Preparing for the start of a new school year is never easy, but this year teachers will have even more hurdles to leap before school starts in the fall. For those who will return in person, how do you socially distance in a classroom? In many places, masks will be required for everyone whilst in the school, sanitation has never been more important, and activities that were once common place are now potentially hazardous. Meanwhile, for the teachers who will be returning virtually, how do you make sure that your students are receiving the education they need? How do you virtually go to the green house, or the barn, or do labs in the ‘classroom’?
As different as this school year will be, many of our teachers have developed new and creative ways of instructing their students. From virtual field trips to “meet the teacher” postcards, Ag teachers everywhere are finding new methods of reaching their students and making the 2020-21 school year a success.
In Center-Stanton Public School in Center, North Dakota, Nikki Fideldy-Doll has yet to find out where her classroom will be in the Fall. The North Dakota Governor has announced that it will be up to the discretion of the school district and her district is currently “collecting data from staff, parents, and community members to help make the best decision.”
While she is unsure of what her year will look like, that hasn’t stopped her from making plans. One way she plans to connect with students that she may not get to meet face to face is by sending out “meet the teacher” postcards. New students entering the agricultural education program have received a postcard in the mail introducing Nikki as their agriculture teacher. The postcard includes a QR Code for students to scan that will take them to Flipgrid where they will find a recorded video of Nikki answering fun ‘get to know you’ questions.
Besides finding way to connect with new students, Nikki is using some creative online learning techniques she picked up at the end of last school year.
“One way I did SAE visits during the pandemic was through my “Flat Fideldy” project.” Nikki said. “Students in the program received my Bitmoji in the mail and they had to take me on an SAE visit. They took pictures with my Bitmoji and wrote journal entries explaining what they were doing.”
Meanwhile, in Tillamook, Oregon, Brooklyn Bush is hoping to make a return in person. Her school is also on the fence, but she says “I personally would rather be in-person - I think it's easier to build relationships with students and get them excited for their classes. There's always a contagious energy when students return to school.”
One of the ways Brooklyn is preparing to go back to school in person is by modifying some of her assignments, especially if they contain group work. She is thinking about lab space and how to accomplish certain labs given the available space and equipment. Most of her current preparation though is focusing on how to make social distancing work in her classroom. Class sizes will be smaller, disinfecting will be even more important, and face masks will be made mandatory. Although she prefers in-person teaching, Brooklyn plans to stay current on online teaching techniques and content strategies for virtual learning just in case that is the route her district decides to go.
With so many teachers facing the unknown this fall it could be easy to feel disheartened, but in the end, Nikki said it best.
“There are so many uncertainties, but one thing I am confident of: if anyone can do it, teachers can.”