Developmentally Appropriate Practice in The Time of COVID
I recently received an email from a Wyoming kindergarten teacher expressing her dismay at the changes she has made in her classroom due to COVID-19 health restrictions. She said the following.
"I know that keeping our kids safe is our number one priority, and I know that many of these restrictions are necessary to do so, but it feels so WRONG. I have always prided myself on supporting kids and doing what I can within my classroom to meet their social, emotional and academic needs and I feel like I am going against everything I believe in. How do I do something that feels so wrong and make it right? How do I meet the needs of my kids in this new classroom? I honestly feel more lost than I did in my first year of teaching. I am incredibly grateful to get the kids back into classrooms, but I feel as though everything I believe in as a kindergarten teacher is getting ripped away."
I heard this sentiment repeated by a group of kindergarten teachers just yesterday. My heart goes out to all early childhood educators asked to balance concern for children's safety and health with their commitment to developmentally appropriate teaching. Understanding the science of early learning makes one cringe at the thought of kindergarteners sitting in desks in rows silently filling out worksheets all day, eating lunch alone, with no opportunities to get outside or move their bodies. Yet social distancing and cleaning requirements have driven some schools in this direction. What we know is most essential for young children is opportunities to collaborate with others and participate in active learning using real materials. They need to hug teachers and see smiles, rather than masks, on their friends faces. We also know that their health and safety must come first. What struck me most in my conversation with kindergarten teachers yesterday was their resilience, creativity, and commitment as they meet these challenges. They are finding innovative ways to build and strengthen relationships with children and families. They are creatively connecting children to each other. They are inventing ways to facilitate hands on learning and still meet cleaning requirements. They are doing everything they can to advocate for what kindergarten children need with those who don't share their expertise in early childhood.
Listening and learning from them yesterday helped me to better understand the difficult choices they are asked to make each day. This is why I am thrilled to share with them and all other early childhood professionals a new publication from the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
Developmentally Appropriate Practice in the Time of COVID
Using the Early Learning Program Standards as a guide, NAEYC has created a series of questions that schools, early childhood programs, and educators can use to make decisions during this challenging time. They have also included examples of ways educators and programs are holding strong to principles of developmentally appropriate practice while meeting COVID-19 requirements. I hope this tool will prove helpful.
The most energizing part of my conversation with kindergarten teachers from around the state yesterday happened when they were sharing ideas and solving problems together. What teachers need to do this difficult work is each other! The power of their collective knowledge and creativity truly inspired me. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to support their collaboration. If you are a kindergarten teacher and are interested in collaborating with other teachers from around Wyoming to support developmentally appropriate kindergarten we will be meeting in a community of practice on the third Thursday of each month. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like more information.