Back to School-Face to Face

Sunday, 4 October 2020

Wow!  Just wow!  Last week was a whirlwind, but I survived it!  After 3 weeks of virtual learning, my students came to school in person for the first time this year.  It was all very surreal. We had a solid start into our content and virtual learning, but we had to pump the brakes a little so I could teach rules and procedures and switch gears now that we are face-to-face.  We don't know how long this will last or if we will have to switch back to virtual learning, so I'm trying my best to get them settled in quickly so we can be flexible, just in case we have to switch back and forth.

I have several students who did not have any sort of school or daycare experience, so they didn't know how to walk in a line, share, sit at a desk or table, etc.  For anyone that hasn't taught kinder before, this is a very big deal!  My students were eager and ready to learn, yet we had to slow things down and learn some back to school basics that I'm not typically teaching in October.

So many things are different at school, so there were lots of new procedures to teach.  Here are some major changes we have at school this year.

1. Everyone must have their temperature checked before entering the school.  I think this is pretty standard for a lot of places these days, but it still seems odd.

2.We have a restroom in our classroom, so it must be sanitized after each student uses it. Yes, this takes a lot of time.

3. Our classroom has sanitizer and soap everywhere so it's easily accessible to the kids.

4. Students must be socially distanced during breakfast and lunch in the cafeteria.  To do this, all tables were removed from the cafeteria and replaced with desks that were placed 6 feet apart.  Also, this wasn't enough space to accommodate our students, so desks were also placed 6 feet apart in the gym and meals are served there.

5. There are directional arrows in the hallways as well as lines marking 6 feet apart to help with lining up and walking down the hall.

6. Masks must be worn by students in grades 1-6.  Lower grades do not have to wear a mask, but they must be socially distanced.

7. During car rider pickups (after buses have left), students must wait in the classroom until their name is called.  In previous years, we had them all grouped together in one place and waiting together.  This has made my work day a little longer, but each day has gotten better and we have gotten the kids to their vehicles in an efficient manner.

One of my students, ready for lunch!

There are tons of other smaller changes happening, but those are the biggies that I feel affect us the most.  Things are very different, but the staff at my school is working hard to make the most of it.  Overall, the kids are so excited to be back in school!  Many haven't seen their friends in more than 6 months!  In the midst of the madness, I've tried my best to find some sense of normalcy for my students.  Here's a little of what I'm doing.

1. Procedures, Procedures, Procedures

Kids need the structure.  I need the structure.  And with all the extra health and safety concerns we have right now, there isn't room for error.  We started our procedures on day one and practice them everyday.  We have procedures for everything!  There are procedures for wearing masks, lining up, walking in line, sitting down for breakfast and lunch, bathroom and playground sanitizing, etc.  It all felt very overwhelming the first day, but once we started working it all into our routine, it just feels like part of our day now.

2. Mask Wearing

My kindergarten students aren't "required" to wear masks, however they must be socially distanced at all times if not wearing one.  This just isn't possible given the number of students I have attending in person and the space I have in my classroom.  Fortunately, I was able to space their desks out so that if they are sitting properly (facing forward, bottom in their seat, and feet on the floor under their desk) then they can remove their mask.  If they turn around in their seat or get up and move, they must mask up.  This has allowed them to take a break from the mask so they can breathe and their poor little ears aren't hurting from the mask wearing.  I basically moved all furniture to the walls, then had to remove my classroom rug, and this gave me the optimum amount of space in my classroom to spread out their desks.  It's definitely not our typical kindergarten classroom, but it has allowed them to be present, listen to a story at their desk without having to wear a mask, and work at their desk without having to wear a mask.

3. Playground Time

From day one, all my students wanted to know about was the playground! lol  They can't wait to get out there and play with their new friends.  I'm thankful that we are able to go out and play.  My students do have to wear their mask out on the playground.  Each child sanitizes their hands before and after using the playground equipment. I also have to sanitize the equipment.  It's a little extra work, but totally worth the extra effort for these kids to get this social interaction!

4. Restroom Use

I have a restroom in my classroom.  So, I have to keep a restroom log each time a student uses the restroom.  The log has their names and lists the times they went.  Also, the restroom must be sanitized after each student uses it.  I'll be the first to admit that this is a headache.  But, if it keeps my kiddos safe and healthy, I'll do it with a smile!  Of course, extra sanitizing and cleaning such as this cuts into instructional time, but this is something that is out of my control.

5. Student Supplies

All students have individual supplies in their desk.  I typically keep the scissors and glue out of their desks because issues always arise, but I don't have much of a choice this year.  They each have a crayon box with crayons, scissors, glue sticks, pencils, highlighters, and a dry erase marker.  Nobody is allowed to share or be in someone else's crayon box.  In their desk, they also have an additional crayon box that is their math toolkit and contains an individual supply of math manipulatives.  In addition, there is a basket in their desk that we use to put their work when completed.  The basket also hold their writing journal and stays in their desk at all times.  I will be the first to admit that this is a lot of supplies to manage for them.  It's still a work in progress to have them to get out only what they need and not play with the other supplies.  These are all supplies that they need access to and this ensures that nobody is sharing anything and they all have their own.

Hard at work and taking a mask break!

My biggest piece of advice to teachers going back to school in person is to sanitize everything and be prepared with procedures for everything.  There will be plenty of things that come up along the way and might catch you off guard, but you'll figure it out and get through it.  There is a learning curve, so give it a few days and things will smooth out.  You'll find a way to do most of the things you're used to doing, you might just need to modify and do a little extra prep work.  

I feel like this post is all over the place.  There is so much to take in and I'm still digesting everything from last week.  Good luck to all teachers going back in person and to those of you already rocking it!  You are amazing and you can do it!  How is your school year going?  Do you have any tips or tricks for in person learning to share with us?  Any specific questions for me?

We now take our group photos with masks on! 😷

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