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Returning to school on the heels of a pandemic is uncharted territory — for teachers and students alike. We offer three tips to help you prepare for the school year.

Jul 12, 2021

A return to in-person teaching is not a return to “normal.” You and your students are coming back to the classroom amid a global pandemic. To ignore that fact is to ignore best practices — setting you and your students up for a rough school year. As you navigate this new normal, consider these strategies that will help both you and your students have a successful school year.

1. Acknowledge

The first step, and perhaps the most important, is to acknowledge that the pandemic happened (and is still happening). Everyone, including your students, have been impacted by the pandemic. Acknowledging the challenges your students faced and the lingering effects is important — it validates students’ feelings, prioritizes their mental and physical health, and creates a path forward. 

Encourage students to share their feelings about the last school year, and don’t limit sharing to academics. After creating this dialogue, shift the conversation to solutions and points of gratitude. Ask students what they’re feeling and what they need to be successful this school year. Ask students what they’re most grateful for; the pandemic presented a wonderful opportunity to recognize everyday privileges that we may have taken for granted.

2. Plan Purposefully

Now it’s time to plan purposefully. You’ve asked your students what they need, now incorporate that information into your planning. Principles of social-emotional learning are useful and essential after traumatic events. Social-emotional learning involves creating an environment where students are challenged to be self-aware, understanding the impact of their decisions on others, and then making choices based on the social implications.

Another educational tool you can tap into is trauma-informed practice. Remember, every student and teacher experienced trauma related to the pandemic. Trauma-informed practice seeks to understand that trauma and provides an atmosphere and instruction that promotes healing and avoids retraumatizing individuals. So, while it is critical to discuss the trauma of the pandemic, it is also critical to plan purposefully to avoid causing more harm. 

3. Adjust

There is no teacher’s handbook on how to return from a pandemic. Listening, observing, and adjusting will be as important as your initial planning. If you need to derail a lesson for the social-emotional needs of your students, do it. If you need to speak to someone about how tough the past year has been on you, do it. You’re in uncharted territory and to set your students up for success, you’ll need to be vulnerable, ask them to be vulnerable, and make adjustments that meet the collective needs of your classroom. You are a pioneer in a new normal in education; acknowledge it, plan for it, and adjust accordingly. 

New to Teaching? Get Connected!

Connect with other beginning teachers as you learn more about the community around you and how they can support you as an educator during our free Beginning Teacher Series on Aug. 27. 

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