The New Normal: Gearing Up for 2020/2021

My first year at ISB did not go according to plan. Anyone’s plan.

I usually spend my summer vacations going in between family in Toronto and Saskatoon, filling up on way too much food (dim sum in TO and pirogies in Sask), and spending time at the lake. Sometime around mid-July, an itch sets in and I start trying to get organized – brainstorming new activities, revisiting old units, exploring new resources.

Preparing for online & blended learning changes how I approach this new school year. I have had to reimagine the ways in which I will connect with my students, build a dynamic and supportive classroom community, and collaborate with colleagues. When COVID-19 forced schools all over the world to close last spring, one thing I was grateful for was the fact that I had already built those relationships with my students and teaching teams. Beginning a new school year with (mostly) new groups of students challenges us to rethink how to establish those same relationships in a new, socially-distanced, sometimes online model.

In addition to focusing on Care, I know that the skills associated with Clarify will be important. In the spring, I found that it took weeks (sometimes longer) for students to feel comfortable asking questions and engaging in discussions online. It was harder to catch when students weren’t confident in what they were learning, and much harder to encourage them to put themselves out there. Although I believe that having clear instructions, establishing a routine, and explaining concepts clearly can help mitigate some of those challenges, I’m not sure it will be enough. I think some of these new skills will come with time and practice, but I also believe that some PD surrounding how to facilitate online discussions could be useful.

The cycle planner I have attached below outlines how I plan to start the year with my IB Chemistry I class. You’ll see that a lot of time has been dedicated to community building and skill development.

Cheers to a new year!





1 Comment

  1. lwicks

    Dear Janice,

    Your thoughts on the need to actively establish relationships and get to know students as we start the new year are so true. I would like to think that we will be going in to the new year with more knowledge of the value of care and relationships and strategies to actively get students engaged in their learning compared to the situation that unfolded last year. Your idea of having students write learning letters is a good one. I think that revisiting students with similar requests throughout the year will also bear fruit.

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