Back-to-school

Back-to-school

by Antonella Marchione

When I was asked to write an article about going “Back-to-School”, I wasn’t sure what to write. As a professional teacher who recently graduated with a Master’s in Education, I could have taken many different routes. I finally settled on writing about “Back-to-School” through my experiences as a mother, teacher, and now in my current role as an educational developer. Finally, I consider that we are in the Covid-19 pandemic, with a fourth wave looming and promising to be more devastating than the others.

All of my memories about Back-to-School are based in Canada. The summer holidays in Canada start at the end of June and go on until September. When my children went to school, the summer holidays were filled with lazy days, getting up late, picnicking in the garden, watching tv, and playing with friends. Sometimes it meant road trips, long road trips, across the country to places more interesting than Winnipeg. 


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Student:

When my children were much younger, Back-to-School invariably conjured a mixture of feelings for them: excitement that they could see their friends and their favourite teachers, worry that they would not like their new teachers, or just plain resignation because summer had to end, and school had to start up again. As sure as school had to restart, so was the obligatory trip to Walmart to buy the necessary school supplies: dictionaries, notebooks, binders, glue sticks, and calculators, to name a few. This was always a treat for the children (not so much for the wallet), but it ensured they were prepared for the year ahead. With tissue boxes and glue sticks in hand, they were as ready for the winter months and the runny noses as they were for arts and crafts.

Parent:

Come the beginning of September, parents everywhere were probably rejoicing that school was starting, freeing them of their obligation to entertain their children or to find alternative forms of childcare. Personally, when the children went back to school, my attention turned to making lunches, sorting out after school childcare or activities and helping with homework assignments when necessary. But I also had to juggle work, grocery shopping, cooking dinner and house cleaning too. I can’t say I miss those days, but I am sure they sound familiar to working parents everywhere. 

I can’t say I miss those days, but I am sure they sound familiar to working parents everywhere. 

Teacher:

As a teacher, Back-to-School meant getting ready for my classes and making sure that I had all the necessary supplies for my hands-on interactive science activities. I always wanted my students to feel excited about science, so I would make sure that I was well-stocked for the activities - such as building DNA out of coloured marshmallows and liquorice sticks, extracting DNA from strawberries, making a map of the heart so that the students could journey through the heart as oxygenated and deoxygenated blood. How I miss those days and those kids. The first day of school was always nerve-wracking, meeting my students for the first time, but the nerves quickly subsided, and the relationships thrived.

Educational Developer:

Fast forward to 2021, my children no longer attend school, but I now work at a university that has been teaching and working remotely for over a year now. What does Back-to-School (or University) mean to me now? For the past 15 months, I have been training the faculty on using the Learning Management System to deliver their courses in a pedagogically sound way. Almost everyone is excited to return to campus. The university is working hard to ensure that everyone on campus is safe. As life on campus ramps up, it requires that everybody has had their vaccines, that masks are worn in closed spaces, and encourages those who cannot be vaccinated to be tested regularly. So now, I am helping the faculty get ready to transition from remote teaching to face-to-face teaching, but they might have to revert to remote teaching through the Fall term too, if Covid-19 resurges. This is enough to give you whiplash, but basically, I am preparing the faculty to pivot to online teaching again if face-to-face teaching is disrupted.

This is enough to give you whiplash, but basically, I am preparing the faculty to pivot to online teaching again if face-to-face teaching is disrupted.

The reality of Fall 2021: 

Whilst everyone is salivating at the prospect of “going back to normal”, we cannot ignore that we are on the cusp of, if not in the midst of, a fourth wave, which is promising to be more devastating than the others. Back-to-School now is not the light-hearted, happy experience it was in the past. Most children are still unvaccinated, the Delta variant is still more contagious, so if there is a no mask mandate and children are spending long periods of time indoors, they will inevitably become infected. I don’t know what the solution is; our children are precious, and we want to keep them safe, but we also want them in school, socialising and learning. Maybe we should keep them home until a COVID vaccine for children under 12 has been approved, or insist that, mandate or not, they wear masks in school - what do you think?

...-what do you think?


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Antonella Marchione
Antonella Marchione

Is a Sicilian, English, Canadian educator and mother of three. She has more passports than Jason Bourne but is probably less dangerous, most of the time. She really hates writing bios and has delegated the task of writing this one. She loves cycling, walking, and generally exhausting her husband -- possibly so he keeps quiet enough for her to get a word in edgeways.

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