A Teacher’s Guide for Returning Back to the Classroom

After many weeks (months? years? lifetimes?) of distance/hybrid learning, you and your students might be headed back to the physical classroom. This can feel overwhelming, so we asked members of our Teacher Community who’ve already made the transition to share their best tips and tricks.

Keep the social, add the distance.

Having your students back – in person! all together! – will be a sigh of relief and a completely different experience than it was before. Spend some time redesigning your classroom to adhere to your school, district, and state standards for social distancing. Small enhancements can keep students safe while still feeling connected.

“My students sit on the floor so I created a grid for the kids to sit in – that way they can still have flexible seating but know that they need to do it within a certain space to stay distanced. I used sit spots and LONG velcro strips since my floor is carpeted.” —Carter Bell

“My back to school to-do list included rearranging my preschool classroom to close off all the toys and make individual tables, making individual boxes of toys for the kids, organizing my cleaning and sanitizing needs, taking care of licensing paperwork, and having a meet and greet for my incoming kids.” —Cathy Marie

“I put painters tape Xs on my floor at six ft distances to use to keep desks/tables in the appropriate spaces as well as a guide for lining up. Visual is helpful for kindergarten students and their teacher 😉.” —Andrea Ellsworth Melton

You can request velcro strips, storage boxes, flexible seating and much more through DonorsChoose. Inspired? Start your project today.

Right now, not sharing is caring.

Repackaging class sets for individual use takes time and extra organizing, but it’ll make your classroom run safely and smoothly. Subject-specific kits, supplies for special classes, books, and indoor recess items can all be prepped and labeled for individual students.

When possible, make individual ‘kits’ for students to avoid multiple students touching classroom supplies. (ie, Have a basket for each student for their supplies. Baggies and pencil boxes are great for math tool kits, books and basic supplies).” —Teresa Morris

“I think getting each student the basic supplies they’ll need is important and also considerate. We don’t know what their families have been through this past year, or what fiscal position they’re in. It’s also safer for us to not have to touch items that come from students’ homes.” —Jennifer Epstein-McFee

“Individual supply boxes with [their] own supplies to take to special classes (art, music, library) with earbuds and backpacks. No sharing of supplies in any area.” —Jennifer Carrico

“Individual activity bins you can pass out for indoor recess or STEM time. I use pencil boxes and put things in them like legos, pipe cleaners, cubes, straws, etc. kids love to build! We also have individually labeled containers of play dough.” —Janine Spiess

You can request zipper storage bags, supply boxes, individual sets of manipulatives, and much more through DonorsChoose. Ready? Start your project today.

Masks on, but keep smiling.

The newest must-have school supply? Masks. And lots of them. Keeping extra supplies on hand will help you and your students feel as comfortable as possible.

“Buy extra disposable masks for your students. I’ve found that one of the best ways to help them stay masked all day is to have tools on hand to make masking easier. My students love knowing they can ask for a new mask anytime, no questions asked.” —Erika McDonald

“Find a method to encourage them to keep masks on. I have a mystery mask wearer in every class. If they keep their mask on, the class gets a treat. If they don’t, I don’t reveal who it was, but no treat.” —Melissa B Sinda

“Hack: we all look so different in a mask. My co-worker used her Cricut to make a mask for each student with their name on it. BEST hack ever!!” —Harley Abrevaya

“I found it useful to have disposable masks and hand sanitizers readily available! My students use at least 2 masks each day depending on the durability of the disposable masks.” —FJ Geldore

“Things to stock up on – masks! Lots of masks. Students go through masks like crazy (as do you). For yourself I would also keep face wipes because your face tends to sweat a lot and the wipe is very refreshing. Make sure to take your students outside a little more than normal for mask breaks.” —Angela Knapmiller

You can request masks, hand sanitizer, face wipes and much more through DonorsChoose. Interested? Start your project today.

Reimagine, rearrange.

Everything is changing, again. Having new processes and routines in place before your students return to school will help set expectations from day one. From there, you can figure out what works best for your classroom and adjust as needed.

“I’ve found it helpful to have little checklists for all our new routines. And I end everything five minutes early to allow us time to do extra clean up between classes.” —Natalie Ann

Have a routine for moving through your classroom. I have a routine for entering and exiting, how many people can be standing at one time, which tables use which stations (trash, tissue, hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes).” —Jessica Mishima-Donahue

“My advice: Think through *all* your pre-pandemic procedures. What do they need to look like NOW? (For example, I’m in PreK and the kids need to get their mask box if they want to take their mask off on the playground. So “get your mask box” had to become part of our procedures for lining up, and we need a protocol for cleaning hands before/after masks). Can they take masks off? When, and where do they go? (Command hook on their desk, or something different?) How do they get materials/supplies this year? Do they need to have their own at their seat? How are you delineating what their personal space looks like in your room? (Desks, floor tape, etc) Etc etc etc…you got this!!!” —Emily Dunham Les

You can request cleaning supplies, Command Hooks, personal storage and much more through DonorsChoose. Have an idea? Start your project today.

Remember, you’re all in this together.

There may be some long days ahead. Know that teachers everywhere are with you and cheering you on. And so is the DonorsChoose team! We’re here to help.

“Biggest tip – give yourself some grace. Make time for something that fills your cup.” —Rebecca Jones

“We are back in the classroom and my biggest advice is to take it one day at a time. Extend grace to yourself and yourself students.” —Ashley Adams Gray

“Take care of yourself! Self care is more important now than ever.” —Teresa Morris

“Just breathe! We went back in October and you can’t have a perfect plan. So give yourself some grace!” —Laura Goodner

“Also…. a lot of patience and flexibility! it’s been amazing to see the kids and their excitement to be back together ❤️” —Megan Hawkins

“My biggest tip- be flexible. All kids are “behind,” so it’s okay. We need to focus more on their mental health than if they know everything. What do they need? A teacher who cares and listens.” —Liz Prince

Looking for more teacher-to-teacher real talk (and pep talks)? Connect with the 20,000+ teachers in our DonorsChoose community on Facebook.

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