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How I've been preparing for this school year

For the first time since I started teaching seven years ago, I feel as though I have to recreate the wheel. Everything I knew about my unit plans I had to start from scratch and ask myself the question, "How can I adapt this for online learning?" This has been stressful and has no way been an easy task. But lately, I have been getting there, because that's what teachers do. We adapt. We figure it out for the sake of the kids we teach.

Our district has given us the benefit of beginning the school year remotely through October, from which point we will most likely begin hybrid - depending on where things are at with the pandemic. But this year is different than the remote learning that took place at the end of last school year. Last school year I already knew the kids. There wasn't a need to build that rapport anymore. Last school year we had a different online learning schedule. Class was scheduled from 9-3 and class was split on opposite days.

So periods 1-3 met two days a week and periods 5-10 met two days a week. Fridays were set aside as a resource day to help students. The schedule allowed for 25 minute contact hours with students each period while the second half of the day allowed for students to independently work for 25 minutes.

This year, however, the schedule has changed back to the normal 7:25-2:00 school day, which means each class will meet every day Monday-Friday and each class will meet for the standard 50 minutes. This is going to be more of a challenge for teachers to adapt content to meet the rigor to fit those time slots. But thankfully, our district is also providing several days of training to assist us with that.

And yet, it doesn't leave out the fact that as a teacher, I need to prepare every way I can to help my student learn and to build a connection with each and every one of my high school kids.

I started preparing my journalism and AP Lit courses by reviewing what I did last year and scraping anything that wasn't transferable to an online setting. Anything that involved too much independent work, worksheets, group work, etc. I threw aside for more interactive elements such as videos, edPuzzles, website discussions, interactive quizzes, and Web 2.0 tools.

I'm still researching websites that would be good to incorporate into the classroom, but I am hoping to get a lot of the training coming up to answer such questions as, "How do I bring a sense of normalcy to this school day?" I'm still trying to figure these things out as I go, but I'm sure as I continue in my research with Web 2.0 tools and through talking with other educators, I will figure it out. The best way to figure it out too is just by diving into these uncharted waters come the end of this month.

Before I received my teaching degree, I received a degree in journalism with an online journalism concentration. I designed website news packages, where I reported on stories, took my own photos and audio, and compiled that information in slideshows, podcasts, and created the websites for all of that information. I was the editor in chief of an online news magazine and an online interactive editor for a time. I've taught such programs such as Adobe Photoshop and InDesign to numerous journalism students.

So the challenge of moving education into the 21st century and finding ways to make lessons more tech-based is kind of exciting, even if it is stressful. Would I rather be in the classroom teaching? Sure. I think we all would. But as I like to joke, the commute is better. It does help to stay positive in a world with so much negative. The pandemic won't last forever, so we just need to make the best of it while it's here. I'm attending an AP Lit PD today online, and I hope to grow even more confident about going into this school year. We will get there, one day at a time. We are all in this together. We can do this.

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