Right now, all eyes are on the fall.
None of us know what school will look like when it starts up again. Almost everyone is creating contingency plans. We have no idea how classes will be structured, what new health guidelines we’ll need to follow, or even if distance learning will still be the norm. Schools are facing massive budget cuts which are sure to complicate matters, and then there’s the presence of COVID-19 to consider. All this, and it’s still only May.
I wish I could write some quippy joke to make everyone reading this feel better, but I can’t. This is going to be hard. I honestly don’t think educators have faced a challenge this big in my lifetime. What I can do is tell you that you’re not alone. Educators everywhere are coming together to develop strategies, resources, and networks to assist one another in the coming year. Whatever challenges we might face, we’ll do so together.
A Look Ahead
Part of networking is deducing the most likely scenarios to occur in the fall. Jennifer Gonzalez, from the Cult of Pedagogy blog, spent a good deal of time polling teachers and educators to discern what the new year could look like. While none of these predictions are certain, there are a few likely outcomes educators should consider. What we learn now could give us the advantage we need in the coming months. So, here are just four potential options for when school starts again.
Depending on whether states get the virus under control, there’s a very real chance that schools will continue with distance learning. It’s not as impossible as it sounds. Many lessons have already been adapted for a virtual environment, and with teachers already mastering the tips and tricks to remote teaching, some districts might opt to stick with the familiar. If this happens, teachers will need to put a greater emphasis on keeping students connected. It would also be necessary to ensure all students have reliable access to the internet.
As Gonzalez herself admits, this is not a great option, but it does seem workable. With more and more remote resources being added each week, we should all be taking inventory.
Another possibility is the introduction of staggered days. Rather than have everyone return all at once, students and teachers would be assigned specific days to attend class in-person. This seems to be a popular idea since it would allow the schools to gradually pick up steam. However, it also requires the most coordination. The number of returning students and teachers would be limited. Social distancing would need to be strictly enforced, and provisions would have to be made for the most vulnerable among us.
It’s tempting to consider this option because it’s the closest we have to “normal” schooling. However, we need to understand that staggered days would involve great responsibility.
In a recent blog, Gonzalez mused on the possibility of having students focus exclusively on one subject for an extended period. She writes,
“This idea kind of blew my mind: Students stay in the same class, with the same teacher, taking a single course for a few weeks, then rotate to another course for a few weeks. So instead of changing classes once an hour, they’d change once every two weeks or so. This was shared by science teacher Sam Long on Twitter, and I think it has real potential.”
“Some people pushed back on this idea because they hated the thought of students sitting in the same class for so long, but if a teacher is mixing things up, delivering instruction in an engaging way, providing good breaks, and not requiring long periods of sitting, it could work.”
It’s an intriguing idea and would certainly give students a greater appreciation of their subject matter. However, the lack of diversity might chafe some students and its unorthodox approach could alienate parents. Either way, educators should check how much content they have available for extended lessons.
The Hybrid Approach
The final option is to take a hybrid approach. Much like staggering days, a hybrid approach would blend in-person schooling with distance learning. Students would attend class on specific days while working remotely on others. This approach offers a variety of flexibility and allows teachers to use many of the virtual resources they’ve amassed during the summer. However, it would also put greater responsibility on the students themselves. While it’s never bad to get students invested in their own learning, getting them to show up could be challenging.
I’d like to end this blog on a positive note, so I’ll just encourage anyone reading this to give yourself some grace. Facing the unknown is a scary, frustrating situation. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, allow yourself the time to rest, heal, or simply organize your thoughts. You’re not alone in this journey. Remember, whatever challenges we might face, we’ll do so together.