As I write this times are uncertain. It’s hard to imagine what’s coming next for teachers and students in this very different Back to School 2020 season.
Uncertainty often builds anxiety and worry, and for me, activity helps to overcome all those feelings. The problem is that it’s also difficult to know what is worth your time planning. If you plan a beautiful bulletin board, will it all go to waste if you end up distance learning? If you plan for tons of digital activities and teach all in person, you might feel like you missed the mark.
I’d like to share a little story about what happened to me one year. I had been teaching with the first grade team at my first school for a couple of years. Enrollment was down, so it was pretty certain that I was going to be moving to kindergarten the following year (all pending budgetary approvals). When I left at the end of the school year I was pretty sure this was the case, so I began planning for all things Kindergarten. I learned and bought materials and games… I spent so much time on the parts that were unique to Kindergarten…but mid summer I was away on a little family trip and I checked my e-mail and happened to see some notes from the Board of Ed meeting. They hadn’t actually approved that additional section of kindergarten. I knew I wasn’t least senior so I had a job, I just had no idea where it would be! I ended up being transferred to another school in the district (and packing a classroom with morning sickness as I was pregnant with my littlest), and the position was… first grade. Now luckily there is some natural overlap between the two areas so not all that planning and buying was wasted, but a lot of it I ended up passing on to kindergarten teachers. I know this is nothing compared to a pandemic. It was small scale, but it was then that my tip for uncertainty was born…
So here is my number 1 top tip for preparing to teach in uncertain times:
-> Plan for the overlapping parts of that venn diagram.
I whipped up a quick one that illustrates a very very basic depiction of what the possibilities of this back to school season looks a little like.
See that little part in the middle? Spend your times of uncertainty planning for things that really apply no matter what!
Parent communication, classroom management, student engagement, delivering differentiated instruction… these are all things that will happen right in the middle. So instead of thinking of all the edge case “stuff”, until you have a pretty firm plan from your district, focus on the middle!