After nine weeks of only seeing my students in little squares on my computer screen, a two week term break, and a final week of online classes, we resumed face to face lessons today. Things were a little bit different than they used to be, though.
The desks were distanced from one another as practically as they could be. The bottle of sanitiser at the front of the room had been joined by another and, this time around, the students didn’t need reminding to use it. Most obviously, though, we were all wearing masks.
We used to talk about “putting our teacher hat on” when we walked into the classroom, and taking it off again at the end of the day. I guess now it’s our teacher masks we have to consciously think about wearing, as this seems to be the new normal— in Victorian schools, at least— for the foreseeable future.
The wearing of masks is something disliked by many students and staff alike. Personally, I don’t mind wearing one, and I am happy to not be breathing in whatever germs are floating around the room. Most of my students seemed to manage without any difficulty, but getting some of them to wear their masks properly and not keep touching them proved to be yet another new classroom challenge.
Still, there were some good things going on.
The tone and humour in my classrooms was generally positive. One kid who doesn’t even like me much told me it was good to see me. I laughed and told him to give it time, and everyone laughed at that because we all knew it wouldn’t last.
Marking the class roll was significantly easier and quicker than online: once again, I could see at a glance who wasn’t there. Marking the roll in online classes was something I always found arduous. Today it took two seconds.
I could see right away who wasn’t doing what they should be, and I could move around behind them and see their screens. There is no more effective way to make someone work than to be able to see their screen.
At the same time, I could instantly encourage those who were working hard amd staying on task. It’s so much easier to be positive when you can be both natural and proactive about it. The added bonus is that when you praise and encourage one student for doing a good job or making a great effort, it tends to make those listening more inclined to want to do better and get some praise, too.
Those few kids who have avoided doing much at all since we returned to online schooling finally had to do some work. Those who did not engage in online lessons found themselves no longer able to just sign in and zone out or leave the room. And because I was wearing a mask, they couldn’t see my wry grin as I watched them working.
I was able to move around the room and look over the shoulders of my students. Delivering instant feedback and reminders about spelling, punctuation and paragraphs is significantly easier than trying to give that kind of advice online.
All things considered, while the day was not without a few issues and challenges, it’s fair to say that the positives outweighed the negatives. It’s hard not to be satisfied with that.