By Monika L. Wolniak
As a new parent, I have seen the transition of teaching and e-learning through friends who have children of their own. I have heard the stories of how difficult it is. I heard from other parents about how their child is coping, ask about when they can return back to the classroom, and see their friends. I was a student long ago, but I thrived on the one-on-one interaction; that is how I learned best, in person. I hope that when my own daughter is old enough to attend school, that she will be able to experience classroom interaction and learn how to communicate and play with others in-person rather than on-screen.
My friend Iwona is a teacher who has taught 6th grade for 7 years and 3rd grade for 2 years and was a reading specialist for one year. I took the opportunity to speak with her experience with how the education model has shifted.
M: How has your teaching style changed in the classroom as the world began to experience COVID-19?
I: Teaching has changed drastically this year because of the pandemic. We are currently virtually teaching, which requires a lot of planning and creativity. We have to familiarize ourselves with new technology and hope that everything works for the day technology-wise. We are in constant communication with parents because we have so many students who are not turning in assignments, not joining our virtual lessons, struggling with the same technology we had to learn, or all of the above. We are recording how-to videos to help navigate through our new technology and online tools. We are recording lessons and read-out-loud course and hope that students are watching the videos.
M: Are there strict guidelines that staff and facilities need to follow?
I: We have strict guidelines. We have to check our temperature every morning and fill out a self-certification form. We have to stay in our pods in the building and wear masks at all times. If we feel sick, we must stay home and follow the protocol they have given us. We have pod monitors that will monitor the students in the hallway when they come back to school. Students will be checked before walking in the building.
M: What precautions are you taking to make your classroom safe?
I: Desks are 6ft apart. We are only seeing 12 or less kids at a time and we are using a hybrid model. We have hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. Students must stay in seats at all times when they return to school. The classrooms are sanitized and disinfected every night.
M: Will there be a curriculum added to explain to the children about new classroom rules and regulations because of COVID-19?
I: Yes, my teammates and I have sent home guidelines to students on the rules and expectations of virtual/remote learning.
M: Are there any new rules for the students attending in-person?
I: Students must stay in their seats and wear a mask for the majority of the day. They can take off their masks to eat their breakfast/snack and during mask breaks, which will be outside. If they feel sick, we must call down to the nurse to come get them. Parents then have three choices on what to do before the child can return to school, which includes: get a COVID-19 test, self-quarantine for 12 days, or get a doctor’s note that the child is allowed to return to school.
M: Are parents concerned about sending their children back to school?
I: We have given the parents the option to have their students either return to school or to participate in remote learning. This has allowed parents who were nervous to keep their kids at home. The parents who felt comfortable sending their kids can send them.
While the 2020/2021 school year and classrooms look different in every district, school, or household, it is evident that all parents and students have had to make adjustments. This pandemic has been a learning experience for us all and a lesson that none of us will likely soon forget. A special thanks to Iwona for participating in this interview.
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