Are you a parent worrying about how your child will be able to function in the upcoming new school year? Or are you a teacher who worries about how the new normal in the classroom would be managed? In whatever position you're in there is so much uncertainty that it is more than worrisome!
Countries are racing to find the perfect or near-perfect plan to re-open schools safely. Some are pushed by parents who have to go back out to work and need the schools to be opened. Other countries open schools simply because they think that the worst is over and it's back to normal.
In Trinidad and Tobago, the recorded number of positive COVID cases have been successfully managed (137 cases to date) and our ministry of education has provided a guide to school's reopening on September 1st. The document outlines varying aspects of the school including a blended learning model similar to the hybrid model used in many US school districts. The plan may probably well be workable for some, however, for many there are perceived loopholes and major knots.
How to Prepare for the 'New Normal'
As a teacher I want to offer the following suggestions to get you ready on a personal level for the new normal. Ideally there are no definite steps to do so, however, the idea is that some form of preparation must be undertaken. If you have any other ideas please post them in the comments below.
Get familiar with your school district policies and plans for the new school year. Research the suggested strategies such as blended learning, hybrid models etc. Highlight the key points that would help you 'see' what the new normal entails. Your research is two-fold: firstly, you should be able to glean the best strategies for the present situation, especially since you might have to prepare learning material to satisfy the online platform. Secondly, by doing your research you should have a wider picture of the new teaching environment and ideally, some comfort should be achieved.
Take it upon yourself to get familiar with the use of teaching and learning platforms. This can be covered in your researching. Find out about the virtual world of teaching. Register for courses which can help with your understanding and build your skills set. Not every teacher knows how to create material, connect virtually or even send materials via the worldwide web. Now is the perfect time to get familiar with the internet and its capabilities!
3. Content Development
The quick-paced move by schools to offer blended learning means that you may not be provided with the necessary lessons and framework for it. This means that you may be forced to develop your own content and material if you are able to do so. Also, if none is provided for you then you may have to scour the internet to find free and paid resources. The challenge of the hybrid model is that a teacher would need to prepare lesson materials for both face-to-face teaching and electronic transmission to students at home.
With the new normal, at least in my situation, evaluation of student learning leans toward formative assessment. No longer are we to use summative assessment or end of term examinations to inform student learning. This isn't a bad idea at all! Essentially it would require planning with incremental steps in mind and using multiple modes of evaluation. I found this article which gives a lot of ideas for this COVID period.
Life during this pandemic is difficult for parents and children alike. Teachers are now faced with so many responsibilities and liabilities that it is frightening to say the least. As teachers there is always the sense of responsibility we hold for the education, health and overall safety of our charges. In this 'new normal' the simple things that we once took for granted in the classroom have now become worriable moments.
So how are you preparing for the new normal? Post your comment below!