RBUSD reopens grades TK-2 for in-person learning

TK- 2nd grade teachers being teaching in-person on a hybrid schedule

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Amid this rampant crisis, young children are taught safety protocols to survive a pandemic before they are able to read. 

Limited to air high fives and fist bumps, the class of kindergarten and first grade combo teacher Raquel Dickert is limited to their desks and taped off sections of their classroom. Dickert said she found herself putting in effort to maneuver safely around her classroom in order to read stories and to attempt to regain a sense of normalcy. 

“It is hard to describe what it was like to meet them in person, as I had only interacted with them sitting on Zoom,” Dickert said. “Due to all of the safety protocols in place, there is a cautious optimism and enthusiasm in the room between us.” 

Dickert teaches at Lincoln Elementary School, where the guidelines there and around RBUSD emphasize that the newly implemented hybrid schedule for kindergarten through second grade would prioritize family decision. On day one, Dickert said that only one student returned, on day two another student joined him, and on day three there were nine students in her classroom. The rest of her class received livestreamed lessons on Zoom.

“The students were very excited and were ready to wear their mask all day, wash their hands and keep a social distance. They were most excited to sit at a desk,” Dickert said. “As we wrapped up our day, many expressed that they loved having recess and meeting their friends in person.”

Prior to the pandemic, the first week of school consisted of learning routines and getting to know each other. Now, time is being spent on how to transition from Zoom to in-person classroom behavior, and interaction can only be at a distance, Dickert said.

“I was surprised that one of my very social Zoom students was quite shy in person. Perhaps it was all a little overwhelming today,” Dickert said. “One of my students who was very nervous told me that he was surprised how much he enjoyed today. Learning group classroom norms in-person will take some time, just like any year.”

Dickert said she sensed a “typical apprehension” from her first graders during the transition because of the abrupt end to school they encountered last year. As her kindergarten students only knew her through Zoom, they did not know what to expect. Dickert said she felt her classes ran smoothly. 

“I have been in many collaborative planning meetings to prepare for the return with protocols and lessons, so yes, on paper I was ready. But I wasn’t quite sure if I was ready because I have never taught with these protocols in place, and I had to rely upon technology to live stream to students at home. As it turned out, all of the preparation did pay off,” Dickert said.

Concerned with not straying too far from the guidelines, Dickert said she refrained from talking about the return or transition, as “many of [her] families in December were not sure” if they would have their students return. Dickert said she wanted the families to be the ones to discuss the decision they had made for their child.

“Each morning I greet the students by saying, ‘Good morning, how are you feeling today?’   They responded in various ways from good, great, excited, not sure, tired, or happy.  This is when some of the students would begin to talk about returning. I let them lead that discussion and would keep it very short and reassure them that the decision their family made is right for them,” Dickert said.

One of the most valuable lessons Dickert said she has learned during this process and as a teacher is the importance of a growth mindset.

“I think having a relationship with the students and families, and giving myself grace to learn as I go has made the first three days very enjoyable. Being flexible and being willing to adapt on the spot has helped me through the last year with distance learning and now with the hybrid model,” Dickert said.