The COVID-19 pandemic has changed almost everything familiar with our classrooms. Teachers, often left with vague safety parameters, have found clever ways to fill in the gaps between what is provided to them and what the students truly need. The result has been an inspiring series of adaptations to meet guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), local health mandates and students' desire for normalcy.
An advanced degree in education, like the University of Wisconsin – Superior online Master of Science in Education – Instruction online program, can equip you for the skills needed to run a classroom today and after COVID-19. Here are some of the changes we've seen in classrooms during the pandemic.
More Space Between Students
"Social distancing" is the phrase of 2020, and teachers have been somewhat successful in spreading kids out to give them the recommended six-foot distance for safety. When that's not possible, barriers are usually put up. From shower curtains to expensive plexiglass shields, instructors have found various tools to keep kids spaced safely while allowing them to feel part of the classroom experience.
There has been no lack of confusion as teachers try to communicate changes to the school calendar and learning methods during a pandemic. Carefully planned schedules, sometimes having kids alternate the days they appear in school, have been refined and rewritten at a moment's notice. Teachers have received texts, phone calls, emails and social media messages from concerned parents who aren't sure what to expect the following week (or day).
While transparency is important during "normal" times, the pandemic has motivated teachers to develop efficient ways to keep parents and students on the same page, both for communicating changes in schedules and for letting them know what would be expected in this new COVID-19 world.
At Least Part-Time Virtual Teaching
The last school year during the pandemic has meant some schools are using totally virtual teaching models, others are completely in-person following CDC protocols and some are utilizing hybrid models of teaching. Some schools had planned for disruptions, with virtual coursework waiting in the wings. Teachers who may not have had much professional development around teaching online have collaborated on the best ways to teach remotely. From sharing tech tips to coming up with ways to help kids "get out the wiggles," the need for learning normalcy (and in a hurry) puts teachers in a precarious position.
Meeting More than Educational Needs
Schools provide a community support system for more than students' ABCs and 1,2,3s. They offer hot meals, professional guidance and a way to form peer relationships and social skills. What happens when in-person learning ceases and these things are harder to deliver? With administrators' help, teachers have answered questions from "where can I get food?" to "how can my child find friends?" in new and innovative ways. School lunch delivery, for example, has continued in many school districts and available for all students, not just those that previously qualified via income guidelines. Teachers often volunteered their time to help ensure essential services continued.
Demands on Teachers Throughout Pandemic
The teaching methods or tools are not all that have changed during the COVID-19 crisis. Teachers have had to learn coping skills to care for their own needs and stay on task for their students. Many teachers have also had to help their own families during this time, and the clash of new responsibilities has proven challenging. Educators agree that nothing has fully prepared them for this unprecedented time, but those with more experience have supported newer teachers, some of whom had their first year of teaching in the pandemic.
Expanding your toolkit is always a noble goal, and the pandemic illustrated that you can never have too many strategies at your disposal. For those who want to be best prepared for whatever the future of teaching holds, career development is possible with ongoing college credits. An advanced education degree may be your best way forward.
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