Around here, there is a group of retired educators who get together on the first day of the return to school for a breakfast they call “To hell with the bell”. It’s an opportunity to celebrate the end of a career.
The bell anaology isn’t lost on me.
In elementary school, it signalled the start and stop of various things – school day, recess, rotary, … Our bell was manually pushed by the principal on the wall in his office. Since he was also our mathematics teacher in the room attached to the office, we often got the chance to go in and push it. Sometimes, it’s the little things.
At secondary school, it was all programmed from a central source in the main office. Things generally had us all doing the same things at the same time unless we were on a special timetable and it wasn’t changed to the different program.
At university and indeed, at my secondary school, we didn’t have bells. Dismissal was all controlled by the teacher. If a lesson went a little long, you could do it. As our principal was proud to note, we’re professionals and not bell ringers. Last night, we watched a rerun of Modern Family where Cam was in mid statement in his music classroom when the bell rang and everyone just got up and walked out while he was talking. The biggest advantage was when the bell rang for a fire drill, everyone paid attention.
In many ways, Ontario schools have bells. They’re rung from the top by the Ministry of Education. In any regular year, every publically funded school in the province would open today and would remain open according to a fixed schedule.
Not so this year.
Just looking around the province, start days aren’t the same everywhere. The last hour backing away from the stance that schools would open as usual the day after Labour Day and giving school districts the opportunity to delay and stagger the return for students is the current rule. Teachers, of course, will need to be in place. Knowing educators, they’ll be planning, re-planning, adjusting, re-adjusting, and playing the return of students over and over in their minds and the mandatory rules and classroom safety expectations.
So, there isn’t a master plan. Instead, there are hundreds of different plans. If a school district was in the enviable position of having reserves, they were “allowed” to use some of them to make school safer.
Sadly, browsing social and traditional media continues to reveal that there isn’t a consistency in approach. Some teachers still don’t know what they’re teaching and many don’t have class lists yet.
I’ve got to believe that this is going to be taken care for the most part today, if it hasn’t already. As students come staggering back to school, they’ll need somewhere to go and safely. Who remembers having to return to the gymnasium for a principal welcome back and then being called to home rooms by teacher?
This year, teachers will need to know how many chairs to put in place and how to direct students safely through the maze of desks and chairs to get to their assigned spot. This is not the year to grab a chair and sit at the end of an already populated table until they can be taken care of properly.
I’m hoping to see a flurry of information sharing success from the first days of school when they do open. I suspect there will be, mixed in this, messages of frustration because there isn’t a workable plan yet.
Prove me wrong.