Diary From a COVID-Classroom : Day 1

SACO – Let the adventure begin. Well, maybe adventure is the wrong word, but I know that as a high school English teacher, this year will be one for the books. I tell my students all the time that writing is a discipline, and the best way to write is to sit in front of the empty page and let the words flow. Well, it’s about time I follow my advice.

For the past five months (yes, it has been five months since students sat in my classroom), I have been thinking about how and when we will return to school. Never did I dream that it would take this long or that our state and country would be faced with such an overwhelming pandemic. Let’s start there.

Johns Hopkins - US Data

Data from Johns Hopkins University Website – August 21, 2020.

As of today, according to Johns Hopkins University & Medicine website, there have been 174,442 Covid-19 deaths in the United States, and the virus has infected more than 5,584,000 people in this country.

Data for Maine from the Johns Hopkins University website

These statistics alone are horrifying. There is no real way to express the grief, anguish, and anger this represents, but with this column, I hope to at least keep track of the loss that is occurring throughout our nation, and not lose sight of the fact that these are not just numbers. These people who have succumbed to this virus are mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, friends, colleagues, and in many cases, grandparents, like me.

Empty Classroom

My room is ready and waiting for students to return.

Today, as you can see by the picture of my classroom, we are getting ready to try and meet for in-person instruction. At my school, we are going to be with students four days each week, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Each of those days, the students will be separated alphabetically by surname so that on any given day, no more than 50 percent of the students will be in the classroom. We will be working with students in the room and students who have signed in from a remote location at the same time.

This plan is our version of hybrid instruction.

Wednesdays, the one day when students will not be in class, we will give students remote instruction, and in such a way that students may access the lessons at a time that best fits their schedule. We will be using an asynchronous learning model. For many teachers and schools, our plan for Wednesdays is similar to what we were doing during the spring as we tried to finish the school year in a near-normal fashion.

After looking at the return-to-school plans from other districts that were released to the media, it is clear that the solution for school districts across the state is as varied as the people they represent.

My school, like most in Maine, has spent a considerable amount of time and money trying to make our work environment safe for students, teachers, and staff. As the days go on, I hope to write about specific details and bring you stories from other classrooms across the state, but for today, I just wanted to say hello again and begin my diary from a COVID classroom.

If you have any questions, issues, suggestions, or simply want to say hello, please send me an email. If you have an idea for a story or there is something that would interest the public, please send that along as well. I promise to write back. Take care, and stay safe.

David Arenstam

About David Arenstam

Originally from away, but here to stay - Maine is my home and I love writing stories about the people and places from my end of the state. I am a teacher and writer and my first novel, "Homecoming: A Soldier's Story of Loyalty, Courage, and Redemption" is available now at www.BrysonTaylorPublishing.com