Before I begin my first impressions on returning to school for the 2021-2022 school year, I would like to give a short summary of what my 2020-2021 school year was like. I think this helps put things in perspective. I teach in a public elementary school in New York and last year our school district offered parents the option of a full remote school year or a full in-person school year. I started teaching in-person every day beginning in September and, despite all the challenges, my group of fifteen second-graders and I had a memorable year together. Surprisingly, it may have been one of my better years perhaps due in part to the fact that the students and I were just so happy to be back in school.
Hope & Excitement
This year is a little different. As there is no longer a remote option, all students have returned to in-person learning. Instead of fifteen students, six feet apart, I now have twenty-one students, three feet apart. I felt very hopeful going into this school year. I was thinking about all of the students who haven’t been in our school for a year and a half and how exciting it must be for them to return. I was excited because our students are now able to go to the art room for art instead of having specials through the computer and our school library is reopening after being used as a classroom last year. I was excited that the students are going to be able to socialize and play with their peers again. There was so much hope and excitement leading up to this year.
After the first week of school, the enormity of our task this year is really starting to sink in. On the first day of school, you could almost feel the building vibrating with excitement and energy. The students who were returning from remote learning were thrilled to be back in school. I thought all the students would be timid and nervous with the safety protocols but all I could see was joy in their eyes. I think sometimes children are more resilient than we give them credit for. Nevertheless, I want to be sure I give my students the space and time to adjust as it is still early in the school year and it will take time to settle in. Of course, we are going to have to continue to practice school behaviors like raising our hands, walking quietly in the hallway, and keeping our desks organized but I think it will be important, more than ever before, to spend time on social-emotional learning strategies this year. While students have shown incredible resiliency in the midst of this pandemic, as educators we need to keep an eye on their well-being this year. So we’re going to continue to work on identifying our feelings, self-awareness activities, and more. My second graders love when we do social-emotional learning activities and personally, I think it’s a great age group for it. I’ve detailed a few of the strategies I do in my classroom in the following blog that hopefully, other educators might find useful for lower elementary students:
I look forward to a wonderful school year and as long as the kids are healthy, safe, and happy, I believe this school year holds a lot of potential!