Outside Needham Elementary School on Monday, Maggie Collins was looking forward to seeing all of her friends, not just her neighborhood pals.
Her mother, Gretchen, was ecstatic to again have the support of an in-person professional teacher.
COVID-19 has colored the world since March, but for both Maggie and Gretchen it was time to move beyond the harshest measures taken to combat the pathogen.
“Last year was a balancing act. It was a difficult situation to get a new job with only a couple days notice,” said Gretchen Collins as she and her husband, William Collins, dropped off Maggie, 10, and her sister Tessa, 7, at Needham for the first day of school.
Music classes were the most difficult to fill in for a live, trained teacher, Gretchen said. “The special classes were a challenge. PE was easier. We go on frequent family hikes,” she said.
William, an associate professor of chemistry at Fort Lewis College, said his experience teaching with college-age students didn’t provide many transferable skills to help him after 9-R went to all remote learning in March.
“Teaching kids is different and teaching your own kids is different, too,” he said.
Erin Glick will teach a blended class of third and fourth graders two days a week in person and three days a week with remote, principally online, learning. She discovered last school year she enjoyed teaching remote, online learning.
That led her to offer to teach a so-called hybrid class – some learning at home and some in person – this school year. The combination of teaching both third and fourth grades added another variable to increase her challenge this year.
“I’ve been a teacher for 20 years, but teaching online last year was all new for me, and I discovered I liked it,” Glick said.
She has created two videos, one for parents and one for her students.
The video for parents familiarized them with new software 9-R will be using as its learning management system – the online website where students and parents can get their class assignments, their resources for learning and where they can communicate with their teachers. The video for her students provided them with information about practices they will follow to minimize transmission of COVID-19.
Besides safety protocols like social distancing, handwashing, mask-wearing and classroom cleaning, Glick spent the two weeks teachers were in school before the arrival of students improving her online teaching skills and working to make lesson plans that meet the academic needs of third and fourth graders.
“I worked all weekend, but that’s OK. I want to do this well,” Glick said.
A lesson appropriate for the times, learning about germs and how they spread, was on the first-day agenda for Glick’s students. She integrated some of the rules the district has adopted to minimize transmission of the virus into her lesson.
Gretchen Collins said she was more comfortable sending her children to school this year than she would have been last year, when less was known about the novel coronavirus.
“Last year, was stressful for everyone with the virus, but we know more about it now. We’re used to some of the precautions we need to take,” she said. “We know there’s a certain amount of risk we’re assuming, but the school is doing a lot to minimize it.”
Maggie also thought the time was right to head back to school.
“I get to be with people. Some of them don’t live particularly close to me,” she said.