Preparing for Anything

As teachers prepare to welcome back students, they have had to plan for the unknown.

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photo by D. Crickets

This year, disinfectant and hand sanitizer rank alongside coffee and computers as back-to-school essentials.

Kristen Kinzler, Co-Editor-in-Chief

It’s the day before school starts, and all throughout NASH, desks are distanced, masks are ready to be worn, and hand sanitizer is plentiful. It’s about to be a year unlike any other.

Under normal circumstances, back to school is a time of change, new challenges, and growth. But conducting a hybrid learning model during a pandemic is a whole new ballgame — especially for teachers preparing to welcome back their students. 

“There are many unknowns, there is so much to get used to, and the situation is extremely fluid,” Honors and AP English teacher Mrs. Rhinehart said.

Although students are returning to school two days a week, remote learning will still be partially in place, so many teachers spent the summer learning how to use online resources more effectively.

“We are very fortunate that we have great Instructional Technology Integrators that are taking the time to help us learn how to be more efficient and practical with Blackboard,” Mr. Bugel, an Earth Science and Astronomy teacher, said. “I think that the uncertainty and how much is going to change in a short period of time may be the nerve-racking part.”

Streamlining technology has been one of the main focuses of the in-service days last week.

“It will be an adjustment to not have the entire class physically present and to do partner and group work in such a different format than we are used to,” Rhinehart added. “Some of what we worked on this week included learning how to navigate the new technology that will allow us to livestream our classes.”

In addition to preparing for the online portion of their courses, teachers have also had to reorganize their classrooms to maximize social distancing.

“The desks are spaced six feet apart in rows,” Rhinehart explained. “Some of my furniture like tables and extra chairs had to be removed in order to fit enough desks in.”

As long as everyone communicates with each other and has a level of understanding, things will eventually work out.”

— Mr. Bugel

Bugel praised the custodial staff for their efforts this summer.

“After they cleaned and waxed the floors, they put the rooms back under appropriate guidelines,” he said. “They did a great job.”

While newly laid out classrooms and a hybrid approach have changed things for every class, perhaps the course that altered its curriculum the most this school year is Physical Education.

“We are all co-ed for this year, so that’s different,” P.E. teacher Mrs. Kohlmann explained. “We are also shortening the length of each unit in our curriculum, so it will be changing every four to five weeks instead of lasting all nine weeks.”

Additionally, all locker rooms will remain closed for the foreseeable future, and students will be asked to arrive at school in appropriate athletic clothing.

There will undoubtedly be new changes as the school year progresses, so teachers are stressing that patience and flexibility are key.

“Lessons are not going to be great the first time and technology may fail or not work correctly. Students may miss the videos or assignments and teachers may not post them correctly,” Bugel said. “It will be okay. As long as everyone communicates with each other and has a level of understanding, things will eventually work out.” 

Despite the challenges a hybrid model presents, the thought of being around students and fellow staff members again is encouraging. 

“I am very excited to have students back in the classroom,” Rhinehart said. “I really missed the in-person interactions with students and the energy of being in the classroom.”

Kohlmann’s excitement for the upcoming year is obvious when she expresses one of her biggest concerns.

“I love to see a person’s smile,” she said. “Seeing everyone wearing masks here is a little different. I guess I will have to see their eyes smiling now.”