Once eggs are scrambled, it is impossible to return them to their original state. Likewise, once something in life is experienced, it is impossible to “un-experience” it.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, K-5 teachers have been invincible. From wearing masks and social distancing to sanitizing hands and getting vaccinated, teachers have moved gracefully from one phase to the next. When virtual learning became a necessity, educators figured out how to switch from face-to-face learning in a matter of days, smoothing out the rough spots on the fly. When devices were in short supply and internet connections failed, teachers got creative.
As we head back to classrooms, it’s time to make the most of our scrambled eggs rather than pining for the wished-for over-easy. Let’s focus on what we’ve learned and determine how to blend it in with the best of the old pedagogy to create a new normal.
What are the takeaways?
- Each student may respond differently to digital tools. Adapting to virtual learning for K-5 students depends largely on factors such as level of maturity, level of motivation, learning styles and prior experiences, among others. Specifically in primary grades, children may or may not be equipped to initiate and/or navigate a total virtual experience without adult support. There also may be a greater need for social-emotional learning in younger children.
- Students can choose different ways to demonstrate understanding. Teachers learned during the pandemic that some students interact more when they can type their responses instead of speaking them, or others may be more likely to engage with a project if they can do an oral or video rather than written presentation.
- New ways to teach difficult lessons. Digital tools can open new avenues for students to grasp concepts. For example, assign a video from Khan Academy or similar online learning organizations to a student struggling with a particular math concept. Or, many teachers have packaged quick lessons into a series of entertaining YouTube videos or devised a song that helps them remember a math fact.
- Time-savers are amazing. Teachers were understandably exhausted from reinventing education and wearing different hats during the pandemic. Online options for grading, lesson plans and tracking student progress can leave more time for connecting with students. Collaborating with other teachers around the country can broaden your options. Keep the digital elements that work best for you even back in the classroom.
- Being flustered is no longer in our vocabulary. K-5 teachers have learned how to adapt with ease to quickly changing or even planned changes in learning environments. With our ability to shift to virtual learning, we no longer need to worry about cramming more teaching into fewer days due to bad weather or even a pandemic!
- Learning can happen anywhere. In our transient society, education can go with us and always be available regardless of our physical location.
We can’t unscramble our pandemic-provided eggs, but we can cook up new recipes that honor the old and the new.
Carol Buckley is an associate professor of mathematics at Messiah University in Pennsylvania.
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