertise of psychologists. We should take time to provide that instruction. Teachers, students, and staff would benefit greatly.
- We can’t change scheduling patterns and graduation requirements. Let’s look at the big elephant in the room. Do students really need all these credits, or should we lengthen the core classes to help students engage the curriculum (and take the SEL/Trauma classes). What can we drop? What courses should have longer class times?
- PE and health classes should be one-semester classes. Kids need a physical and emotional outlet, and PE and health classes could prove beneficial. I think both classes should be year-long. Let’s focus on the whole child, many of whom still feel the effects of being cooped up for so long. Let them move around, practice hand-eye coordination and motor skills, and have some fun. Encourage them to recharge.
Again, your comments are welcome and encouraged. Let’s start a conversation!