Early Childhood Looking ahead: one EC member’s experience of COVID-19

  • By Kay Bryan
  • This article was published more than 3 years ago.
  • 15 Jun 2020
Photo: iStock

Adjusting to an uncertain world can be difficult, particularly when you are responsible for starting young children on their educational journey – but uncertainty is also part of the learning process. 

Over the past few months, I have sat amazed and horrified at what was happening on the news. This new coronavirus is an invisible enemy that has threatened us in ways we never imagined possible. From the first reports, it was hard to know how it would affect our lives.

As a teacher in the early childhood sector, my thoughts were with the children who would be entering the classroom – or the play space, as we call it in early childhood. Play is such an important part of that first year of formal education – block construction, painting, creative arts, collage corner and messy play.

We spend that year building a child’s ‘self’ and the skills that will set them on a path to learning. How were we to do that, in the light of a pandemic that made it dangerous to work closely with others?

We were all dealing with similar issues in our personal lives, of course. Like many people, I bought extra toilet paper, a few extra packets of pasta and other staples. I thought about the effect on my three children: one a police officer, the other a tree climber and another living with me. I have a daughter-in-law (a vet) and twin granddaughters. I wanted them all safe.

Somehow, I found myself surrounded by a family of people whose jobs were all deemed to be essential. I was – and continue to be – concerned about them all, but I was grateful for the support and training they received and for the information provided by the Victorian government.

I have seen the impact of this crisis on people – the fear, the call for answers, the demands for action. I have tried to ensure that I do not judge people, because I do not know their stories, their filters, their triggers.

As a teacher, I know that uncertainty, and the accompanying difficult emotions, can be an essential part of learning. One of the reasons I teach is the joy I see when the ‘aha’ moment comes for a child as they master something new; the pleasure that comes from the slow gathering of skills a child needs to manage their emotions.

You can’t always control circumstances. However, you can always control your attitude, approach and response

Right now, we are all in that difficult part of the learning process where everything seems uncertain. We do not know what is happening and we have lost our sense of control – or come to realise that things were never really in our control. How can I hold others responsible for the things I feel I need, want or deserve, when I am sure they are working through numerous problems and concerns – problems and concerns that they would never have imagined when they welcomed in the new year?

In these times, I have taken comfort from what may seem an unlikely source – a quote from American footballer and mindfulness guru Tony Dungy: “You can’t always control circumstances. However, you can always control your attitude, approach and response. Your options are to complain or to look ahead and figure out how to make the situation better.”

I can take the lead from my police officer son, who, along with his colleagues, supports the community each and every day. I can emulate my daughter-in-law, who looks after animals each day, with processes in place that ensure the safety of herself and her colleagues, as well as their furry patients. I can certainly take the lead from the health professionals and ancillary staff in the medical field.

I have to trust that the decision for preschool services to remain open is correct on current advice. Although, I have struggled with the decision that, in Victoria, schools can teach remotely while we in the early childhood sector cannot.

Right now, what I can control is this: I will walk into my classroom tomorrow, be thankful for the colleagues who will be with me and welcome the children that attend. I will be positive, engaging and do what I love. I will be thankful for the opportunity to mould a young child’s mind, support their emotional growth and join in with their play.Why? Because I am a teacher.

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