Returning to the School Classroom :: A Teacher’s Perspective

What teachers want parents to know about the upcoming school year.

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The following is an interview with a local fourth grade teacher in Columbia. She has been teaching for more than 16 years in elementary education. I hope this individual perspective gives you insight into the thoughts of an educator this coming fall amid the pandemic.

Disclaimer: This is NOT the views or official statements from the school districts – just one teacher’s opinion.

What is the number one thing parents should remember when sending their children back to the classroom setting?

Sending kids prepared for their day is so important. This includes having organized supplies, homework, lunch, and definitely being rested. I still have kids who are falling asleep in class because they tell me they stay up so late playing. This may be especially true after getting used to being home so much. 

You should know also that using the water fountains is no longer allowed, so kids must be prepared by bringing a filled water bottle everyday. 

How are school supply lists going to be handled this year?

They should be sent per usual. Check your school websites first. Because there will not be any communal supply sharing, each child may need a large pencil case to carry their supplies back and forth each day. Some things may be hard to find. In that instance, just do the best you can.

All personal items need to be labeled. Lost and found boxes cannot separate items with a safe consistency. 

Many schools will no longer be allowed to share books or even library resources. Consider having reading books they can bring from home, or consider the online library book check out. 

I will not be asking for anything unusual (as disinfectant wipes are always standard) for cleaning purposes since our school will have a service disinfecting the classrooms every night. 

What do you anticipate your biggest challenge will be this upcoming school year?

Getting the work back from kids who are primarily participating in virtual learning. I cannot grade what I do not have. Then I cannot help them with learning if I do not know their challenges. This would be the best way for parents to help be a part of the education process. Check on what work is being turned in, and help kids learn to be accountable and meet deadlines. 

What do you imagine might be the students biggest challenge when attending school this year, and how is your school preparing to face this?

It will be the lack of socialization. Every year I ask students what their favorite part of the school year was, and they consistently mention interactions with friends. This year we won’t even be able to have group work and projects where kids learn to work together to bring ideas to life. This is vital to understanding a real world setting.

With this in mind, I may break into smaller groups online more often and leave time at the end of each activity to talk to each other or even play games, like “I Spy.” 

In the classroom, our teachers will also be scheduling more downtime and brain breaks. This will allow for the conversation kids so desperately need.

Honestly, I don’t know exactly how we all will make this work, but we will do whatever it takes to keep kids engaged. 

Are you nervous for your health, and your family’s health, going back to school with face-to-face interaction? 

No, not even a little. However, this is just my personality. If a student shows any symptoms, our classroom has the ability to directly move to virtual learning for two weeks. I believe in the measures my school is undertaking, and I am proud to be a part of it.

How are you feeling about the upcoming school year?

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Valerie McGee
Valerie was born in 1985, which means she identifies with both Gen X-er's and Millennial's depending on the time of day. She grew up on Florida's treasure coast, and graduated from the University of Central Florida with a B.A. in History and Literature. This is where her love for reading and writing blossomed. After working many years in Retail throughout the east coast as both a manager and district trainer, she and her husband, Rick, moved to northeast Columbia. There she took the opportunity to become a SAHM. Valerie has both a smarty-pants little girl, Mary Sue, and an overly mischievous baby boy, Connor. In her spare evenings she is a local Girl Scout Co-Leader for younger girls. Her interests also include expanding her talents in the kitchen, as shown by her participation in a local Baking Club and a general obsession with all things Food Network.

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