Speaking of "normal," I can not wait to go back to a more normal teaching school year. I look forward to teaching in my music room, singing with my student, and not have to be six feet apart while playing games. There will be many things that I will be happy to see go with COVID, but there are a few lessons that I have learned from being a COVID Teacher that I will carry on with me during my career, and I think you should too.
My 3 Takeaways
1. Be adaptable
Like I said earlier, it seemed like the game was constantly changing this year. So I found that being adaptable was key for the success of my program and my overall well-being. Each day I went into a plan, but I had accepted that my plan for the day would change. Whether it would be student absences skewing numbers for instrument parts or getting pulled into a last-minute staff meeting. The days never went entirely as I planned. And guess what, I survived, my student still learned, and some of the adapted lessons were the most fun and produced the most genuine learning from my students.
Don't get me wrong, being adaptable is HARD. It's hard not to be able to teach the lesson exactly how you planned it. It's hard to be missing an instrument part from your ensemble. But, as much as it is hard, it is also necessary. So, once COVID is "done," I will still find ways to be adaptable because things come up, and despite them, students still deserve to learn.
2. The Value of a Seating Plan
This year I was required to have a seating plan if there was a need for contact tracing. Not only did it keep students safe, but it also proves to be a very efficient and effective classroom management strategy.
Having a seating plan allowed me to control where students were in the classroom. I not only consider who sat next to who (try to separate the chatters), but I also consider the things around the students. For instance, along with one of the walls, I have Tubano drums. I made sure not to put the students who would be tempted to play them next to the drums.
Having a seating plan made the transition into the classroom smoother. The students knew where they were to go as soon as they came into the school. Because of preplanning, I saved time by not moving kids away from each other and instruments.
Next year, I plan to use my seating plan as an assessment tool as well. I have this idea of having a sheet with the student's name on it. When we complete an incase assessment for singing or rhythm, I will mark next to the student's name with the mark they received on their evaluation. I teach multi-level classes, so my grade book is split between multiple pages. I am hoping this saves time- I'll keep you posted.
3. Make sure the kids are okay, then worry about teaching music.
This year our school team worked through Dr. Jody Carrington's Kids These Days. The book shares tips about how to take kids of those kids who are the hardest to love. This book made me think about how we can't teach music if the kids we teach aren't looked after first. In a global pandemic, this was especially important.
Each day I would check in with my kids and allowed them to share something with me. Some would share weekend plans, what was happening at home, about their pets, or even what they had for breakfast. I valued this time with my student as I got to know them, and I was able to take care of their little hearts and mind, making them feel heard before I began to teach them.
Being a first-year teacher in a global pandemic has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience (hopefully). There were challenges and frustrating moments, but I learned so much about myself as a teacher and what my students need. I genuinely believe that I am a better educator coming out of this year than going into it. Here's to the lesson learned and the adventures yet to come!
Yours in Music Education