There are many ways to say ‘goodbye’ to the 2020-2021 school year, from “Goodbye, good riddance” to “What have we learned while teaching in a worldwide pandemic?”
“This is the last week of school. I’ve done this 22 times before, as a teacher. And yet, I feel lost. I feel like I’m on an emotional roller coaster. And I’m not really sure why.” Jenn Orr, “A Year’s Worth of Feelings,” June 8, 2021.
‘Inspired’ might be the best word to describe the collective feelings of the RE@L blog team when we consider the incredible ‘gymnastics’ that our nation’s teachers were required to demonstrate during the 2020-2021 school year. In RE@L’s May 26, 2021 blogpost featuring Rebecca Main, a piloting teacher for RE@L’s 1Up On Vaping™ program, Rebecca captured so well the flexibility necessary to deliver instruction in this new environment.
“My favorite was teaching elementary students, half online and half in person. I had to have my cell phone as a secondary device on a “selfie stick.” I would click into the zoom as myself. I go outside with the selfie stick and show the students at home live videos that I’ve recorded in the past of me doing workouts so that I can be working with the kids out in the field. So, I was working with two different groups at the same time.”
We have learned much from all who experienced it, from myriad educators, parents, and students themselves. But for most educators, getting thrown into the fundamental changes required of hybrid learning was a game changer this year. It’s not just a matter of monitoring and adjusting. Far from it. It is adapting to a new environment on the fly.
Included in her year end reflection on her blog, “But Wait! There’s More,” elementary teacher and blogger, Leesepea, captured the challenge so well: “I started teaching my students remotely from the desk in my classroom, then moved to teaching them remotely from my desk at home, and in April I went back to my classroom again. I taught 5 students in-person, 4 days a week. The rest of my students remained online only, and I taught them in the afternoon, then we’d have a Friday whole-class Zoom meeting.”
We all have learned some incredible new lessons in pandemic learning. Many teachers have found new ways for students to take greater responsibility for their own learning to happen. Yes, it was far from perfect, but incredibly, much was learned by many! No matter how challenging! For many it’s been like a roller-coaster ride of ups and downs.
In her May 28, 2021 post, “Leap Year,” educator Leann Schumacher reflected on school year 2020-2021:“As my third year of teaching comes to a close, I can’t help but feel robbed of experiences and opportunities for growth. I was assigned to a fully remote position this school year, which means I have been out of my classroom for essentially as long as I was ever in it. My foundation of classroom skills lies with a version of myself I’m having a hard time recognizing.”
Many have helped in finding ways for kids of all ages to learn, whether they were in an actual classroom or watching Zoom from home.
Not only was it necessary for teachers to learn-on-the-fly, they had to help students and parents learn a new system of delivery on-the-fly.
Speaking of the parents and students who were on the other side of the technology at home, prolific education blogger, Leesepea, shared in her May 21, 2020 post, “Another Year Has Come And Gone”.
Next, Leann Schumacker had this story with a happier ending than might have been, thanks to working together:
“I will forever be grateful for their patience and grace, and for the support of their families, as we muddled through technology issues and learning new digital platforms together. We did our best to build a little community and learn a little bit along the way. It was tough, but we made it work.”
“Making it work” is just what teachers did for K12 education this year. They are to be credited for ‘making it work’ on a daily, hour-by-hour basis for students of all needs. School year 2020-2021 presented a unique challenge to all educational professionals.
In reflecting on a school year of ups and downs, RE@L salutes all those educators who — in the face of unprecedented challenges — kept ‘what’s best for young people’ at the focal point of their calling.
And so, in gratitude, here’s our RE@L Teacher-Toast to all the heroic teachers across this nation who worked themselves to exhaustion in their efforts to bring order into an inherently messy, chaotic school year.
Please rise, take a bow, raise your coffee cup or your glass as RE@L toasts you all!
“Cheers and thanks to all of you for making the seemingly impossible possible!”