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Ahh, how time flies…
It feels like summer vacation has only just started and you had all of these great plans that this year. You’d use the time to prepare and get structured for the upcoming school year. You’d gather amazing resources that your students would love and that would take a good chunk of workload off of your shoulders. You’d make a great schedule. You’d have a shiny new organization system. You’d look into how to improve your sales.
Where did the time go? The new term is rapidly approaching and your schedule is not as great and your organization not as shiny as you’d hoped.
Don’t worry, we’ve all been there!
Here’s your all-encompassing back to school checklist to get you ready for the new school year:
Check 1: Consider your options
Circumstances are changing fast these days, and it is important to stay agile to be able to respond to whatever happens.
Are you planning to provide in-person schooling or are you going full remote? A blended learning approach maybe?
What regulations are you implementing to keep everyone safe?
Maybe all persons participating in face-to-face schooling will be required to wear a mask. Or you may limit the size of each class.
Whatever your strategy, be sure to clearly communicate it to all teachers, staff, and students. This way, everybody knows what to expect when coming back to school, and can prepare accordingly. Students who know in advance that they will have to wear a mask, sanitize their hands, and submit to a temperature check are much more likely to be confident in doing so, and accept the new rules as the new normal. You may want to jog your students’ memory regarding proper hand washing technique, social distancing practices, and more.
Additionally, be sure to have a plan B at hand. What can you fall back on if you are forced to halt your in-person teaching? What will you do if there are technical difficulties with a certain device or system? In this case, being prepared means being flexible. And you will need to be flexible when you go back to school this year.
Check 2: Make a list of back to school supplies
This year, students will need different back to school supplies, no matter the manner of instruction. If you’re planning on offering in-person schooling, you may need to put the following on you back to school supplies list:
- Hand sanitizer
- Mask extenders
If you’re opting for remote solutions, supplies may include items such as:
Help your students get back to school ready – both physically and emotionally – by providing them with a comprehensive list of everything they need and need to be prepared for.
Don’t forget to add an action plan with information about all relevant processes you’re planning on implementing.
Check 3: Pick your online tools
In 2021, after a year and a half of living through a pandemic, there is absolutely no way around having parts of your schooling online. We all know now from our 2020 experience, that online tools are proven to offer massive benefits to both students and teachers. So the real question is not WHETHER to use online tools when you go back to school, but WHICH online tools to use. The answer is always: Several!
At the very least you will need:
3.1. A video communication tool.
You know the drill. This is your Zoom, your Google Hangouts, your Microsoft Teams. They’re all a great solution for moving face-to-face meetings online, and there’s many more that can hold a candle to them. They all come with their advantages and disadvantages.
When choosing your virtual meeting platform this back to school season watch out for:
- Budget: How much are you willing to pay?
- Features: Will you need to share your screen? Do you want students to be able to virtually raise their hands? Are you planning on recording your lectures? Do you want to encourage group work in breakout rooms?
Security and privacy: Check that your provider ensures all the compliance tools that are important to you and your students.
- Ease of use: Switching to your conference tool of choice should be easy enough. Noone wants to download a bunch of additional software and spend hours figuring out how to even get started.
3.2. An online learning platform.
This should be your central online space for back to school 2021. It’s where your students will aggregate. It’s where they see study content, supplies, and where they will complete activities and see their grades. A good e-learning platform will:
- provide you with well-researched, appropriate resources
- The learning material and exercises will be balanced and fit together, as well as fit your students’ level
- It should be logically structured and intuitive to use for both you and your students
Especially if you’re relatively new to this, keep in mind: less is more.
Flashiness and an onslaught of information may look sexy at first, but can lead to a lot of confusion and aren’t necessarily beneficial to the learning progress.
Remember, not all learning has to happen online, but a portion of it definitely should! Try to seamlessly integrate your offline classrooms into your online ones, and make sure your online platform of choice allows you to keep an at-glance overview of your students’ progress.
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Check 4: Fine-tune your routines
If you are going back to in-person schooling this year, the routine of waking up, leaving home every morning, and the regular school antics may be rusty at this point. Heck, getting back into school groove after the summer holidays has always come with challenges, even when there was no virus to worry about. In uncertain times like these, routines can really help you and your students thrive, as it takes away some of the uncertainty.
Getting back to school ready is not about just fine-tuning your day routines though. Instead, also consider study routines. They may (need to) look quite different this year.
Consider what you will go over with your students this coming term, and think about how you want to structure the content. We suggest you give your weeks a framework. Find fun, re-usable activities that you can adjust to each week’s content, and plan a feedback round every Friday.
Check 5: Provide mental health facilities
That is not to say that you need to provide therapy for students, but you should prepare to support students in these stressful, constantly changing times.
After over a year of mostly remote learning, back to school 2021 carries an entirely different meaning as in previous years. The pandemic has taken a heavy toll on people’s mental health. The Kaiser Family Foundation found that in January 2021, 4 out of 10 US American adults reported symptoms of depression and anxiety – quadruple the number it was in 2019. With this in mind, remember that students and teachers may need time to adjust to going back to learning on a campus.
Additionally, after being told for so long that in-person schooling is not safe, there may be some anxiety surrounding that topic. And if you’re not going back to campus, continuing to learn entirely online may take a toll on students’ and teachers’ mental state just the same.
Have a place ready where students can go and receive support if they are struggling due to the duration of the pandemic. Have resources ready that can help teach how to keep healthy in these times, and how to deal with anxiety and stress in a healthy manner.
Stay healthy and safe!
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