We officially got word we are back in the classroom this August.
Does that come with big feelings? Yep.
Does that come with anxiety due to unknowns? Yep.
Do I wish I had a magic wand to wave for life to go back to normal? YEP.
I’m working through scenarios and feelings as we move through summer (bless my admin for answering my thousands of questions!), but I’m coming to terms and brainstorming about what fall will look like in my classroom. I teach K-2 self-contained autism and my students are amazing. I don’t have answers about a lot of things, but I do know my students deserve the safest environment I can provide, so that’s what I’m focused on. Here’s how I’m prepping my classroom with Covid-19 in mind.
Whatever I can live without, I’m living without.
The more space we have in the classroom, the more we can spread apart. I’m sending anything that is fabric to storage, including my beloved read-aloud rocking chair. I don’t have a ton of fabric in my classroom, but I did have a cozy rug and a waterproof cover on my rocking chair. No rugs, no fabric bulletin boards, no blankets, no cloth anywhere I can help it. I want to be able to wipe down all the surfaces in my classroom. I’m also getting rid of group seating at tables and will put no more than two students at a table together (if at all).
Everyone Gets Their Own Work Cubby
Each student is going to have a dedicated work space where only they work. I’ll share more about this as I set up, but each space will have a table, two chairs (one for an assistant or teacher, one for the student), a shelf, a hook for their backpack and coat, and a hanging file holder to hold student’s home/school communication book, folders, homework, etc. These cubbies are made out of 2x4s and wainscoting. They are durable and painted with washable paint so we can wipe surfaces down several times a day.
Individual Sensory Bins and Play
To prevent the spread of germs, each student will have their own set of sensory toys and their own bins and trays to use. These will stay in the students work cubby with their materials. To help with the cost of this, consider setting up a Donor’s Choose to help fund the extra sensory items needed to accommodate each student. I found great bins and trays at Target in the Dollar Spot for $3! The deeper bin (pictured) is perfect for sensory bin play, while the trays are perfect for kinetic sand, mad mattr and play-doh.
Where I can, I’m Moving to Online Versions of Curriculums
There are so many unknowns this year. I have no idea if we will remain teaching in-person for the entire school year, so I want to be as prepared as possible to pivot into remote/online learning if needed. This spring, a group of special education teachers in our district and I explored different options for the curriculums we use. We are moving to online versions of Edmark, using the online components of SRA Math, and our district purchased licenses for Social Express so we could continue teaching social skills if we were to go back to remote learning. I in no way think remote learning replaces in-person, hands-on learning. I also know that I have to bring my best for my students if we are back to remote learning. That means continuing learning however possible. We are also using SeeSaw across our entire K-2 building. These tools, combined with things like TelePEAK ABA curriculum, The Autism Helper’s Leveled Daily Curriculums, and Boom Cards, I feel like I can bring relevant content to students if we are remote/online learning again.
I don’t have all the answers.
There’s probably a million things that will change between now and the first day of school in August. However, focusing on what I can do and what I can control has been helpful for me. I’m a planner at heart and I always have a game plan. Even though this year’s plan is different than any other year I’ve taught, I’m finding peace in developing a plan with my administration and moving forward with classroom set up. Here’s to a healthy and safe school year!