This is the first year I’ve not put my tables together in groups.
This is the first year I’ve not roamed around my room as I talked.
This is the first year I’ve not grabbed my notebook and sat next to a student-writer.
There are a number of firsts this year, despite it being my ninth year teaching. There is nothing wrong with firsts, but when a lot of those firsts come because of a pandemic and go against most of your best practices in teaching things can be difficult. I was seriously dreading returning to the classroom for a number of reasons. Almost every single one of them related back to the fact that we are still in the middle of a pandemic and expected to somehow teach amid all of this uncertainty and fear for our very lives.
I wish I could say it was the first year I’ve feared for my life — but I have a blog post from a few years back about active shooter training that would contradict that statement.
However, there are some things that the pandemic hasn’t changed.
Despite the seats being in rows, my classroom does NOT feel like a prison. My lamps are still in the room, my music still plays as students come into class, and new this year are cloud-like light covers that help filter florescent and make the classroom a little less stark.
Despite not roaming the room as much, I have tried to make my Slides engaging by being more colorful and prompting more interaction with answers and response. I stand at my desk area — Fort Johnson — and look out at the students as I speak to them. I’m more at ease with my content so I don’t have to read from the Slides as I might have in years past.
And despite not sitting directly next to students to write, I still write with them from my desk. I have even adapted the TeachWrite “Time to Write” practice of asking students to report out on what they are writing and then offering a moment of celebration and sharing at the end of our writing days.
Am I still dreading the days to come? A little. I cannot completely dismiss my anxieties and fears for the school year. I will say that being with my students and working on establishing a new community of writers has helped make it that much more bearable. Trying out firsts that aren’t pandemic related has also helped.
This is the first year I’ve used my lesson planner for quick notes on reflections.
This is the first year I’ve had AP Language students use blogs.
This is the first year I invited students to decorate a bulletin board in the classroom.
I cannot control a lot of the firsts this year — because there are bigger things going on. However, I can balance them out the less desirable firsts by trying some firsts that I decide will be good for my classes. Besides, as far as my students are concerned everything in my classroom is a first because (for most of them) this is their first time having me as a teacher. In their eyes — everything this year is a first.