One of the awesome sliverlinings of this moment is that teachers have greater access to professional development opportunities for free!! I just attend a Zoom webinar including Maria Gonzalez Moeller and Samantha Aigner-Treworgy hosted by Nonie Lesaux and audience participation nd welcoming by Karen. It really does make a difference when you are welcomed to a group by name!! TY!! Every kid no matter how big likes to be welcomed by the teacher by name. ; )
The speakers talked about providing emergency child care for essential workers. I thought it was really interesting. Maria talked about how its really about looking at child care by a case-by-case basis and that we need to be exposed to new cases so that we can learn from them. She also brought up another really great point. She said, "Don't let fear guide your decisions." She posed the question, "What would you do if you weren't afraid?"
Think about that, "What would you do if you weren't afraid?"
She mentioned that children absorb and react to what we put out. She encouraged folks, "Trust in yourself and what you know about children." It is about taking an inquiry-bases approach rather than a fear-based approach. Also, tap into children's curiosity.
Infrastructures were also discussed. What does it mean to be a public good as an infrastructure? With the emergency childcare system, it is about holding to the principals, but implementing it in a new way. Samantha brought up an excellent point being, "How do I say I don't know in the bureaucracy? And how do we find the answers quickly with in the bureaucracy? She stated that communication is about learning information as well as distributing information. Data and transparency are key to building trust with families and communities.
Nonie also brought up an excellent point in that in crisis things are amplified in the system. She said it is a time that shines a light on pressure points and opportunities in long standing problems in infastructures.
Lessons learned from emergency care for essential workers will inform our work going forward. Some families are in crisis and working with the Department of Child and Families. Teachers are often the eyes of such agencies in that we make some of the referrals.
Both ladies indicated that there were some communication barriers that they had to overcome and that collecting useful data was difficult. Relationship building is key and partnering with community resources. Often teachers will partner with community agencies. As a special education teacher, we often make connections for families in our communities.
Maria brought up another great point that, "There is no child support, without parent support." She said is is a two generational approach." As a teacher, I would extend that to a three generational approach. I have found that connecting with grandparents is often more effective in that many grandparents have the time to invest.
So what does "reopening" mean for early education?
There is a curriculum shift as far as priorities. Social emotional learning is key. Teaching children how to protect themselves such as putting on a masks and washing hands are part of it. Through shared routines it builds community. One point also taken to heart is that "Teachers need to let kids know they are safe." They said that child care can be done safely and joyfully, It's not just about practices, but also preparation. They partnered with agencies and were able to get the PPEs needed, etc. It is a hopeful message. However, as a part of that planning teachers see that many nurses still don't have the proper PPEs. At my previous school, they didn't even have soap in the bathrooms half the time. Each teacher had to provide many of our own cleaning supplies, etc. Not sure how to relay that children are safe, when most of us teachers still don't feel safe to teach f2f in schools. We were told that teachers would be doing temp checks and they couldn't guarantee PPEs for teachers. There is a disconnect there.
With that, there was no mention of social distancing in early education. I would have liked to hear about how the emergency child care workers for essential workers dealt with social distancing preschoolers. Moreover, it would have really been helpful to hear from some of the childcare workers themselves. It would be nice to hear the practioners' perspectives. It is good to get the big pictures as provided by the experts, as well for teachers to learn to details on getting it done on the day to day by the implementers. With that, I was hoping to learn about emergency child care for essential workers with children with disabilities. However, my question hung in the sidebar. I hope that they will consider it for future webinars.
Also, mentioned that there is more pressure for learning to look like "real school" by many families. Structured play for early childhood is learning. Families were able to look at their children's learning in new ways. When I taught a preschool autism class I incorporated structured play as I did for many years before. In recent years, there has been a push for academics, academics, academics. I remember getting in trouble with my former principal for having structured playtime for my preschool students. II explained that it is essential in modeling social and communication skills for students with autism. Conversely, in the emergency child care settings for essential workers, it seems like they were able to do structured play without school administrators shoo-shooing them. That is a good thing!
So what does "reopening" mean for early education? What does it mean for your household? What does it mean for your community?
It was a quick 1/2 hour event, but thankful I got to listen in a be a part of the audience to learn!! Kudos to HGSE for opening up this professional development opportunity for teachers for free!! :Rock on and Teach on!! :o)
Here's the link for further webinars: https://www.gse.harvard.edu/education-now