“So, how was it being back??”

I know everyone is wondering, musing, and dying from anticipation to know: How was Mr. Graham’s first week back??

In short, it was amazing. 

(if that’s all you have time for, there ya go!)

In medium,

There were a TON of perks to being back in person (duh), and a few cons. Like everyone probably already knows, having kids in-person is both WAY more enjoyable and WAY more mentally demanding. Since I’ve probably answered the “How was it?” question 11 times in the last 72 hours, my short speech is starting to get more and more refined. 

So in long,

Here are 7 quick bullet points of what I’m repeating to the people who ask.

Teaching is FUN

To start, it’s unreal how much more fun it is to be in the classroom. I’m back to telling stories, connecting with students, and seeing my coworkers. I’m actually talking to (masked) faces; I’m actually getting to walk around, write on whiteboards, jump on chairs, and tell dad jokes that only I appreciate. There just wasn’t a place for those things on Zoom — actually, there’s always a place for dad jokes. 

Kids are AWESOME

I almost forgot how much fun 10 year-old minds are, as well as how honest, thoughtful, and impressionable they can be. Observing them work without complaints and befriend one another in such a short span is warming to watch. I have seen a level of kindness and maturity from some of my 5th graders that far surpasses what I saw at Costco over the weekend.

I’ve also seen students already engage in ways they NEVER did online. For example, 2 of my students who *literally* didn’t come to more than 20 minutes of online class per month have completely surpassed my expectations in two days of in-person learning. Even the students who said they prefer online class have participated to a greater extent, engaged in more conversations, and completed a larger amount schoolwork than they did in their 6 months online. 

Teaching is TIRING

It’s no surprise that my average step-count has dramatically increased in the last 7 days. When I could teach from a La-Z-Boy, I didn’t have much reason to move during the instruction hours. I just did the math: I averaged walking 3.6 miles at school in the 4 days we were back. (Please don’t ask for my average during CDL)

Similarly, my voice has been much more taxed after the teaching day ends. I can feel my vocal chords getting sore as the day goes on. Yes, that was embarrassing to write.  

Lunch is SHORT

When we were in CDL, I had 2-hour lunch blocks in order to allow kids and their families enough time to come to the building for to-go lunch bags. Now, as it usually is in a typical year, my lunches seem to end before my food is warm in the microwave. You teachers know exactly what I mean. 

In-Person is POSSIBLE

My 5th graders showed just how possible it is to do learning safely at school. There were no disagreements, criticisms, or issues when they were given expectations. No one batted an eye when they were told they could only have recess in one small area outside; no one threw a fit when it was announced they had to wear a mask all day; no one showed any attitude when it was stated that kids have to sit essentially alone during lunch; no one challenged the mandate of only allowing 2 students in the bathroom at a time. 

I have absolutely zero complaints about my students’ behavior, and absolutely zero withholdings about trying all this again (hopefully with improvements!) in the fall.

Newness is AWKWARD

The kids are AWKWARD (so awkward) right now. It’s super normal in September for kids to be hesitant to come out of their shells because they’ve entered a new grade, a new room, and sometimes a new school. Most beginning weeks to the academic year are a little odd as kids begin learning the game. About a month in, they’re comfortable showing their personalities. But we’ve been “together” for 6 months, so that’s enough of a foundation, right?

Wrong.

Right now, kids know each other and myself pretty well. However, they’re still experiencing the awkwardness of actually being in the same room, learning face-to-face without the distractions of their crying sibling, Xbox controller, or high-maintenance cat. (I swear, cats have gotten significantly more complicated than when I was a kid…)

I guess this must be what it’s like for adults to meet someone online, “talk” for 6 months, then finally brave an in-person date at Olive Garden: if it ISN’T awkward in the beginning, something’s wrong.

My job feels IMPORTANT

There’s something about having kids in person that makes my job feel a little more important. I think many teachers lost their love for teaching or their passion for connecting with kids when we were forced to go online. I personally struggled with those kinds of feelings, even on days my memory was working fine.

After last week, I’ve been having a recurring thought that is both comforting and encouraging: “So THIS is why I wanted to be a teacher…”

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