I have seen an image floating around on social media pointing out that students currently in second grade and under have never experienced a “normal” school year. I know what the image is trying to get at, and it almost always evokes the sympathetic comments from disappointed people it is hoping to attract. While remaining sensitive to the obvious disruptions, challenges, and frustrations of the last couple years, I can’t help but ask … what should a “normal” school year look like?
I’ve had my fair share of disappointments and aggravations in the last few years, and I’ve certainly watched my students struggle in new ways, as well. However, though possibly unpopular opinion, at some point, don’t we have to embrace the change that exists and find a way to move on? To manage it? To make the best of it? To move forward?
To reference one of my favorite shows, I try my best to use the sourest of lemons life throws at me to make something that at least resembles lemonade. Furthermore, I try my hardest to model that for my students. For at the end of the day, where will the opposite approach get us?
This school year has undoubtedly gotten off to a unique start. I am happy to be fully back and in-person. More bodies means less space to spread out, though, so we have seen more students impacted by close-contact quarantines in the first five weeks of school.
It’s not ideal, of course, but using resources at our and our students’ fingertips (thanks to the last couple years), we have found ways to cope with these quarantine situations in a fun, effective way. Two years ago, our students would not have had their devices at home with them. Two years ago, none of us would have known what a Microsoft Teams Meeting is.
Today? Students on quarantine can tune in to their student group meetings in real time right from home! Not only does it allow them to stay engaged and connected in less than ideal circumstances, it also holds them accountable for showing up to class on time. It practices responsibility and time management. And it encourages unique collaboration opportunities for students on both sides of the screen.
No, it’s not what school used to look like, but it’s what school looks like now. I believe what school looks like should always be changing. Change is the only constant in life, isn’t it? How we adapt and rise to the occasion is what makes the difference. And it will make the difference for our students.