Okay, first things first: How is everyone doing out there? Our world went from what we have always known it as to unrecognizable seemingly overnight and it’s important to check in and stay connected. If you have ever read my blogs, you can tell that connection is a running theme throughout. This is because it is a very strong core value of mine; I truly believe that connection is key.
This blog today is motivated by a couple of things. One is connection, but another one is expectations. For ourselves, our mental health, our work, our society, and, of course, my favourite: our children! I am truly a lucky educator as I get to call myself a leader of the most exceptional educators I know. They are life-long learners who are filled with love and joy at the thought of exploring and experiencing learning with the children. Being co-learners alongside children is what we have been called to do, and there is no greater reward or joy for those that call themselves educators.
I highlight the purpose and joy of an educator for two reasons:
Expectations of yourself
Expectations of your children
The expectations we put on ourselves, the ability to, overnight, go from wearing two to four different hats in a day (such as your Parent hat, Employee hat, Partner hat, and the you that gets to wear no hat). We used to put those hats on at different points throughout the day… but now, we are all of a sudden trying to wear our various hats simultaneously! We have brought the one thing in to our home that we all try to keep out: WORK. It’s strange too because as much as we dislike the idea of letting our workplace in to our homes, we are also grateful for the distraction and routine of normalcy that work can provide. At least, that is the case, until the Work hat gets smothered under the Parent hat: time to get breakfast, provide an activity, have a conversation, and then put on a video to entertain the kids, so that you can go as quickly as you can to wearing only one hat. And now add that schools are trying to teach remotely, and child care centres are trying to provide parents with as many activities and resources as they can in order to support their families… and we can see that parents are drowning. Many of us are also parents and have experienced that drowning feeling firsthand. But the answer is not remote learning, arts and crafts, pre-planned activities, multiple hats – that’s exhausting! At the end of the day, the only feeling you are left with is an overwhelming sense that you didn’t do today as well as you could have… fleeting thoughts and pictures of your day flash before you as you reflect and fall asleep, and they all seem to bring up the parts of your day of which you aren’t so proud. You are judging yourself so intensely on being a good parent, being a good employee, and being good partner all the while trying to stay sane… and now I keep seeing this other hat being thrust upon parents: the Teacher hat!
The answer lies within two important things to remember during this time:
You are not a teacher or an educator
Your child is not in a place to learn (traditionally)
I am going to ask you to reflect with me now. Think about all the feelings you have gone through since March 13th. Anger, frustration, feelings of impossibility, relief, exhaustion, frustration, success, failure, frustration, stress... did I mention frustration? Those feelings are exactly what our children are experiencing too, but instead of frustration being the overwhelming contributor, it’s confusion and fear. Both our children and ourselves are experiencing trauma right now. And the one thing we know through child development is that when the emotional brain turns on and becomes charged up, the logical brain disconnects. Literally, the children living through this experience of trauma cannot logic or reason. So you can rightly assume that this is not going to help the situation. Those of you with older children can probably think of numerous first-hand examples of this when trying to get their School Age child to “learn remotely”.
One of the ways we are trying to support parents and families at home is through our Instagram account. We have been and will be posting some examples of child-led explorations, loose parts, what learning can look like when it’s child-directed and you are a play partner. I recognize that parents need support right now, and more than anything I want to help; we are here for you, all of us for all of you, I promise. But what you need right now is NOT a bunch of arts and crafts, worksheets, and Pinterest “Learning Activities”, I promise you; we don’t even do that at school. It is a prehistoric way of teaching with a focus on the outcome and the product and ultimately tells a child what a failure they are because theirs doesn’t look like the example, or you have to stay up until 2 in the morning making matching number ice creams and cones, pre-cutting them out, doing all the work only to present them to your child and in the end… one of you is crying.
It’s okay, there is great news!!!! You have been given a great opportunity. An opportunity to strengthen your relationship, connection, and family all while creating and fostering a love of learning in your children. Children learn through play and experiences, and when they are connected to their co-learner, the learning is even more impactful. You get the opportunity of learning as a family! The learning happens naturally: children learn through doing and being a family, living through this traumatic time as a family, gardening, cooking, cleaning, reading, exploring. All of that supports and increases exponentially the skills and learning in mathematics, science, critical thinking, literacy, self-regulation, and self-identity in THE perfect environment: the one with their parents, who know their child better than anyone else. When you cook dinner or bake together as a family, when you go for walks together and get fresh air, when you play games together, you are teaching mindfulness, well-being, science, gross motor, health, literacy, math, critical thinking, and development of a healthy self-esteem and positive self-image, just from doing these activities together! And these learning opportunities abound the more you live as a family because this is truly how children learn and find their place in this world. When you follow the child’s lead you will be delighted and surprised to find out where you’ve ended up! In fact you may even find yourself celebrating Halloween during gardening season!
You are all doing really amazing jobs! Keep doing what you are doing and remember that we are here to support you. I will continue to post some ideas or inspirations for play on Instagram, but I also encourage all of you to reach out to your classroom educators – they MISS you and the children so very much! You can contact your educators through the classroom emails; we are here to support you and your family and we would love the opportunity to hear how each one of you is doing and where you need the most support. If you don’t know your classroom email, see the list below.
In an effort to keep the children connected to each other, I have created a Facebook post for you to share your family’s stories, pictures, and anecdotes of your familial journey. We would love to see you share what has been successful and has brought joy and learning to your family.
Remove those expectations you have placed on yourselves and rest in the peace that you are doing the best job you can. Your children are with you, which is the best place for them and for you. Stay connected and be well.