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What's Poppin'? | Getting ready to go back to school

Perhaps you haven't seen the viral video of the two teachers in the US welcoming their returning High School students, so here it is:

In the video, Mrs Evans and Mrs Williams enthuse and encourage their students to return to learning with the right attitudes after a prolonged summer break. It's a little bit like the first lesson back to school where the teacher outlines their classroom rules and expectations, except with a hiphop instrumental and dancing.


As a secondary school teacher and hip hop fan, I produced my own UK version of the 'What's Poppin?' remix.


This article here from the TES is helpful reminder that students will need normality and that learning will be a 'welcome and refreshing distraction from the constant anxiety surrounding the virus'.


It is a strange paradox that nothing has changed and yet everything has changed. Nothing has changed in the sense that education remains a key factor in improving the life chances of young people; schools remain committed to their core business of teaching and learning; there are a number of constraints that make this task both challenging and critical.


Everything has changed in the sense that the impact of COVID-19 is fundamentally restructuring how we live our lives. It has been the constant focus on the effects of the pandemic that, more than ever, makes returning to school 'a welcome and refreshing' opportunity to focus on the reason teachers join the profession: to educate young people.


And so, I wanted to expand on the lyrics of the song here to help explain my thoughts.


Wah gwan? What’s popping?

These colloquial terms are informal greetings that hopefully convey a sense of familiarity to young people. They both basically mean 'what's going on?' and reflect the reality that for some students, it has been over 150 days since they have physically been in school.


USA got the globe TikToking

This is an obvious reference to the recent executive order by the US President prohibiting transactions with TikTok's owner ByteDance from mid-September. Some estimates suggest that TikTok has 800 million active users, no doubt boosted by national lockdowns around the world. In addition, there are other significant events that have taken place across the Atlantic that have and will send ripples across the pond.


Teachers getting ready to clock in

To be fair, I know many colleagues who have not 'clocked out'. This is not to champion an unhealthy obsession with work, but rather to acknowledge that are many colleagues who have worked throughout the lockdown and throughout the summer to prepare for our return to school. These unsung heroes have worked to ensure our young people are safe both inside and outside of school.


Students up to bat man, no Robin

This is a reminder to our young people that their job is be the best version of themselves and that like a baseball player stepping up to the plate, they have the support of a team - in the shape of the teachers, support staff, school leaders - that are rooting for them and cheering them on.


WHSmith: back to school shopping

As a child, this was always a significant milestone in the back to school routine. Buying a brand new pencil case, pens, rulers, the equipment I would need for the new academic year (and would often lose by the second week!) helped me to prepare for my return to learning. Think of it like an academic version of visiting Toys R Us.


Back to the front: like a Kris Kross ting

It isn't just students that sometimes feel a little nervous about going back to school; lots of teachers do too. It's natural to get butterflies about returning to school after a prolonged break like summer holiday. In these exceptional circumstances, it is even more important that we can get 'back to the front' to teach our students.


End of the shorts and flip flop ting

Back to business means back to business dress. Lockdown has felt like a perpetual mufti day with students and staff working from home. While clothes don't necessarily maketh the man, they definitely help to reflect the contexts we work and function in.


Back to square one? Nope like a Dot Cot ting

Veteran Eastender actress, June Brown, announced that she would not be returning to the soap after 35 years. Just as she will not returning to Albert Square, we are returning to square one with our students. We are not having to start completely from scratch. I was so proud of the way my students engaged with their learning during the lockdown and we will take every opportunity to build on the groundwork already laid.


On the grind: so no clock watching

The pace of school life at the best of times is fast, but I know that staff and students returning to school will have an added sense of urgency.


Trying to ensure that you've got options

I recently watched Hamilton on Disney Plus and loved it. There was one line that really resonated with me: 'Legacy. What is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.' This encapsulates what we try to do for young people, give them an education that will provide them options and life opportunities when they leave our classrooms. We give them keys so that they have access to several doors in their lifetimes.


Invest in you like stock options

In investment, the law of compounding is a powerful tool. The same is true of education. As teachers, we make small investments each day that have the potential to change the trajectory of lives. Every lesson, piece of feedback, pastoral chat, vote of confidence: it all adds up and has the potential to yield a significant return.


Like Vader, failure is not a option

There is not a lot about Darth Vader that we can emulate, but his lack of tolerance for failure is noteworthy. We want our young people to know that failure is not terminal or final. In fact, it is part of the process of learning. We want to develop healthy attitudes, a relentless optimism, that allows us to put failure in perspective and promote the resilience necessary to make progress.


Lay a base for ya to build blocks on

It is imperative that we give our young people the tools to build a life and make positive contributions to society. As we educate each generation, we also give them the tools to help them build their 'blocks'. In this way, schools are engines for growth for communities on many levels.


We ain’t locked down. We’re just locked on

Our eyes are on the prize. The physical restrictions we may face in order to mitigate the impact of the pandemic should not limit our young people's capacity to learn.


Do it together: like we ride shot gun

The process of learning is collaborative, which is what makes the classroom a special place. Teachers adapt and adjust their pedagogy to facilitate the learning of their students. Similarly, as teachers, we never stop learning and hopefully model the importance of being lifelong learners. 



Don’t believe? Watch: like your clock's gone wrong

There is no greater feeling as a teacher than seeing students succeed, especially those that doubt their ability to make progress. It is always important to challenge limiting beliefs and help students see that it is possible to grow as a learner.


Are you or somebody you know preparing to return to school? What is your back to school routine? What are you most looking forward to? I would love to hear from you. 

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