by Dave Davis
Like many of my fellow educators here in the East End, and probably everywhere else for that matter, a return to traditional or ‘in-person’ classroom instruction last month was something to see, after nearly 18 consecutive months. virtual teaching. At least for now, we’ve put down “the screens” and settled back into a pace much more aligned with our natural instincts.
Note that we are doing this with some concern, as the latest variant of the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc, with an increase in cases now appearing among the country’s younger populations.
As a federally funded national preschool program, our particular agency has implemented many protocols that years ago would have been viewed as fear-mongering and overkill. President Biden’s recent term will require all of our employees to be vaccinated. Wearing a mask is now mandatory throughout the day for every student and staff member, daily temperature and general health checks are documented prior to entry, in addition to family members being limited to drop-off and check-in. curbside pickup.
Daily disinfection of all toys, installation of an air filtration system, and frequent hand washing are also techniques implemented for additional protection. Of course, there are all kinds of safety measures we can put in place to reduce the likelihood of transmission, but alas, nothing is foolproof when it comes to an airborne disease like this. To our satisfaction, the children have been quite receptive to the new procedures and, for the most part, adhere to them with only occasional reminders needed.
It all comes down to what a kid just wants to be a kid. It’s that simple. If that means they need to protect themselves and others by putting in place precautionary systems, so be it. When you think about how young a preschooler is, this pandemic has occupied almost half of their life so far. Thousands of hours have been spent in isolation, without the typical socio-emotional developmental markers being achieved for most three and four year olds, especially those in risk categories like this. is the case with our students.
Most parents confirmed that their daily routines had been severely altered during the pandemic, with many needing alternative sources of care to supplement hours normally spent in a preschool program. Depending on the family’s financial needs and a parent’s employment status, some people have chosen to stay home with their children as many public schools have adopted a virtual learning paradigm similar to ours. Needless to say, in a tourism-based resort economy like ours, with a limited income window, the financial stressors placed on many families only added to the challenges faced at home.
In an article recently published on the CDC website, their data validates what we in our program have witnessed: “The Covid-19 pandemic has increased stress, fear and worry for many families. Worries about illness, finances and isolation, dealing with the grief of loss, and having less outside help have made parenting more stressful. “
Obviously, it is impossible to make up for “lost time” overnight, but providing these young people with many opportunities for growth is an achievable goal that we can all support. One of the essential elements necessary for successful outcomes is to establish a fluid activity day (both structured and unstructured), which will lend itself to the dynamic that fosters engagement between peers and faculty.
Equally important is recognizing each child’s differences and how they cope with change. There are so many factors in this equation that obviously some will need extra help and some won’t, and that’s to be expected. At the heart of this transition must be a strong line of communication between parents, teachers and administrators. Careful planning among all parties involved is imperative.
One thing is for sure, due to the length of this situation, our traditional in-person model is now new to all incoming students of this age group and their respective families. Everyone is in the same boat, so to speak. Preschool has once again become a life experience shared between members of the community which, for this educator in particular, is a very appreciated spectacle.