March 2020 changed everything. This past school year was one of the most challenging in many teachers’ careers. While many of us adapted to remote, blended, or in-person teaching models with health and safety guidelines in place, our teaching styles changed forever.
Plans for the 2021–2022 school year continue to be updated and revised; however, the new school year will continue to pose challenges for teachers, ranging from social and emotional learning to classroom setup, especially with COVID-19 cases once again on the rise.
Teacher Challenges Due to COVID
In the coming school year, states and school districts will determine how to best proceed based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As a New York City teacher grateful to be working in an environment that still follows strict safety guidelines, here are some of my best guesses about what challenges teachers will face—and how to address them.
1. Following COVID-19 Safety Protocols
According to the latest CDC guidance, desks should be at least three feet apart whenever possible, and all individuals should wear a mask. If students aren’t wearing masks—such as when they eat lunch—they should be six feet apart. Based on New York City Department of Education recommendations, last year students ate lunch as they continued their lessons in what’s often referred to as “instructional lunch.” I know many of my students are anxious to have an actual lunch period again in the cafeteria, but it’s unclear if that will be possible next year.
In the district I work in, desks will need to be three feet apart and in straight rows, and everyone will be required to wear a mask. Vaccinations—which are available at this time only to children ages 12 and up—are encouraged but not mandated. Currently, there’s a push for most students to return to school buildings nationwide, ideally with normal class sizes. If students sit in rows in their classrooms, this can affect the potential for group work. Ensuring there’s proper ventilation will also be crucial, and teachers will need to consider student safety in sharing materials or collaboration during small-group instruction.
In addition to policies regarding mask-wearing, some policies related to sanitizing surfaces, washing hands regularly, and social distancing will also likely continue, at least to some degree, this coming fall. While it’s left up to state and district leaders to decide how exactly to implement the CDC’s recommendations, it’s important to remember that a majority of children will most likely not be vaccinated when school starts.
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