Easing Transitions to In-Person Learning

Eight months into the school year, and I still feel like I’m blindfolded on a crazy rollercoaster. I have no idea what twist or turn COVID, our district, or our county health department will throw at me next. Just as I feel like the ride is slowing down, it speeds back up again and a new challenge is thrown at me. Most recently, the challenge has been transitioning my remote learners back to in-person learning.  I just got word last week that my final remote learner was coming back to learn in person. I did a serious happy dance at the thought of not teaching remotely anymore! I started the school year with 50% of my class remote, so we’ve learned quite a bit about transitions from remote to in-person learning along the way. Here are some tips to help it go as smoothly as possible.

Take the Data.

From behavior to academics, take the data. When environments change, data likely changes. What was fluent on Zoom in the home environment may not be fluent with the demands of school. As demands changed with school being remote, behaviors likely changed. I know my behavior changed with the demands placed on me teaching in-person and remotely! Skills that were emerging a year a go when schools shut down may have become completely fluent. Students may have regressed. Grab a baseline of where students are once they return so you’ve got a clear picture of how to meet students’ needs. Don’t skip taking the data. 

Build In Sensory Breaks

All of the demands of school take a toll on our learners. Without sensory needs being met, learning will be a struggle! Build in those sensory breaks and take them frequently! The first day one of my students was back was TOUGH. My reinforcement was too low, and my demands were too high, and her sensory needs were not being met. It was a recipe for disaster. In my mind, I had tried to pick up where we left off a year ago. Reflecting on the day, I caught myself and recalibrated my thinking and built in sensory breaks the same way we did when she came to my classroom. The second day was significantly better for everyone. Those sensory breaks made all the difference

Keep Pairing

You are starting from scratch when your students return. You could have had the most wonderful online relationship where they do anything you ask via Zoom, but you should plan on re-pairing yourself once students enter the classroom. Connect yourself with all of the things your learners love. Immerse yourself into their play! Pairing should never stop, but it’s especially important to reestablish after such a significant shift in learning environments.  

Increase Independent Work Choices

My classroom used to be filled with partner games, small learning groups, and whole class social skills. Working in a group with COVID is hard to plan. I’ve found the my group instruction has been cut significantly. To help fill that void, independent work has been my go-to. Task cards and Easy Matching Daily Workbooks have been a huge part of my daily independent work for my students. By keeping tasks individualized, I don’t have to worry about sharing resources. 

Keep That Flexibility Mindset & Extend Grace

There is no stopping this rollercoaster anytime soon. The more flexible we remain in these crazy times, the more successful we will be. Chances are things will change a million times between now and the start of next school year. As we navigate those changes for not only ourselves but our students as well, remember that in every situation is a learning opportunity that we are presented with. It’s up to us to engage with it. Students rarely learn to be flexible when everything is perfect in their schedule and never changes. Same for teachers. This is the year of flexibility for both teachers and students.

As students and teachers start moving back to in-person learning, be it alternating schedules or a full days of in person learning, know that you aren’t alone. Teachers everywhere are struggling with change; students too. Keep extending that grace that you’ve been offering for a year now. This year of COVID has effected each teacher and student differently. It’s okay to go back to square one with a student. It’s okay if a student mastered a million skills at home you couldn’t quite get at school. Growth happens on its own timeframe, not ours. At the end of the day, keep loving and advocating for your students and you’ll ease right into that transition to in-person learning. 

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