We finished our first week of hybrid classes. This was a stressful and unusual week. And, I think it is appropriate to remind ourselves that unusual is a perfect definition for the time we are in. In being unusual, we do not know what to expect. We also do not know what to feel. I want to feel excited about returning to my classroom. I want to feel relieved that we can return to something familiar. I want to feel joy at seeing students. I am just not there yet.
Rather than focusing on feelings, though, I want to share some insights about hybrid teaching. I hope something in here will be useful to you.
- Find a way to let students work in small groups, while remaining socially distanced. I did this using technology. I felt bad having students have devices in front of them while they were in my classroom, but it turned out really well. In small, distanced groups, students created a Google Slide (I have posted about how I use these before). In the classroom, groups consisted of students seated near each other. Those students joining us on Zoom either worked on a Slide together in a breakout room, or worked with a student in the classroom also in breakout room (I had the in-person students join Zoom so they could be put in a breakout room and work with their Zoom-mates). Though one class was quiet, the others were talking with each other in voices and tones I had missed! It brought a huge smile to my masked face 🙂
- Be organized in your cleaning of desks. I know this sounds obvious, but organization is a huge time saver. After my first class, I lost track of which desks I had wiped because I kept my bottle of wipes at the front of the room and kept going back to grab a new one. (I made it through 4-5 desks per wipe). I learned to carry the bottle of wipes with me and place it on the next desk to clean when I needed to throw away the current wipe. I also gave up on wearing a glove while wiping the desks. The glove did not grab the wipe well and it was a disaster. Instead, I wash my hands after wiping all of the desks.
- Be in control of your hand sanitizer bottle. Actually, do what works for you 🙂 For me, I greet the students at the door and squirt sanitizer in their hands. I like being the only person to have held the bottle and I really like being able to greet my students as they enter the classroom.
- Plan activities that work for students on Zoom as well as those in your classroom. This is a challenge, but it is do-able. I made the mistake of printing something (it was a big deal for me because I printed it, cut it, taped it, had this great activity ready to go including new boxes of colored pencils for each student) and then 60% of my students were unable to come to school for that class period. I had not anticipated that and was so disappointed – but mostly in myself. We adjusted quickly but it was a good reminder to me that whatever I plan for the in-person classes must also work for those students on Zoom.
- Pack a quick lunch. Between cleaning desks, taking a potty break, washing your hands, filling your water bottle (you will likely drink a lot more water!), and returning to your classroom, there is very little time left for eating. I strongly encourage you to bring something that does not require a re-heat or hot water or anything that takes time.
- Finally, bring a change of clothes. I was not sure how this would work, but I love it. I change my clothes just before I leave school. My school clothes go in a plastic bag and then into the trunk of my car. By changing ahead of time, I do not feel the anxiety of bringing home germs to my family. It has really helped me mentally and is not as much of a hassle as I imagined it might be.
If you are heading back to the classroom soon, or are already there, or are teaching in any way possible, know that you are important and valued and the work you are doing makes a difference. This is not ideal and is not sustainable, but we are doing the absolute best we can. Give yourself a hug 🙂