On Friday, I got to teach a sweet group of 1st graders as they finished their first week of in-person school! Their teacher wasn't able to be there, so I got called in from the district office to sub. I was a little nervous, knowing that the majority of my experience is with older students and not during a pandemic, but it was a blast!
Here are a couple of things I learned:
- The kids did great with wearing masks for most of the day!
- As different as some things felt, so many more things felt normal and familiar. Seeing little people think, learn, and socialize was so refreshing!
- Routines come quickly. This was only Day #4 of being in person for these kids, and they knew their spots, how to keep their distance, how to be careful not to get to close when lining up, etc. It's clear that their teacher really made the classroom a safe and organized space for them, and they are responding!
- Even beneath the masks, there were lots of smiles and giggles. School did not feel like a sterile and scary place.
- The school had it arranged really well for students to stay in their cohorts. We didn't cross paths with any other groups all day, which is important for contact tracing. Things ran like clockwork!
I know that there are many different feelings about returning to in-person school, and I can't judge -- we all have different life experiences and personalities that inform our thoughts and feelings. For me, though, it was a relief to see many of the safety measures truly worked as intended, and school still felt like school. I hope that we all continue to stay healthy and safe, and that we can continue to give students access to in-person learning in environments as safe as we can make them, for both academic and social-emotional reasons.
I'm also glad I got to experience it first-hand. I understand this was only one day, but sometimes I fear being a "district person" locked in an office, making decisions, and not knowing what it is really like. This one day of being back in the trenches gave me a renewed appreciation for exactly how often primary teachers have to tie shoes, help kids with a splinter, or take care of a loose tooth that just came out. And it helped me understand the joys and challenges we are all facing in our return to in-person instruction. I hope I continue to get opportunities to "walk the walk" as we experience this new way of doing school together.
I can't post this blog without saying, I am so grateful to the school where I got to sub and to the teacher who left amazing plans and who has clearly trained these kids well. It was obvious from the moment that I walked in the room that it was a place full of love and care and learning. I just got to experience it for a day :-).
And that, my friends, is my first pandemic teaching experience!
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