Mrs. Nikki Crossnoe
Bells Elementary School
Mrs. Nikki Crossnoe, 4th Grade ELA Teacher
“HOORAY! YOU’RE HERE! YOU’RE HERE! YOU’RE FINALLY HERE!”
As I gazed at my students’ sweet faces intently watching the Safe YouTube stream of “You’re Finally Here” by Mélanie Watt, (Read Aloud with Calgary Reads – Chris Hunt), I felt the tears well-up in my eyes. Before playing the video, I asked my students to think about why I chose this book to share with them. Watching them giggle at how much Bunny missed his reader, I realized they knew right away. “Mrs. Nikki, you really missed us while we were gone!” Oh, how right they were. And they were just as eager as I to be back to school in person. So eager, that they were actually excited to complete their ‘book choice’ writing assignment!
Returning to school in person at Bells Elementary has been different this year, and just a bit challenging, but has honestly happened so smoothly – all thanks to countless hours of meticulous planning on the part of our administration. I’d like to share with you some of our school reopening plan, as well as some insight into how we are taking steps in the classroom to provide the best education for our students during this challenging time.
The primary goal of our reopening plan was to ensure safe reentry into the building for all students and staff, while striving to attend to the well-being and academic needs of our students. Here are some basic details of our plan that we feel helped us to reopen safely. They may be beneficial to your district as well:
- Staggered start: During our first two weeks of school, our students were on a staggered schedule. Grades K, 2, and 4 attended in person on Mondays and Wednesdays, while grades 1, 3, and 5 did at-home learning, which consisted of paper packets. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, grades 1, 3, and 5 attended in person, while grades K, 2, and 4 did at-home learning. Staggering the schedule for the first two weeks allowed us to have room and time to practice new procedures safely.
- Temperature checks: All students’ temperatures are checked as they enter the building. Staff members monitor their own temperatures and record them daily.
- Breakfast in the classroom: After temperature checks, students immediately pick up their sacked breakfast and carry it to the classroom to eat.
- Masks: Masks for students are optional. Teachers and staff are expected to wear masks in all common areas but may remove them once inside the classroom.
- Seating charts: Our classroom seating charts are shared with activity class teachers, as well as the cafeteria. We make every effort to minimize virus exposure.
In the classroom, we are striving to meet the academic needs of our students
while simultaneously catering to their mental well-being. With the staggered start, we were able to ease students back into the process of learning. We are prepared to teach virtually, if needed, because at Bells Elementary, teacher support and input is valued. The following are supports provided by our administration to help prepare us for virtual teaching, as well as some specific things I’m doing in my classroom to deliver quality instruction to my students.
- Google Classroom training: Our supervisor of instruction provided us with training modules on Google Classroom. I am currently using this in person with my students, so that they will be familiar with it if we are sent home.
- Technology training: Our administration provided technology training with Dr. Clif Mims, a technology professor from the University of Memphis. This invaluable training happened during the week before our staggered start to school. He taught us how to use Google Classroom and shared other technology tips and resources with us. We even joined his Google Classroom, where he has provided access to these tips and resources for us to use at any time.
- Continuous Learning Plan: Our supervisor of instruction required each grade level at our school to submit our own CLP for submission to the state of Tennessee. While some may see this as an added chore, I am thankful that our plan was not dictated to us; that we had a say in how we felt we could successfully extend learning to our fourth- grade students in a virtual learning situation. Our teachers are using modes of instruction in person that will also be used for virtual learning. This will allow for a seamless transition into a virtual learning situation.
- Google Slides, Virtual Bitmoji Classroom, and Benchmark Advance: In my fourth grade ELA classroom, I primarily deliver my lessons on Google Slides, while utilizing my Benchmark Advance curriculum. Students access the Benchmark materials on Benchmark Universe, which is linked to my virtual Bitmoji classroom, as well as to my Google Classroom Classwork tab. I use these modes of instruction in person so that students will know how to use them if we are sent home because of the virus.
- Teachers change classrooms: Our fourth grade is departmentalized. Instead of students changing classrooms as usual, this year, teachers are moving. Because of this, I have made a few adaptations. First, since we are required to have our standards and objectives displayed for each lesson, I have included them in each of my slides on Google Slides. At any time, if administration walks in to observe a lesson, my standards and objectives will be displayed. Next, while our teachers are allowed to take masks off once we are in the classroom, I leave mine on. As an added protection, I also wear a shield when I need to get close to students to assist them. Finally, I also wear a microphone with a speaker attached to my pants pocket to enable students to hear me better through the mask. It’s a voice-saver!
- Talking is okay: I believe our students need to talk to each other, now more than ever. They need to socially interact. In my ELA classroom, we talk. A lot. We partner talk (while staying in our seats), we talk during whole group instruction, we share our ideas, we build on each other’s ideas, and we give constructive feedback to each other. Sometimes we talk just because we need to take a break. And that’s okay in my book. As long as when I say, “Ready, set?” and they say, “You bet!”; and are ready to learn again.
At Bells Elementary, we are doing school in-person, and it is working. We have had a few hiccups, but it is working. It is working because our teachers support each other. It is working because our administration supports our teachers. It is working because we are a family that supports each other come what may. I am incredibly grateful that because of this work family, I have been able to look at my students face-to-face and say, “You’re here! You’re here! You’re finally here!” I wish the same opportunity for you.
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