December 11, 2020

How to Plan for the New Semester During Winter Break

GoGuardian Team
A teacher holds papers in front of a laptop screen

2020 has thrown everyone for a loop. With all of the adjustments to help keep us safe from COVID-19, most class-planning has been tentative at best. We’ve seen remote classes, blended classes, in-person socially distanced classes, and even classrooms moved outdoors for better ventilation. Now, as we prepare for the winter break, teachers are wondering how to plan for the next semester.

Schools across the country are still in flux, and many are beginning to scale back the in-person class options that we’ve been enjoying for the past few months. Some districts are back to completely remote learning, while others are still pressing on as they have since the start of the new school year. But with coronavirus cases on the rise in many states, it’s anybody’s guess where we’ll stand come January 1, 2021. Here are some tips to help you prepare.

Be Flexible

The one thing that has been predictable about this year is its utter unpredictability. It’s hard to tell what tomorrow will bring, much less next week or next year. That’s why the most important thing to remember about life in a pandemic is that we all need to be flexible.

Things can change rapidly and plans can go out the window without much warning (if any at all). Although you may be used to a more rigid lesson-planning method, you’ll have to design your lessons this year to be more flexible.

Try to create lesson plans that will work equally well remotely or in person. Chances are, many classes will still be a bit of a hybrid for the foreseeable future, but you may need to switch to entirely remote learning with little notice. Remember to include resources that can be delivered to students who don’t have reliable internet access.

Make Use of Technology Tools

The best way to adapt to a new format is to make use of technology tools that enable you to manage your class effectively, whether it’s in person or remote. Software like GoGuardian Teacher™ provide the tools you need to help keep students focused and on-task. Take some time over the holidays to familiarize yourself with all of the features available to you, and maybe check out some of our favorite integrations like Google Classroom or ClassLink. Tech solutions are always better when you’re more familiar with them, rather than learning on the fly.

Support Your Students

As stressful and difficult this year has been for teachers, many students have had it worse. Young ones don’t understand why life has changed so drastically, why they can’t play with their friends, why holidays are going to be different this year, and why they haven’t seen some family members in so long. Some students whose family life is less than ideal have been trapped in homes that are dysfunctional (or worse) with no escape. Teens are missing out on rights of passage like prom and graduation. And we’re all struggling to cope with a world that’s been turned upside down.

Right now, more than anything, students need support. Reach out to them to make sure they’re doing okay. Ask pointed questions to learn how they’re coping. Be a listening ear, a trusted advisor, or a shoulder to (virtually) lean on. Lesson plans are important, but student mental health is also vital and needs to be looked after.

Practice Self-Care

Just as students are facing stress and uncertainty, your life as an educator has likely been more difficult than usual this year. Many teachers have a natural inclination to care for their students’ needs, but you can’t be there for your students without first looking after your own needs.

Be sure to find ways to destress over the holidays. It could be something as simple as enjoying a favorite holiday book or movie, spending downtime with your family, or relaxing in front of the fireplace. For others, a teletherapy visit with a mental health professional might be beneficial. Spend time taking stock of your feelings and mental health, then allow yourself the space to heal from the year’s stresses and hurts.

Do Your Best

Once classes return, things will likely continue to be stressful. Hopefully, the break will give you time to recharge so you can return to class with renewed focus, but that doesn’t mean everything will suddenly be easy. Remind yourself that all you can do is your best and that when classes don’t go perfectly, sometimes that’s a teachable moment too. Allow yourself the grace to make mistakes, then let your students see you deal with these upsets and move past them. The ability to keep going when things are hard is a vital life skill you can help impart to your class by practicing it yourself.

No matter what your class looks like after the holidays, remember GoGuardian is here to help with the tech tools and teaching tips to get through the new school year and beyond. We’re thankful for the amazing teachers who are working so hard to make their students' learning experience memorable and effective, even in difficult circumstances.