Cheers to teachers wearing masks all day long in the summer heat. Cheers to teachers who are washing their, and their students’ hands 75 times a day. Cheers to those same teachers who are working tirelessly to create meaningful curriculum and experiences for children who are sitting 6 feet apart from each other. Preschool indeed looks a bit different in a post-COVID world.
After being closed for 14 weeks, we knew that re-opening was going to have new regulations and restrictions. We also knew that the physical spaces would need to be altered and that teachers would need training on how to operate. We knew that new protocol not only needed to be created but strictly adhered to for maximum safety.
How was all of this going to lend itself to a preschool setting, previously marked by nurturing, loving environments full of hugs and cuddles? How could we, as early childhood educators, learn to socially distance from a child who needs a reassuring hug? Would we be able to convey empathy and caring from behind a mask, even a brightly colored one with cute animals on it?
And then the day arrived and we were ready to reopen our doors and welcome in the children we had been missing deep within our souls.
For after all, what is a teacher without students? How was the first day going to go? How would we all adjust to our “new normal?” Was anything ever going to be ok again? Would post-COVID preschool be sustainable?
Yes! A million times, yes! There was a crucial piece of the puzzle that we hadn’t even realized. There was something so magical that I am embarrassed to say we overlooked it. While we were crafting strategy and protocol about moving children from the classroom to the playground without passing another group, we forgot to remember the wholesome resilience of children.
We forgot to include the children’s innate nature and ability to see the good in situations. We didn’t include children’s capability of boundless love and adventure in any protocol plan. Shame on us.
When looking inside classrooms in our post-COVID school, we see amazing teachers reading to attentive children. We see teachers and children engaged in meaningful conversations about, among other things, Covid-19 and what patterns people have on their masks.
We see children engaged with learning materials and writing/tracing letters, numbers, and shapes. We
see teachers putting out art materials and children using their motor planning and creativity to craft masterpieces. We see teachers and children running around outside with abandon, riding bikes, and drawing with chalk. What we do not see is sadness, confusion, or fear.
We see classrooms operating exactly as they should and for that, we are intensely grateful and impressed. Without dedicated teachers and resilient children, none of this could work well and luckily we have both. And we also learned that a broad smile from behind a masks light’s up anyone’s eyes!