Anxiety mounts as the countdown brings us closer to the start of another school year. This one, my 25th, is like no other. It is filled with questions ranging from the school calendar (there isn't one), to safety protocols, student rosters, learning models, curriculum, and the coordination of all these elements. There are so many unknowns.
Thankfully, this past week we had some answers. It seems a strike, which has been weighing heavily on my mind, has been averted. The NYC DOE, mayor's office, and the UFT came to an agreement that would provide some safety measures for students and staff. I still report in-person at my school on September 8, 2020, but students (originally scheduled to start on September 10) won't begin classes now until September 21. That will give schools time to get their act together, I hope.
My school selected the A, B, C, D plan encompassing blended and fully remote learning. This means, as far as I understand, that I have some students on my first grade roster that I will never see. Children whose parents opted for fully remote learning (Group D) will work with a fully remote teacher (not me and not yet assigned). I'm not sure how that plays out for my Deaf and hard of hearing students. I suppose a sign language interpreter will work alongside the teacher to facilitate communication. It's not ideal (especially when I can provide instruction in the child's first language of ASL), but these are extraordinary times.
The rest of the class - my blended learning students - are split into A, B, and C groups. I see just one group a day in our socially distant, mask-wearing, classroom. Let's see how long first graders can follow those rules. That means I see them only once or twice a week. The other days they work with a "blended remote teacher." Confused? It'll be a lot to coordinate.
There are so many challenges, yet, I feel more than ready to tackle them. Remote learning, which I did with my class from March - June, was difficult and (mostly) unfulfilling. I kept reminding myself that we were all doing our best in a horrible situation, it is temporary, etc.
I want to go back to my classroom. I want to build a community of learners (no matter how small each day), and I want to feel the joy that teaching brings me. Alas, I don't want to die for it and I have my fingers crossed that all will go well, but it's a risk. A risk I have no power to avoid or refuse.
Details continue to be worked out. I'm very anxious. I am skeptical. But, I am also determined to be the person my students need me to be right now. Given all the pain I've encountered this year, I believe getting back to what I love will also help heal my sorrow a bit. At least, I hope so.
Back to school 2020. This is one like no other. Wish us luck.