The 'new' new school year
It’s difficult to say what online instruction will look like this school year because remote teaching and learning are still so new to our students and our teachers.
Last March, when Governor DeWine closed our school buildings, we found ourselves in a remote-learning environment overnight.
Our teachers stepped up and provided the best instruction possible so that our students could continue to learn. At the July meeting of the CH-UH Board of Education, members voted unanimously to keep us remote for the beginning of the 2020–21 school year. We are proud of our board for this decision. School is essential, but safety must come first.
Now that the decision has been made, the planning begins. Teachers will be organizing their virtual “classrooms.” They will decide how to present content through live instruction, recorded videos, and classwork. Because it’s not realistic to expect students to sit through live instruction for the entire school day, our teachers will have to be creative.
Keeping students engaged is what we do year-round in our classrooms, and being remote will be no different. With the help of a daily schedule, teachers will create ongoing and engaging activities. These schedules will help our students and their families stay organized, especially when multiple teachers will be assigning work and presenting daily lessons.
So, what does it mean to have engaging activities? When we are in-person, teachers plan a variety of activities, from partner work to hands-on labs. Although remote teaching will look different, it will provide students with the same activities they would have in a traditional classroom.
There will be time in the daily schedule for workbooks, independent reading, and opportunities to go outdoors to collect items for science classes. Teachers will still have read-alouds, class meetings and small-group instruction.
We want our students to continue to have music, art and physical education. We know these classes are crucial to their development. Our goal is to make this the best experience possible for all of our students.
Remote teaching is challenging, and keeping our students engaged with appropriate material in this new way is still new to many of us. Be assured, however, that our teachers are well into the planning stages [as of the beginning of August] for the start of the school year.
As we work through various aspects of remote learning, what repeatedly comes to my mind is how much we miss our students. They are the reason we became teachers.
Yes, we will see their smiling faces on our computer screens, but it’s not the same. We will miss the high fives, the hugs, and the face-to-face interactions, but we know being physically apart is the only way to keep all of us safe at this time.
When we return to in-person classes, I am confident that those relationships will rebuild quickly and be stronger than ever. We know we have students who will struggle through this, but we will be available to help.
The pandemic will end, eventually, and we will be in the classrooms again, with our students, where we all belong.
Karen Rego has taught grades K–8 in the CH-UH district, and currently provides math and language support at Monticello Middle School. She is president of the Cleveland Heights Teachers Union.