Sarah Chairnoff

Abrams Hebrew Academy
Yardley, Pennsylvania
Sarah Chairnoff, Teacher

On August 18th, 160 students walked into school for the first time in almost five months. Despite their masked faces, we could tell that they were thrilled to be returning to school.

As a teacher, the transition to in-person schooling during a pandemic has been an adjustment. However, any of the negatives are outweighed by the positives of having a group of students to connect with and the ability to form a real classroom community again. Abrams Hebrew Academy was able to open for in-person learning with many new health and safety measures in place.  We now have socially distanced classrooms with desks spaced 6 feet apart.  Rooms like the lunchroom and library are now being used as classrooms and walls have been torn down between rooms to provide the distancing necessary for the students to begin school.

All students and teachers are masked at all times while inside the building.  We spend as much time outside as possible and eat lunch outside as well.  In addition to all of this, temperatures are taken each day and measures have been put in place for students and teachers who may need to quarantine.

Being back at Abrams has been wonderful for the children and teachers alike.  I have found that to make this year as successful as any other school year, I have had to make some crucial changes to my teaching style.

Here at Abrams, we have both in-person and virtual students. We offered to Zoom students into the classroom for the families that did not feel comfortable sending their children to school.  This dual teaching has absolutely been the most difficult adjustment.  Most everything I do is now on my computer so I can share both with “my Zoomgirls” as I call them and with my in-person students over the TV in the classroom.  For the first time, guided notes are completed together digitally, textbooks are shared over screens, homework is submitted digitally, and virtual science investigations are completed online.  This is very different than I have done in the past but I am finding what works in this new world of teaching.  Having to adjust my teaching has absolutely made me a more adaptable, flexible, and all-around better teacher.

A big way in which I have changed as a teacher this year has been to have a much stronger focus on mental health.  I always touched on mindfulness and mental health but this year I feel it is more necessary than ever.  This year we have employed ClassDojo to learn about mindfulness, empathy, and a growth mindset.  We take mindful minutes and practice our deep breathing when things get stressful in the classroom.  It is so important that these kids feel supported socially, mentally, and physically after so much time away from their peers and instruction.

I know that the trials that we will face this year will not end just because we are back in school.  I am sure there will be more hurdles that we must face as the year progresses.  However, I am a teacher who is happy to be back in my new classroom in a safe environment.  I am so proud of my students who have taken mask-wearing in stride and understand more about remaining healthy and safe than I imagined they would.  I may not be able to tell from their mouths, but their eyes are smiling and they are happy to be back.

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