What are California Teachers Seeing As the Early Grades Go Back to School?

Rarely has the prospect of going back to school generated so much glee in the hearts of young children. Now, as many California children in the early grades have started to venture back into the classroom after a long year of lockdowns and distance learning, teachers say they are seeing much rejoicing, as well as some anxiety, on campus.

For many children in K-2, remote learning has been fraught with challenges, educators say. Some youngsters struggle to engage online. Many small children resist sitting still for hours. Technical snafus often require constant parental input.

Many schools are now taking baby steps toward reopening, bringing the early grades back into the classroom, often as part of a hybrid model, combining in-person instruction with distance learning. Many educators have been surprised by how patient these young children, an age group not generally known for their ability to wait, have been with adhering to the health and safety guidelines. Parents are usually given a choice to return their child to in-person learning, or keep them in online learning at home.

To make safety protocols seem less intimidating, some teachers pretend the children must wear masks because they are superheroes. Others squeeze a lot of extra games and stuffed animals into the day to keep the mood safe and nurturing. Many educators have been impressed at how flexible and resilient the children have been after a year of tumult.

“The kids did not exhibit fear,” said Darcie Wolfe, who has taught 1st grade for 15 years at Westside. “We had worked hard to begin building a community online, so when they came together in person, there was a lot of joy at being in the same space. The kids needed to be heard. We needed to make more room for discussion, reactions and problem-solving.”

Many teachers have been struck by the willingness of usually rough-and-tumble 6-year-olds to follow hygiene rules to the letter.

Certainly, many challenges lie ahead. Flexibility will be key when assessing student progress, experts say, because the pandemic has created unprecedented challenges. The usual benchmarks may not apply.

“Teachers should be prepared for variation in skill levels much greater than they are used to,” said Deborah Stipek, an expert in early childhood at Stanford University. “They will need to assess where children are when they come back and adjust their instruction to be appropriate for wherever they happen to be in their learning trajectories.”

One of the biggest challenges, teachers say, has been weaning students from the parental help to which they have become accustomed.

For some children, going back to campus will be a rocky transition rife with anxiety and emotion, experts say, while others will take it in stride.

Now more than ever, experts say, the social and emotional welfare of the children should be at the core of the curriculum. Some teachers now start the day by asking students to give themselves a thumbs up, down or sideways depending on how they are feeling, to express their pent-up emotions about the pandemic.

Creating a sense of camaraderie may be the most important lesson of all, experts say. Children may need to be retrained on how to socialize before they can be ready to learn.

Excerpted from “What are California Teachers Seeing As the Early Grades Go Back to School?” in EdSource. Read the full article online.

Source: EdSource | What are California Teachers Seeing As the Early Grades Go Back to School?, https://edsource.org/2021/what-are-california-teachers-seeing-as-the-early-grades-go-back-to-school/651917 | copyright 2021 EdSource
School photo created by freepik – www.freepik.com

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