The start of the new school year is upon us. For some, the new year will start online, again, and instruction will take place synchronously or asynchronously. Others will have students lining up at their doorway ready to enter the classroom the teacher has set up. Some will be wearing masks, others may not. All will have some concern about staying healthy.
How do you prepare for this return to your classroom when you yourself will have concerns about a healthy, safe classroom?
Once you have laid out the physical space of your classroom, the next consideration is movement within the space. How will students move within your classroom space daily? What will they need to do to get from the door to their desk? How will physical movement within the classroom be managed on a normal day? What if there is an emergency in the room or at school?
As an educator, we have varying levels of comfort within our classroom environment. Some like quiet and minimal movement while others are completely comfortable with noise and a lot of movement. You need to determine what you are comfortable with within the confines of your own teaching space. In a typical year, this is critical information for you to recognize as a teacher so one knows what the classroom normal is. This year, that choice will be greatly dictated by others.
So, what are we to consider when looking at the movement of students within our classroom space? Let’s break this down into basic areas of activities within the classroom.
Entering the Class
Mrs. Slaughter, yes that was her actual name, would meet her 9th grade students at the door every day almost without fail. She would greet us by name and welcome us in. Sometimes, she would have a devilish grin on her face that foreshadowed what was to come in the class that day. We knew that once we walked in that door, we were in her room and space and there was a certain set of expectations she had. Two doors over, Mrs. Rich would also meet us at the door, though she had a vastly different set of expectations. Both great teachers with quite different styles of teaching once a student entered the classroom.
I enjoy meeting students at the door to my classroom like my former teachers did. I can greet them by name and get a sense of how they are doing on that day. It is my first contact with my students. It creates a sense of expectation for the space that I meet them at the door before they enter, and I can adjust as needed before they enter the space.
Some teachers use this as a time to instruct students on expectations. Entrance directions are given, and tasks are assigned. Groups can be created using any number of strategies. As you re-enter school under new conditions for spacing, seating, and in the classroom, this is also a good time to remind students of new expectations before entering the space.
I would strongly encourage that you create a video of what the class looks like and share it with your students before they enter the room. Show them what the seats will look like, where bags will be placed, where the teaching space is, and any procedures that will be important day to day. Prepare your students for the space in advance so that they are ready for the changes. With new safety requirements in the classroom, we need to recognize that our instruction has to begin before the students enter the room.
Consider what your students need to know in advance of walking in your space.
- How do they find their seats?
- Where do they put their bags?
- Where do they turn in homework?
- Where do they look for teaching?
- Can they move about the room?
- How do they fill water bottles?
- What if they need to use the toilet?
- How do they ask questions?
All of these questions and more will be important from the outset of your class. The educator who can share as much of this information in advance of entering the space will have an easier time of managing students within the space. Especially if students are limited in their ability to move about the room as they might normally do.
I would recommend that you stand at your door as if you were a student looking at your classroom for the first time. Walk through what you expect students to do when they enter the class. Consider how a single student feels then, expand that number to your class size all moving at the same time. Work your strategies and plans for that group size based on the health and safety expectations as well as your teaching expectations in this new environment. With this in mind, consider what the priorities for space and movement are and plan to teach them everything they need to know, before they enter the space.
How do you meet and greet your students when they enter the classroom? What does it look like in schools with COVID protocols in place? How can you affect the greatest positive impact on students entering your room simply by your actions at the door?
I look forward to hearing how you positively impact students daily simply by your actions. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section.