Working at a Preschool during the Pandemic

It is mid-December.  The last day of school before our winter break.  Looking back to September feels both a blink and a lifetime away; the time has gone swiftly, the depth of friendships and learning so rich.

What have we learned? So much. We’ve learned that blue is J.D.’s favorite color. We’ve learned how to listen to each other and to share.  We’ve learned about what animals do in the fall and winter and how what we do is similar.  We’ve shared things about our families.  Margot, after hearing the book of poetry their class made together, said “it feels like family too”. Lielle is tired of Covid.  So is Otis. We have learned that we can wear our masks for hours and give each other space and still feel close to one another.

Each parent and child has developed their own good-bye ritual: mask kisses, thrown kisses, waves through the window, sign language and special words said.  The good-byes are taking place on the sidewalk, in the cold and with such warmth.

And the way Ruby holds my hand as we walk up the steps makes me think of a link of chain—something strong, connected, unbreakable.

Because we are in small pods of nine or less, we are getting to know each other well.  Romy told me about a horse named Cowboy (she thought the name was hilarious) and then asked me what I thought heaven meant.  She went on to tell me what she thinks death will be like–a long sleep and you wake up somewhere else. She will look for her dad when she wakes up, because she’s pretty sure since he’s so old he will get there first.

Each classroom feels both like its own world and its own family.  The children build together elaborate creations out of blocks and paint pictures for each other.  They have dance parties, build obstacle courses, hide clues and treasure for each other. And play “dog” (where they take turns walking each other).  Marco knows how to spell everyone’s name in his class.  He is proud to know them all.

Like the first days of school in September, we are wearing our masks, opening windows, keeping the air moving.  We are washing and sterilizing everything and then doing it again. The difference between September and now is we all know each other’s names, our favorite colors, our joy and sadness. We all know how each other’s eyes smile and when we don’t understand what someone has said through their mask, we ask them to say it again, until we do.  We understand the unique things about each other, and we care for each other in ways both profound and simple.

Harold likes to tell me about his little brother George who is also his best friend.  (George loves Harold.  George does not like to wear socks or pants. George is fun!) Coming back from the park, someone had drawn all the planets on the sidewalk, so Harold asked me to visit Mars with him.  It was a nice visit, although Mars was a little dusty.  Harold was glad it was easy to get there and that we could still see the park from Mars.

And in some ways, this fall has felt like a trip to Mars.  We set off in September, hoping to make school work in this time of Covid; to allow the children a healthy and safe place to learn and grow.  We knew it was going to take all of us, caring for each other, trusting each other, to make it through safely.  Where exactly the Fall would take us, we didn’t know, and I think in many ways it has exceeded our expectations.  We have learned to so much from each other; how to care and take care.  How to build strong close bonds through our words and actions. How to be flexibility and curious like a child.  How to try new things and adapt. And perhaps the most important thing of all; we know we can count on each other to help us through this pandemic, to feel less isolated and alone.  We know community is what you bring to it, and how you nurture it, and we all call each other friend.

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