What does back to school 2020 mean for you?

When I was a child, I dreaded the start of the new school year. I couldn’t bear to lose the freedom of long days at the beach, in and on the water with my friends, only emerging for meals from time to time; being driven to a mountain stream in the evening to bathe and wash off the salt before bed; card games with families. Idyllic. As a conscientious student, I knew duty lay ahead in the form of assignments, not all in subjects I enjoyed. Freedom would be over for another year.

As a teacher I again felt that resentment: having travelled, spent time with family and friends, and escaped routine, back to school was a return to timetables, preparation, marking.

What made it bearable? Friends. Colleagues. Social interaction.

What is the 2020 return to school like? Around the world it will vary. In Europe most schools are re-starting albeit with smaller groupings and protective measures in place. In other countries still in lockdown, online or broadcast learning will continue.

For many international students and teachers there has been no return to the home country, no chance to reconnect with family, no chance even to explore the country in which they live with regions closed off from each other and curfews in place. Covid-19 has meant confinement with friendships and family ties being only virtual.

A quick trawl of Twitter (#backtoschool2020) has predominantly revealed optimism and joy about the return to school among teachers.

  • All set up and organised for the pupils returning tomorrow. Can’t wait to get back into the classroom and do some teaching again. @MissCOHare
  • I don’t think I’ve seen so many smiling faces on the first day back to school before. I think there’s a real appreciation for education that just wasn’t there five months ago. @LouisaJRae
  • Year 20 of teaching begins TODAY! So excited to start this school year! Let’s support each other & be the best we can be for our students. @JanaMrszipfel
  • Even though #BackToSchool2020 is feeling a bit scary, uncertain, and confusing – I still want to show up for my students and give 110% like I always do. @msrussellWSD

But not for everyone,

  • Not gonna lie; I’m feeling absolutely overwhelmed and anxious. Just not sure how this will all work. @MissSally02

This is particularly true of schools where there will be no physical contact and where teaching will continue to be online.

A friend in an international school told me the new superintendent has not yet arrived. There are no flights in and out of the country and he cannot be there to start the school year with his new team. Not only that, but many of the new-hire teachers are in the same position. How daunting for seasoned international teachers! How much more so for newly qualified teachers!

What would normally be a period of settling-in, sorting out accommodation and dealing with immigration bureaucracy is further complicated by adapting to a new country, a new school, new colleagues, new students all virtually. Another friend, who is in this position, has just started her new job in Malawi from France.

In another twist of fate, teachers who had planned to leave and had been expecting to start the 2020 school year in totally different locations are finding themselves back where they were.

Strange times.

This set me thinking. I had been focusing on the virtual, the almost surreal situations many teachers are in, which is different from the start of the last academic year. But what is the same about the academic year 2020-21? Here are some of the things I came up with.

  • All teachers will face new students.
  • For everyone it will be a fresh start.
  • Even if they have not travelled, everyone has had time off.

This further led me to look, as I always do, for the positive in this. Students and teachers have had time over the months before the summer break to become familiar with non-contact learning whether it be in Zoom meetings, radio and TV broadcasts or packs of worksheets delivered through the post.

Teachers have become proficient in IT and broadcasting skills they never expected to need. Many have learned to give feedback, counsel, correct and mark online. They have collaborated virtually with colleagues.

Students have learned to be independent and have had the chance to work at their own pace and take the time they individually need to fulfil tasks. They have had to learn self-management skills and be responsible for getting work in on time. Anecdotal evidence suggests many have handled this well and taken a pride in having more responsibility for their own learning. Many have had freedom from uniforms and dress codes.   

The downside of this in many parts of the world is that there will be no return to school. According to UNICEF statistics, thousands of girls will not get back into the classroom even if schools in their countries restart. Pressure will be on them to pull their weight in the family, to take on a greater share of domestic labour and to marry and start families of their own. The glimpse they had of education has gone for ever.

Covid-19 has changed lives; it has changed education irrevocably.

How are your preparing for your return to the classroom? How do you feel about the return to school? Please leave your comments below.


By Comments off August 16, 2020