Finding Our Way Back to A New Normal of Teaching

It doesn't feel like last year ever ended

By Kasey Schoch

After being asked to write an article on returning to school from a teacher’s perspective, I eagerly sat down to begin typing.  I typed and deleted, and I typed and deleted, and I typed and deleted.  After all that was done, I closed my laptop and gave up for the night.  My perspective?  My thoughts?  My feelings?  How could I possibly put all that into words and have it be something that people actually want to read? The truth is (and I am sure I am not alone in saying this) my perspective is a strange mixture of excitement, determination, and concern.  I could write about what a wonderful, hard-working team I am planning the year with at AE/MS, but you all already know that. I could tell you that the people that have joined this team are equally wonderful, that you will love having them here, and that they have all jumped in with both feet to help make the 2020-21 school year a success, but I don’t think that will surprise you. So what should I tell you?  What should I say? I will try my best to explain.

When the final bell rang on March 13, 2020, I never imagined that it would be almost six months before I would have an opportunity to teach students in person again. I certainly never could have imagined that returning to school would involve more than the usual planning. The idea that we would still have a pandemic looming while school reopened, and that my fellow AE/MS staff members and I would need to plan for how to make teaching in person safe from a virus we knew so little about when we last taught in the building, never occurred to me back in March. In some ways, it feels like the last school year never ended.


Throughout the summer my colleagues and I were in constant contact with each other, sharing books and workshop opportunities on how to be better remote educators. Instead of waiting until late August to plan and prepare the building for a new year, we began the last week of July (kudos to the custodial team that started the process even sooner).  With so much uncharted territory, we needed to get a jump start on the year.

It was exciting to return to the building and see my fellow teachers after so much time apart. It feels good to be able to plan and communicate in person, even if the planning is a bit unusual this year and we have to do it at a distance wearing masks. It is equally exciting (and good for the heart) to be able to prepare my classroom for a new year ahead. Even with everything else going on, the idea of students back at those desks, of firing up the Smartboard, and posting the agenda for the day at the front of the room gave everything a sense of normalcy and did my heart some good. Being in the building made it seem like coming back was actually possible.

As our teams continue to meet and break up into smaller committees to take on the new challenges of the year, I felt a sense of determination (and could see it in other teachers as well) to make sure that we are able to cover all of the bases for safety, school supplies, education (remote and hybrid) and all of the little day to day details that normally wouldn’t need to be hashed out at the beginning of a new school year. Some days it felt like we were swimming up stream and getting nowhere fast while other days everything just clicked into place.

I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t talk about the concern that comes with it all this year. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was worried about if this will all work. I’m not worried about whether we can teach remotely or in person or both. I know we can. I’m not worried about whether or not my fellow teachers and I can do this well. I’m not worried about whether or not we will miss something in all of our planning. I’m worried about whether or not it will all work, even with all of the plans we have made. Will someone get sick?  Will we have to close schools again? Will it all work?

The truth is that there is only one way to find out, and that is to try. New Hampshire has been incredibly fortunate to keep it’s numbers low, so we must be doing something right. Even with that, I can’t let go of the concern inside of me.  I won’t let go. It needs to be there because it is what will keep me going to make sure that I don’t get too comfortable or careless. That little flicker of fear that many teachers, parents, and even students have about the current school year may be our biggest asset. It will remind us of what we need to do each day to make this all work.