Whether through virtual instruction or in-person with restrictions, kids will head back to school for a new year in no time at all. But even though some things will be drastically different, teachers are still working to make this year fun for kids.
"Every year it's so important to think of new creative ways to engage students, but this year it's more crucial than ever to plan ways to connect, build relationships, and celebrate daily — whether it's in our virtual classroom or physical classroom," Bethany Austin, a fourth grade math teacher in Texas tells Romper.
Teachers are challenged to think outside of the box all of the time, even pre-pandemic. Before, this may have looked like adapting lesson plans for students who learn best in different ways or building flexible seating for little wiggle-worms. Now, it means learning new technology platforms on the fly, figuring out how to connect with students through a screen, and most of all, how to make this year fun despite the challenges they face.
"As a kindergarten teacher, I plan to put a spin on old classroom traditions," LaNesha Tabb of Education With An Apron, tells Romper. "For example, I always decorate my classroom with photos of my students. If I have to be a virtual teacher this year, I plan to create a digital classroom and design it the same way. Even our youngest students are pretty savvy with the camera, so snapping photos to decorate our digital classroom is a great way to begin building those relationships and community even when we aren’t together in person that are so important."
Not only are teachers on top of the planning aspect of this new school year, some are actually enthusiastic about the possibility of teaching in-person again. Yes, it is an uncertain time and the risks and fears about returning to the classroom are real, but teachers are still working to make the best of the situation.
"I think being out of school for six months will spark some magic in the classroom for all to re-energize our daily routines," Austin says. "Hugs may be off limits, but creating special dances, hand signs, or songs to say hello or good morning can provide security and comfort students are longing for. These things can be done virtually as well, which is amazing."
Singing is something Tabb agrees she will also incorporate into her class's daily routine in order to inject some fun, as well as help her students get a good grasp on new restrictions and safety measures. "I plan to create songs for everything," she tells Romper via email. "If we are in person and need to keep our masks on, I’m already planning a Hamilton-themed jingle for students to sing! Because *cues music* 'I want to be in the room where we mask up, the room where we mask-up'... or something like that. We will create fun songs for washing hands for 20 seconds, social distancing, and more to keep kids engaged and entertained."
As daunting as it is to think about having to make so many adjustments to their teaching styles and day-to-day interactions with students, teachers say they're leaning heavily on the wonders of technology to help stay as connected as possible to kids who will be learning from a distance.
"I truly want to use technology for learning in an authentic way. Before, if we had access to technology, it was almost seen as a perk. Now, so many schools are providing one-to-one iPads and Chromebooks, so it will be great to see students utilizing platforms and learning new resources to hold group meetings and continue to work together," Tabb says.
Whether that means using technology with students in the classroom or with students at home, parents can feel confident that teachers are putting their best foot forward to help make this year fun and engaging for kids everywhere.
"My plan for this year is to mirror what I do in the classroom online for any students I may have virtually," Austin, who is also a Certified Apple Teacher tells Romper. "The possibilities are endless with technology, and after spending my summer searching and brainstorming ways to connect and build relationships virtually or socially distanced in-person, I am confident that we will look back on this school year as one where educators all came together to do what is best for children."