Good to be Back!

Why did it take me 4 days to get into Slice of Life this year even though I’ve been looking forward to it?

Well….lots of slices of life falling here, there, and everywhere. Not all necessarily in bad ways; but none-the-less my days have been on the go and I’m finally finding a second to enjoy this slice of life 🙂

I’ve been told that speaking up is going to help get us (teachers) heard- so today I wrote an essay about my feelings toward opening schools back up full time. I am in full, 100% support of getting our students back in school 5 days a week, and after a few weeks of feeling iffy about speaking up, I finally found the courage to:

To whom it may concern;

As I sit here on the 100th day of school, I can’t help but wonder what it would be like if it were a “normal” year. “Normally” we’d spend this special day exploring the number 100 with STEAM activities, math games, creative writing prompts, and of course, balloons. This year looks very different. Keeping in compliance with regulations, I was still able to create some fun memories to celebrate this day with my in person students; however, it is much more difficult to provide such an environment for those learning remotely. 

Remote learners may have been given this choice, and for some the opportunity has been a seamless transition and easy adjustment; but even if it has been “easy” or “successful” for them- they are still missing out on huge benefits from being in person, ranging from social emotional lessons to more quality instruction. 

Not only have we lost the community of our classroom on a daily basis, but we’ve also lost that “whole” feeling and the cohesiveness and social advantages with peers. While half of my students get to be physically in the classroom 2 days a week, the other half isn’t involved directly during those days; and when I’m online with that half of the students 2 other days a week, my in person students are independently working at home. The two cohorts only see each other 3 times a month, on a Wednesday morning; and even then, not all are available to be online at that time. Creating a classroom environment can be tricky enough; creating 2 separate ones, and then a third on top of that, has seemed almost impossible. 

But of course, nothing is impossible with us teachers. We show up every day and we create the best classroom space for learning and socially distanced interactions with peers (whether it’s a remote classroom or the school classroom). As you can imagine, this is incredibly rewarding when we see it play out successfully; however, there are plenty of times when defeat strikes. Giving direct instruction only twice a week is not sufficient enough, and has proven to show struggles with not only retaining information, but also learning new information, as the students come in exhausted, distracted, and mentally and emotionally drained. Socially, the students are faced with masks all day, seats distanced, quiet lunch rooms, restricted recesses (also with masks), and confined to only interacting with their own classmates (as opposed to multiple classes at lunch and recess or with book buddies during a “normal” year). While we teachers tend to be creative, it’s been a difficult task to generate new ideas and ways to keep learning, engagement, and play alive this year. 

The learning that takes place inside the walls of these classrooms needs to be opened back up fully. More instruction, more social interaction, and more opportunities to receive extra guidance and academic attention when needed would all be benefits to putting students back in schools full time. 

I appreciate your time in reading this,

Jenna Sementelli 

3 thoughts on “Good to be Back!

  1. mrbrackbill says:

    Welcome back! Thanks for sharing your letter. It is a year of a hundred (thousand?!) varieties of instruction, and I hear you and the need for “normal”. We have switched several times this year, and I never thought I would teach from a cart all day, but so it goes. And you are right, “nothing is impossible with teachers”, but I hope for the best possible choices someday!! Take care and good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. jodimahoney says:

    This letter is more than a letter. It is a cathartic act. It is brave. It is courageous and it is a model of persuasive writing. It is finding your voice and using it for good. Thank you for sharing. I hope it was received well.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. kflockhart says:

    Your letter expresses so well the need to be opened full time. Yes, it is difficult at first, then everyone gets used to the new ways of moving and interacting. We have been back full time for over a month now and it is working out well. They get to watch movies in the cafeteria! Hope you all make back in soon!

    Liked by 1 person

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