So much has changed in the world of early childhood education since a global pandemic became part of our reality. School districts, families, child-care centers, home centers, state agencies, and federal agencies have been scrambling to keep up with what caring for young children looks like under new regulations. The statewide agency I work for consists of both federal (Head Start) and state-funded programs, and I’d like to share what guidance we’ve created for staff around changes in the day-to-day routine.*
Ratios and cohorts: In order to minimize risk, it’s important that we reduce and limit the number of people that come into contact with each other during the day.
Face masks: It’s important to help kids adapt to the staff requirement to wear face masks and personal protective equipment in the classroom.
Routines and transitions: In a world where so many routines in the children’s lives have been disrupted, maintaining predictability in the classroom is more critical than ever.
Learning: Children can continue learning through play with some adjustments to modality.
Fresh air: Being outside is another factor that can reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Dramatic play: Pretend play is an important tool for young children, especially in trying times.
Meals and brushing teeth: Changes to self-help tasks must be made at this time.
Staff wellness: We are most present for the children when we take care of ourselves.
I hope that this gives you a little picture of what might be different for your classroom when it reopens. Many of my agency’s open centers have found the experience to be very positive; both adults and children were happy to interact with each other again. Children adapted better than expected to staff wearing masks, the teachers found the new cleaning tasks manageable since class sizes were smaller, and laughter was shared.
Fair warning, however, that even with cohorting, not allowing any visitors into the center, temperature checking everyone who entered the building, and staff taking breaks in separate areas, we still had several sites shut down statewide, commensurate with the spike in cases my state was unfortunately seeing. Nothing is a perfect shield, but various precautions contribute to the important work of minimizing risk while children get the very important care they need.
Please feel free to use this list as an adaptable springboard for what your own center or program might need to consider and communicate to staff and families in the coming months. Thank you everyone for all the support and energy you give to early childhood education!
*Note: Remember to follow your own state's and organization's formal guidelines for safe teaching.
Stacia Clark has worked for multiple Head Start and early childhood education agencies over the last 14 years. She has taught in the classroom, managed several sites, supervised education staff, and is currently a Preschool Content Specialist at the Oregon Child Development Coalition (OCDC). She is also bilingual in Spanish and is an Affiliate CLASS® Trainer and coach.
Last week we hosted Back to School with Meaningful Interactions, our first week-long free Teacher Series for nearly 4,000 early childhood educators. Each day attendees could choose from three 45-minute sessions that focused on what matters the most—meaningful classroom interactions.
How do you make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? I posed that question to a random selection of contacts via text message. What did I discover? Everyone in my sample group spreads on the PB first, then the J. There are a variety of ways though to apply the jelly, but in my random group, the jelly always comes second.
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches make me think about Behavior Guidance, a dimension in the CLASS® toddler observation tool. Especially the first two indicators of behavior guidance: proactive and supporting positive behavior. Proactive is the peanut butter! It goes first. That layer of peanut butter is the base for the jelly, which promotes positive behavior.
“What I think I’m most proud of as a professional in the field is our ability to show up, our ability to still do it, to still roll with the changes… We have to adjust. That is what educators did the entire year. We show up. We have a strong why. We love what we do.” This is a quote from Colleen Schmit from our recent webinar, Celebrating Great Teaching. She’s talking about how hard the last couple of school years have been for teachers. Teachers faced a similar difficulty 20 years ago when the United States faced a national tragedy.
I was a kindergarten teacher for eight years at a public school. I loved my job, but somewhere along the road I started to become crotchety. I was often annoyed with my colleagues and frustrated with the demands of the district, and I was sure I knew better than any training or professional development session I would ever be forced to attend.