The past three weeks, I have been teaching summer school Monday through Thursday, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Going into it, everyone was unsure. We didn’t know what to expect from the students, we didn’t know what to expect from central office, we didn’t know what to expect from the health department. Information, procedures, and regulations were changing hourly. Fortunately, we are teachers, so we knew we would be prepared for anything!
Summer school was originally scheduled to start June 1. Then, pushed back to June 29. Then, yet again, pushed back to July 6. June 29th comes around and Jackson County announces a mask mandate, and teachers were sure that summer school was going to be cancelled, but soon communication ensured us that we would be continuing as planned. At my site alone, we had more than 100 students drop out within a week and even a few teachers after the mask mandate.
I don’t blame them. This is scary stuff!
On July 1, summer school teachers reported to their site grinning from ear to ear underneath masks, trying not to hug each other. Most of us hadn’t seen one another in person for three months. When you are used to seeing this group of amazing teachers every single day, three months is a LONG time.
As we sat in our staff meeting that first day back, I was looking around wondering what everyone was thinking—it’s so hard to tell when everyone is behind a mask! We were being told kids had to be in masks all day, even at recess. We were being told that we needed to wash hands when coming and going from our classrooms, before and after lunch, after recess. Basically every 30 minutes. We were trying to figure out how students were going to work on group projects while maintaining social distancing.
The common theme: Everyone was STILL on board because we knew we could do it. Outsiders are asking how we can expect kids to keep masks on all day, how are we going to keep them apart, how are we going to do it?
Have you ever seen the inside of a primary classroom, not during COVID? Those teachers are warriors!
The first day of summer school, students begin coming into the building and into our classrooms not having been in a physical school setting since March 14th. And we used to be worried about coming back from a five day Spring Break—HA!
Guess what!? That first day, everything went great.
Here’s what we learned
*Kids adapt. They quickly forgot they were wearing a mask. So much that they would try to take a drink from their water bottle with their mask still on
*They were so happy to be back with their friends and making new friends that they didn’t mind having to stay apart and not hugging each other
*They created new ways of playing tag at recess that didn’t involve touching each other.
*They worried about each other other and kindly reminded each other to pull their masks up, wash their hands, or to take a step back
Our kids did great! The biggest lessons that have come out of summer school for me is that kids adapt and adults have to set the tone. If we are excited, if we talk about procedures and safety, if we are calm, then our students will be, too.
Are there risks to being in the classroom? Yes
Are there procedures that we will have to follow unlike any other school year? Yes
Will mask wearing and in-person school work for every family, educator, or staff member? No
As we get ready for the school year and go back to bigger class sizes, it’s going to be scary. It’s going to take some time to set new procedures and get to know our students with a mask on. Not everyone is going to agree on what districts are deciding, but most districts are doing their best to give multiple options.
Remember—none of this is easy. There isn’t a handbook already written for us to go by. We are going day by day, hour by hour to figure out what is best for everyone.