Spring truly is an astounding season. After months of darkness and cold, the sudden shift in temperature catches you off guard. The days suddenly get brighter, barren trees suddenly sprout green leaves, and the birds break the silence with their chirping. It almost feels as though the land was coming back to life. It’s no wonder that early cultures tended to associate spring with life, joy, and regeneration.
Of course, for many of us, this season is still tinged with a grim presence. It’s been over a year since COVID-19 completely upended the world as we knew it. I’m sure many of us had hoped things would be back to normal by now, and while promising signs are on the horizon, we’ll probably be contending with the virus for at least another year. This knowledge can be exhausting for teachers, especially since many classrooms are starting to meet again for in-person schooling. How can we possibly bring regeneration to our classroom when so many issues remain unresolved?
Preparing New Growth
While the situation is not ideal, we can still use the momentum of spring to help our students (and each other) navigate things going forward. Teachers are masters of adaptation and teaching under COVID has taught us how to keep our balance while the landscape of education continually changes. In order to master our return to the classroom, we need to take what we’ve learned over the past year and consider how it applies to the challenges we’re facing today. Here are just a few things to consider in the coming months:
- Remember to Rest: This may sound counterproductive, but it couldn’t be more important! Teachers have been working like mad this past year and it’s easy for us to get overworked and burnt out. If we continue to burn the candle at both ends, we’ll have nothing left for our classroom. Make sure you’re taking time to relax and restore yourself. Once you’re rested, you’ll be able to engage your students with renewed purpose.
- Lead with Safety: We are so close to getting through this pandemic. The last thing anyone wants is for people to get sick just because they returned to school! Start your days by showing your students that their mental and physical safety comes first. You can use creative methods, such as inventing a fun no-hand handshake, or you can take a more practical route and teach your students about mask maintenance. Just let them know that their safety is your first priority.
- Build Connection: Once safety has been established, focus on building relationships, and provide ways for students to connect through collaboration. Remember, most of them have spent the last year only meeting via Zoom, so their social-emotional learning may need some refreshing. Don’t be afraid to take a moment and play a game together as a class. You can also use project-based learning units like the ones found at Blue Apple to get students collaborating on timely topics.
- Keep it Simple: Let’s be honest, many of us are feeling the strain of this prolonged pandemic. Don’t feel like learning has to be a spectacle now just because you’re back in the classroom. Identify the important parts of your lesson and let go of any extraneous clutter that may be holding you back. This approach can also help students to find their balance as they return to class.
- Be Emotionally Available: It feels a little strange to acknowledge this, but we’re all living through an incredibly traumatic event. Students are going to need help managing their emotions as they return to the classroom. There are going to be plenty of positives to be sure, but other students might be struggling with frustration, fear, or depression. You can help their social-emotional health by being open to their feelings and maybe even sharing some of your own.
A Fresh Start
I know teaching under COVID can feel like a Sisyphean endeavor, but don’t let yourself be fooled. Just by looking out the window we can see that things are slowly getting better. People are taking precautions to protect others and themselves. Vaccines are being used to fight back against COVID and, most of all, you are doing everything you can to keep your students safe, curious, and learning! So allow yourself to embrace the spring and remember that regeneration is right around the corner.