By Amanda Kaliner
Preschool aged children are learning important lessons daily, whether that be how to pick up after yourself, how to be kind, or how to read and write. In COVID New Orleans, one of the most important lessons that preschoolers learn is no longer being taught. In fact, preschool teachers are begging the opposite of their students. “Sharing is caring” is now moot. What is it like to work in a preschool right now? Guidelines for COVID-19 are changing sometimes daily. Regulations and standards are fading in and out constantly, and the city of New Orleans is no different to the rest of the country when it comes to the uncertainties surrounding the global pandemic.
Becca Grayum, a first-year preschool teacher at The Child Development Program, spoke about the daily challenges of working in childcare during a time where the world is changing at an unmanageable pace. The Child Development Program is currently holding all in-person instruction. All of the students are coming in for instruction at the same time, although they have limited their class sizes. The Child Development Program has implemented many new policies in order to make this happen. First, children have their temperatures taken every morning before entering the building. If they have a temperature that is above average, they are asked to go home. Once they are cleared to go in the building, they must wash their hands with hand sanitizer. The staff are all required to wear masks and wash their hands regularly.
What happens when children are inside the building? Are they allowed to share toys, to play closer than six feet apart? How are the children understanding and coping with the magnitude of COVID-19? Becca states that despite their best efforts, it is extremely difficult to ask children to not pass toys around from child to child. She also states that all toys are sanitized as often as they can be, but it’s hard to keep children from sharing, and from interacting tactilely with one another, as that’s the only way that some of them know how to communicate.
When asked what the biggest challenge has been trying to work through COVID, Becca states that, “it’s the isolation honestly. I miss the idea of community within the school. Collaboration in childcare is so important, but during the school day I can’t talk or program with teachers in other classrooms. Most of the day it’s just me and the children, and that can be really tough and isolating.” Communication has also been a problem for Becca. She says that she’s not always sure what’s going on within the school, or what’s expected of her on more than just a daily basis. “It isn’t anyone’s fault, our director is doing everything she can, but sometimes even she isn’t sure what is expected… things change so quickly it’s hard to communicate everything and not leave out details.” She said.
Despite the challenges that she’s facing, Becca believes that all-in-all, The Child Devlopment Program, like a lot of prechools in New Orleans, is doing the best job that it can, and that their best job creates an the best learning environment for children when you consider the other option of virtual learning. When asked if, on the whole, she feels satisfied with how her school has been helping her get through childcare in COVID New Orleans, Becca states that “Yeah— I feel mostly good but I think ‘oh this could’ve gone better’ sometimes, but that’s part of life now in this pandemic.” Things could be going better, but New Orleans is trying it’s best at doing right by it’s children.