Let's Talk About Education

On Perspective from Preschoolers

October 20, 2020 - By Kirstin White - Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

It’s been just over two weeks since our students have transitioned back to campus in two new models of learning at EARJ. In the weeks, days and hours up to our return, the adults in the EARJ community had a lot on their minds.

The teaching teams worked furiously to finalize lesson planning, new classroom arrangements, and technology set-up to be sure that students at home and school would feel part of the classroom family. The physical spaces were ready, desks neatly spaced and materials separated and organized.

EARJ parents coordinated transportation, work schedules and set up home learning routines in alignment with a new kind of school day. They carefully talked to their kids about what school would look like: masks, hand washing and social distancing.

I’m certain every adult in our community worried about how the children would respond and adapt to this new school life, with such a different kind of day with so many protocols and procedures. I know I wasn’t the only one with anxious late night questions running through my mind: Will the kids be alright? Will they understand why their teachers can’t hug them? Will they be scared with all the rules and empty space? Will they be able to learn in the same way?

On the first day of school, I knew we were ready. The amount of work and preparation for that first moment is difficult to put into words, but I can honestly say that it was all worth it the minute the gates opened and the school was once again filled with children. Every member of our community knew that this was the product of months of preparation, waiting, uncertainty, and a great deal of perseverance through challenge.

I held my breath as the first students opened their car doors to temperature checks and masked adults. I was met by each student with a different form of expression: smiles from behind the masks, cheers, dancing, jumping, and elbow bumps! Their joy was contagious!

I looked over as a new Preschool student was walking up, ready to meet her teacher in person for the very first time. She had a bright backpack on and a huge bow in her hair. She was the perfect picture of many years of back to school first days in my memory.  She looked small, but full of confidence, as she walked carefully past masked adults, through the temperature check, and sanitized her hands; she looked like every excited three-year-old on the first day of school.

She was ready to say good-bye to her mom and head off to her classroom for the very first time. The minute she saw Ms. Angela in the waiting area, she stopped and exclaimed, “I know you!”. Her eyes were wide and a huge smile beamed as she looked up at her new teacher.

“I know you, too, Valentina! I’m so happy to see you here at school!” Ms. Angela replied.

Valentina was staring up at her teacher with a face full of excitement, promise, and hope. “I know you! You’re my teacher… from the TV!”

The adults could not contain their smiles and laughs; all those days of teaching through a screen were worth it – they were recognized and meaningful, even for the youngest in our school. It took Valentina’s perspective to remind us of that!

And that’s exactly how the first week went; the adults worried about a million little things and waited to see how the students would respond to change. The children… they just came back to school with renewed excitement and energy, filled with happiness. They danced behind their desks during music class and discussed books over webcams with their classmates. They learned to walk the hallways socially distanced, using games and songs and pumped hand sanitizer as they entered the classroom.

The children have been incredible in their resilience, their ability to adapt, their understanding of change, and their joy in learning together.

As we look ahead to what will undoubtedly be a school year unlike any other, we know that the EARJ community will need to continue to work together as educators, families, and students to navigate the opportunities and challenges of online and in-person learning.  When things get difficult, I’ll keep looking for perspective from our preschoolers.

Kirstin White
Barra Lower School Principal

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