This has undoubtedly been a year full of unique challenges for everyone… the children we serve, their families, our employers, and ourselves. Teacher experiences in the time of COVID have varied tremendously – some teachers have remained in-school teaching throughout the duration of the pandemic; some have made the difficult transition to remote teaching; and yet others have lost their work entirely due to closings.
While our struggles have been great, the one thing we can take comfort in is the incredible resilience of our field. Watching our early childhood champions navigate these times has been a source of ongoing pride for me.
Few fields have experienced as many complications as early childhood education. While people working in many white collar jobs have been able to opt to work remote, that has not been an option for many early childhood providers, who are responsible for not only the education of children, but also their health and safety. Even within the larger umbrella of education, it has been the early childhood providers who have had to overcome the greatest hurdles, and who have done so at the risk of their own health and safety.
While COVID has been exhausting for our profession, it has also been a unique opportunity to explore new systems, protocols, and strategies to support learning. As a result, our field now benefits from increased performance in several areas, including:
- Communication: While effective communication has always been a cornerstone of a quality early childhood environment, programs and teachers have learned new ways to communicate with parents, including mobile apps, teleconferencing, email, and phone trees. These improved communication protocols will only serve to enhance programs in a post-COVID world.
- Screening Procedures for Communicable Diseases: While state and local governments have long had requirements to prevent the spread of communicable diseases in Early Childhood settings, program protocols have been strengthened over the past year, including contact tracing procedures, detailed health checks (some including temperature checks), and more strongly enforced quarantine requirements. As we move to a post-COVID world, our programs will benefit from our robust screening systems.
- Health Procedures in the Classroom: Programs have also greatly enhanced their health/safety systems by increasing sanitation procedures and limiting the extent to which materials are shared. While we will certainly be happy to see some of these health procedures relaxed over the next year – such as social distancing of children – others will contribute to more healthful environments in our programs.
Home-School Connections: COVID has shown us the critical role parents/families play in their children’s education. Many EC teachers have needed to rely heavily on parent support to ensure that students practiced the skills identified in state standard frameworks. Our gratitude to families is immense!
While these are all positive takeaways from the pandemic experience, the thing I am most grateful for of all is the incredible resilience, commitment, and professionalism of our workforce. I remain thankful for our steadfast educators who have enabled young children to continue to receive the care and education they so deserve.