If you're a teacher who has recently made the transition from remote teaching to in-person teaching, chances are you are experiencing a mixed bag of feelings. And if you're gearing up to be back in the classroom soon, you may feel a little overwhelmed with anticipation, even if you're super excited.
While guidelines will vary between states, districts, and schools, we want to offer some advice for making your transition back to in-person teaching as smooth and rewarding as possible.
Safety is Still Paramount
While Covid-10 cases and deaths are decreasing in many places across the country and vaccination efforts are becoming more widespread, it's important to remember that the pandemic is still happening, and there may still be both fear and safety protocols to navigate upon returning to a group setting at school.
Information is being updated frequently, but as of now, the CDC's safety guidelines for K-12 schools still recommend physical distancing of at least 3 feet between students. It's also a good idea to make sure your classroom is stocked with tissues, hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies, and son on. This is a great resource for more tips on classroom safety during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Know Your School's Guidelines
Above all else, familiarize yourself with your state, district, and school's guidelines surrounding Covid-19 safety so that you're on the same page with everyone: the community, administration, parents, and students alike. If your district or administration has shared resources on its guidelines, it's a good idea to print or bookmark them for easy access during your teaching hours.
Also, be prepared for these guidelines to shift and change, perhaps quickly. As your state and district reach different re-opening and vaccination tiers, your school will likely adapt.
Communication is Key
If you've recently returned to the classroom or are returning soon, chances are that everyone will have plenty of questions and strong emotions surrounding the transition.
You school may have specific guidelines for communicating with parents and students about Covid-19 concerns and safety, but above all, try to encourage and foster open, compassionate communication about your students' questions, anxieties, or concerns. Perhaps you could carve out a few minutes daily or weekly to check in with how everyone is doing, or encourage your students to submit written feedback about how they're feeling about being back at school.
Get Creative With Your Classroom
If your school is requiring or encouraging social distancing in the classroom, now's the time to get creative with your space! We love all of these creative ideas for elementary classrooms, including decorating desks thematically and bringing a little piece of communal spaces to everyone (like the old story rug). This is another great list of ways to socially distance in a K-3 classroom.
You could implement fun ways to greet your students or for your students to greet one another upon entering your classroom. This is a nice way to boost morale when hugging and high-fiving aren't an option, whether it's elbow-bumping, air-hugging, doing some type of call-and-response, or any of these other safe greeting ideas.
If possible and weather permits, also consider taking your students outside for a bit, especially if the outdoors can be worked into your lesson creatively.
Balance Routine and Flexibility
Having a nice balance of routine and flexibility is a good rule of thumb for your classroom even aside from the pandemic. Structure and routine create boundaries that help students stay focused, on task, and accountable. On the other hand, flexibility allows for schedule and curriculum changes, prevents monotony, encourages fun, and fosters compassion for many students' and families' challenging circumstances.
You will have to decide what exactly this balance looks like in your unique classroom. Perhaps you adopt a new policy regarding late work or extra credit, or block off some classroom time for doing homework, freewriting, etc.
Above all, it's a good idea to be prepared for greater adaptability during this period of transition to account for any changes that may arise.
Practice Radical Self Care
Another rule of thumb for teachers, administrators, and counselors all of the time: practice exceptional self care! Teachers already have one of the hardest jobs out there, but they're been particularly stretched to maximum this year. It's critically important that you rest and refuel as necessary so that you can continue showing up for your students.
Self care is highly subjective, but we highly suggest carving out a designated stretch of time each day and/or week that's dedicated entirely to yourself, whether that includes exercising, napping, meditating, bingeing TV, crafting, etc.
And of course, don't forget all of the critical-but-so-easy-to-forget daily acts of self care too: eating a good breakfast, hydrating, getting physical activity, and getting a good night's sleep!
Advocate For Yourself
Above all else, if you're feeling anxious, unclear about Covid-19 compliance guidelines, confused, or overwhelmed, reach out to your administration for support. There's definitely a learning curve for everyone when it comes to reacclimating to in-person teaching, so don't be afraid to ask for help and resources when you need them! Good luck, stay safe, and happy teaching!