LEADING LIGHTS     Issue 3 | 2020

Annette Sheehy

Lockdown – An Unintended Social Experiment

Editorial   Annette Rogers

Lockdown, as an unintended social experiment, created many learning opportunities for teachers, whānau and tamariki alike in ECE.

Tēnā koutou katoa,

We are about to embark on term three, ten weeks post lockdown and what a roller coaster it has been since March 25. I am sure the term break was welcomed by leaders and teachers across the country.

Lockdown, as an unintended social experiment, created many learning opportunities for teachers, whānau and tamariki alike in ECE. Through necessity teachers quickly adapted to communicating with each other via Zoom and similar apps. The work didn’t stop as teams used the opportunity to catch up on that pile that is always in the ‘important to do box’. Teachers have expressed how they believe that working collaboratively on the ‘to do list’ has strengthened team cohesion and relationships, especially in the all-day services where collective time is minimal under normal circumstances. However, the Zoom connections weren’t all work, much of the team and whānau communication centred on people’s health and wellbeing and checking how everyone was coping in such unprecedented times.

Teachers speedily developed distance learning programmes for their tamariki - a new way learning and connecting for both tamariki and whānau. Tamariki quickly adapted to, and relished, the opportunity to connect with teachers and their very creative activities.

A big plus that the Covid 19 lockdown afforded was the multitude of online workshops and presentations that quickly became available for teachers to engage in at their convenience. Quality professional learning for ECE teachers is sparse at best and is often at the end of the day after 8 hours of the demands of young children.

So what is life like in ECE post lockdown? After a slow start for children returning, as whānau were cautious about the busyness and the almost impossible ability to social distance in ECE environments. As time progressed with no new cases, whānau confidence grew and consequently so did the number of returning tamariki.

Whānau talked of positive and treasured experiences they had with their children over this time. Children came back, happy and rested, eager to share their Covid 19 Lockdown stories and experiences. A few pearls of wisdom were shared with teachers such as ‘phew that was a long weekend’!!

Some interesting outcomes have come to light as whānau and tamariki ventured back to their various services and term 2 finally progressed

  • Some whānau loved the whole learning from home experience so much they are now home schooling children
  • Families continuing to work from home have reduced their children’s hours in ECE services. While this might not be so financially good for the service, it will have fabulous long term outcomes for children whose lives won’t be so hurried!
  • The restrictions of level 3 required parents to drop children at the door rather than bring them in and settle them into the programme. Initially, teachers were worried as this is contrary to research and what is seen as high quality transition practices. The anxiety was not needed as even the most shy or clingy child pre Covid farewelled their parents and got on with their day without a backwards glance. Teachers discovered children independently engaged in their interests immediately, recognising that perhaps it is the parents who are more anxious about the separation. Furthermore it highlighted how much time parents demand of teachers during transitions. Delighting in the new way of being, teachers who have opted to keep with shorter transitions are being challenged by parents, who in the past have enjoyed the collegiality. There is a fine balance of putting children at the heart of the matter and still creating that sense of whanaungatanga. A sage reminder that change, no matter how small, can be difficult for some, especially since the turbulent time we have all experienced. It is these kinds of challenges that really make teachers reflect, collaborate and work in partnership with whānau to create new ways of knowing and being.

In this edition of Leading Lights your will read an article by Anne Malcom - Positive Change in Agile Organisations. This is based on the work that NZEALS has been undertaking, facilitated by Carolyn Stuart, a past and now returned member of NZEALS Council, as we strive to be relevant in 2020 and beyond.

Matariki, the Māori New Year is with us, a time for reflection, remembering the past, celebrating the present and looking forward to the future. I wonder what promises you have made to yourself during Covid 19 Lockdown and as life returns to the ‘new’ normal how you will adapt and change to create the future you dreamed.

Tangohia te peke nei ka tutuki a o moemoea
Take that leap and make your dreams come true

Ka kite