We are definitely living in unprecedented times and some of us are waiting on what exactly Back-to-School 2020 will look like for our school. While some teachers might be going back into the school building, starting the year with remote learning or doing a hybrid of the two, one thing is for sure-we need to start planning. With a lot of us are still waiting on plans from our schools, districts and state governments, this might seem like a difficult and emotionally exhausting task, but starting to think about plans can hopefully help ease some anxiety and make us feel better prepared for whichever scenario we might face. Here are 5 (+1!) things I am considering to get ready for Back-to-School 2020…
1. Do Your Research
I know that us teachers are highly organized and have common sense. What’s more is that we have been living through a pandemic for the last four months and understand the precautions we need to take in our daily life to prevent getting sick, but I haven’t had prolonged exposure to other people (just quick runs to the grocery store and outside social distance visiting with friends), so I wanted to make sure I had the most accurate information. I have been researching on the CDC’s Considerations for Schools, and there is a lot of good information there. Plus, there are a lot of visuals, which may save you time from making your own and it’s something students would see in the real world.
2. PPE & Self-Care
We have all heard the phrase, “Put on your mask first, then assist others” (remember air travel?). This is both literally true and an important analogy for us as teachers because we are so used to taking care of our students. Make sure that you have the proper PPE (personal protective equipment) for school so you are able to stay healthy and safe. I have reusable masks, but I am also going to purchase some face shields and wear my glasses as another layer of protection. I have also been emailing my doctor about her recommendations to stay safe and healthy while teaching. If you have a preexisting condition or are pregnant, make sure you are in contact with your doctor and advocate for yourself and your health-it is much harder to be the fabulous teacher you are if you are not physically and mentally healthy! Practicing whatever form of self-care that enjoy or that works for you (walks, exercise, facials, Netflix, therapy, cooking) is essential during these trying times.
3. Routines & Procedures
I’m writing down all of my procedures, pre-Covid, and all the ways I’m adjusting these procedures for in school building learning and for remote learning to be prepared. Writing down all my new procedures will also help me determine what I need to buy, how I need to arrange my classroom and what my classroom schedule will look like. For example, I was definitely thinking while the weather was good to have as many outdoor learning experiences as possible. For this I may need to consider buying pencil cases, buckets or caddies students can carry their supplies in outdoors. Students would also need clipboards for their written work. Along with developing routines and procedures, writing social stories about these new routines and procedures can be really helpful for students, no matter if you are in the classroom, doing remote learning, or doing a hybrid.
4. Stock Up
After I write down my potential new procedures, I am going to make a list of the items I need for my classroom (making sure I don’t need to “shop” in my classroom first). Every year, we know we need cleaning supplies for our classrooms, but they are virtually important this school year. Even if you don’t start in a couple of weeks, slowly start to get cleaning supplies that you will need. We remember back in March there was a lot of panic shopping and hoarding. I think if we all buy the cleaning supplies we need, starting now, everyone will have what they need. Also, add cleaning supplies to your students’ supply lists and make sure if you plan on doing outdoor instruction that students wear and bring sunscreen to school.
There is no question that students will need individual supplies this school year. I am definitely a fan of The Dollar Tree and the dollar section at Target. One thing I didn’t realize is that you can order Dollar Tree items online and have them shipped to you! For more ideas for how to use Dollar Tree items in your classroom follow @dollartreeclassrooms on Instagram.
5. Continue to Digitize Materials
With remote learning, I made a lot of my classroom materials digital and I am going to continue to do this. While we definitely still want to have (individual) hands-on manipulatives for students, the less items people are touching, the less likely we will be spreading germs. I will probably still use my computer for doing Math Meeting and flashcards, just so there are not extra items for students and staff to touch and have to clean. This will also come in handy in case your school needs to transition back to remote learning from in-person learning.
6. Enjoy the Rest of Summer!
This is something Sasha said recently on an Autism Helper Instagram Story (@theautismhelper, if you are not following already!), and it is very good advice. While what we are experiencing is tremendously difficult and we are all going through so much, it is important to enjoy the season. I know in a lot of ways this summer hasn’t been the same as past summers, but I think there are still a lot of fun things to do. For me, I love being outside-walking in the park, laying on a blanket and reading, going to the farmer’s market. Businesses have gotten creative (there are many places in my city offering to-go beverages), so you can still get take-out food and enjoy a social distancing picnic in the park. I also love doing free Instagram Live classes and workshops (a few of my favorites are @cheeseboardqueen, @thatcheeseplate and @oliveandjune).
For ideas on how to set up your classroom, check out Jen’s blog post, Setting Up Your Classroom with Covid-19 in Mind. Listen to your local news and your school’s union news. Know that you are not alone-there are so many teachers feeling the same things you are feeling right now. Above all, stay healthy and safe. Share your tips for Back-to-School 2020 or a fun recommendation for enjoying the rest of summer below!