This year has brought many challenges and questions as parents, students and teachers have been forced to dive in head-first into new methods of schooling. We brought back one of our previous featured teachers, Marlina Romano, to give us an inside look at what the 2020-2021 school year has looked like thus far. Romano works at C.W. Norton Elementary School and she teaches fourth grade. She has been a teacher for seven years, and for the 2020-2021 school year, she is using the Hyflex teaching model. Here is what she had to say:
For teachers, planning and preparation is vital. Of the countless scenarios accounted for, teaching during a global pandemic was never even considered. Now that is exactly what everyone in the field of education is experiencing. Districts and schools have made huge adjustments to daily processes. Faculty, staff and students have learned new ways of collaborating. Overall, the start of the school year has been successful. Every person shows respect for one another and genuine concern for the well-being of themselves and of others. It is encouraging to see such kindness.
This is my seventh year teaching and I am doing so in a hyflex model. This means that students are physically and virtually in my classroom. I have learned an immense amount in a very short period of time. I have mastered a new teaching platform, figured out how to incorporate technology in every part of every lesson, and learned how to execute two different methods of instructional delivery. It has allowed me to grow as an educator because I think even deeper about creative student engagement and inclusion. One of the hardest skills I have learned through this is the ability to let go. While having control over every aspect of my classroom is ideal, that is not always possible in this situation. One of the best realizations to result from this experience is that, despite this incredibly challenging and new reality, I undoubtedly find joy in every day because of teaching and I am grateful to be able to continue to educate in any form.
The new methods of instruction have made huge impact on families as well. With more students than ever before receiving content virtually, it is crucial to set up an environment conducive to learning. If students are learning from home, they should have a designated area to learn and work. If possible, this area should be a separate space that they associate as their school area. They should be at a table or desk that allows for and encourages them to sit up straight. Students should be away from noisy areas, have a neutral background, and be away from distractions such as toys, games, or technology. Families should check in on students frequently, helping them to focus or with any technology issues that may arise.
Family involvement is also extremely important, especially this year. Even in a virtual setting, they can be included! Families can check the district and school websites often for important information and frequently asked questions. They also need to communicate with their child’s teacher(s).
Reach out to the teacher if there are questions, concerns or anything that’s important to you to discuss. We all know how difficult this is and are more than willing to help and be there for families as much as we possibly can. Ask your child’s teacher about virtual volunteer opportunities, field trips or presentations. Teaching and learning in 2020 are both delicate, challenging balancing acts for which we are becoming stronger, more adaptable and more flexible.