As Ontario transitions to a different approach in managing COVID, schools again have to adjust to new protocols for students at school and at home. These adjustments affect everyone – parents, teachers and students. Most students will be learning in the classroom but there will be times when children will be staying home to isolate. Schools will need to continue the balance of helping students adjust back to in-person learning but still accommodate interruptions in learning for students.
- Take the pressure off and have grace for one another
School communities have persevered through many challenges – social, technological, financial, emotional, educational – and most members of these communities are exhausted from the constant adjustments to life during a pandemic. Students, especially, will have learned at various speeds and it will take time for students and teachers to find their footing. Feeling “normal” again will take time for students, parents, teachers, and administrators — and sometimes, things won’t go as planned. It will take time to adjust; nothing will be resolved immediately. An attitude of patience and grace for one another will go a long way.
- Make relationships and social-emotional learning (SEL) a priority
Isolating at home and the frequent movement between remote and in-person learning have impacted personal relationships. School staff will need to prioritize relationship-building between students and between themselves and their students. Whether it’s spontaneously pulling students for one-on-one chats, greeting them at the door, or forming small group “get to know you”-style discussions, there are a variety of ways for staff to make connections. Nurturing students’ social-emotional learning will also affect their academic outcomes. Implementing a program that covers core competencies like self-awareness, social awareness and relationship skills will help foster a more inclusive learning environment and nurture the interests of all students. Practical ways to do that include providing opportunities to foster collaboration and build relationship skills (think-pair-shares, small group work, and cooperative learning games) as well as giving students opportunities to have choice and voice throughout the day (letting them choose a format for a creative project or deciding which book to read next).
- Capitalize on the growth of technology skills and integration of internet resources
Students, teachers and parents were “forced” to grow in their use of technology over the past two years. It may have been stressful but that growth now provides educators with opportunities to integrate their learning into curriculum development and implementation. Teachers have discovered new ways of communicating curriculum expectations as well as providing creative ways for students to demonstrate their learning. Students have learned a wider use of technology and improved problem-solving skills. The combination of these two areas of growth can enhance classroom instruction and learning. Teachers now have added instructional flexibility as they can decide which format of learning tool makes the most sense for each lesson – traditional or digital – especially now that students are more familiar with a wide range of digital tools. They can also look through their resources, deciding what needs to be used in an asynchronous or synchronous format. These adjustments coupled with students’ increased independence using technology gives teachers an opportunity to better blend technology into daily classroom practice: a digital learning centre can be added to the rotation for a curriculum unit and collaboration between students in class and in isolation can be arranged through breakout rooms or shared online documents.
As learning communities continue to adapt to a “new normal” it will be important to be patient with each other as relationships are rebuilt, but it provides educators with new opportunities to engage with their students and enhance learning in the classroom and at home.
As well as working for Fossie in customer support, Karlene has a B.Ed. and experience teaching in the classroom. Some of the suggestions and ideas for this article were pulled from articles at the following websites: