2020 Back To School Tips

Been so much discussion about the merits of various reopening plans that I thought a change of topic was in order. I want to go back to March when everyone put politics aside and dug in to support one another. With that spirit in mind, I wanted to share my back to school tips for in class teachers.  

I talked with a number of colleagues this summer and did some summer internet surfing for ideas. This list is by no means exhaustive so please send me any of your tips for this fall and I will add them.  

1. Get Your Sleep 

This year it is more important than ever that we get enough sleep and have a good diet to make sure we don't get run down and make ourselves more susceptible to any type of illness. I have had this discussion with my own kids and plan to do the same with my students on the first day. 

2. Be A Rock 

Try to diffuse anxiety - don't add to it. Be a rock for the students. If you have been a neurotic wreck to anyone who would listen this summer, please don't bring that attitude into the classroom. Students look up to you and will be taking emotional cues from you. Stay calm and teach on.   

3. Let Students Be Social Again   

Provide some social interaction through in class discussions on general topics - non covid and not necessarily curriculum based. Give the kids an opportunity to speak in a group setting again in a subject they are comfortable discussing.  Sports, entertainment, or their job are usually good, safe topics. Some students haven't been around their peers in a room since March and will need to get comfortable in this environment again. Let them discuss more familiar off topics now, for better on topic class discussions later.  

4. Be Clear and Consistent

Establish and maintain routines as much as possible. So much is up in the air in all our lives, including the students. Try and be consistent as possible in setting clear class routines, directions and expectations.

5. Don't Shame - Explain  

We are community leaders and we can help be role models. Many teenagers look at things through their own lens and can be self centered. I have heard some say they don't need a mask because they are not worried.  Remind them wearing a mask is not to protect you, as much as it is to protect the people who are close to you. Many public health initiatives are centred around community thinking. We all need reminding, myself included, that we are not on an island and to think how our actions can impact others.  

6. My Attitude Is My Blood Type

Be positive! Some teachers may not agree with the protocols or plan to get back to school. Well we are here. That has been settled. An attitude "of this will never work" or " I told you so" obviously is not helpful. You may ask how does this tip relate to the kids in class?  

If we are going to have a chance of reopening success and returning to a more normal school routine for the kids we will need everyone doing their part to help out. Constructive criticism is fine, but it should be accompanied with practical solutions that adhere to the constraints we are under.  

7. Do As I Do 

Be a good role model for in school social distancing procedures. Follow arrows and protocols. The virus can infect anyone so the rules will apply to everyone.  Teenagers vehemently dislike hypocrisy. I would say hate, but II tell my own kids - not to use that word. We have to walk it like we talk it, espcially this school year. 

8. Get Outside 

Whenever you get the chance or can spare a moment get out of your building. Get your mask off and get some fresh air. Have your lunch outside and go for a walk. Inside the building there are going to be many rules and protocols to follow. Taking a brief walk out of that environment will be beneficial for your body and mind. 

9. Change Your Mask 

Use the masks provided by your board and be sure to change them out. From what I have read 4 hours seems to be a max if you do a lot of talking as we teachers tend to do. So I will be replacing my morning mask at lunch with a new one for the afternoon. 

10.  Roll With It

This is not the year to be rigid. All assignments and course work must be able to be completed anywhere, in class,, on -line at school or at home. Any day your class may need to switch to remote learning so plan ahead so work can move seamlessly between learning environments.  This also applies to individual work as well, as students may have to stay home to complete their studies. 

This also applies to school policies as well. This is an evolving sistuation and plans will change - so get used to it.

By Gregory Cawsey