April 29, 2020 4:59 pm Lucky Me
Written by – Anne Martine Cook
I am a nursery school teacher and I love my job. I have been doing this for almost 45 years, and each year, I have loved getting to know the children and their parents in a deep way. We all form a wonderful and invigorating community.
Now we have the Coronavirus pandemic, and I am away from my class. We do have Zoom sessions, and phone calls, but distance learning for early childhood education lacks the strong connection between a teacher and her children. For this young age, and for me, the physical connection is so important.
Because I love the class and can’t connect in person, this time away is both a definite form of agony and one that is heart-filling. I miss the children and ache for the time I had with them. Vivid images of our sunny classroom, with empty, crayon-less wooden tables, a soundless dress-up area, unused shelves of puzzles and toys and the childless easel fill my mind and heart several times a day.
I am lucky. I feel fine. I have food in my refrigerator and cabinets. I can get take-out. My kind son lives minutes away; dear friends are nearby, who are also social distancing. We can meet for walks and make dinners and talk. We feel our vast fortune. When these happy gatherings are over, as grateful as I am, nourished in every way, my thoughts always go back to the children. Each one is a rare soul, a friend and a tiny teacher.
I had a dream last night that there I was at the art and writing table, with a few of them next to me. It was as real as real can be. I was showing a little girl how to draw a bird. Another girl said, “I remember how you taught me so I start with the beak first.” My hand was on her hand in my dream. It was beautiful and has been a tender companion in my mind all day.
To have something I have loved to do for so long, year after year, is a huge, soul satisfying present that I receive every day.
Distance learning is just that. The effort is genuine and yet the process and method feel millions of miles away from the way I actually teach. Finding books and videos which I know the children will love, making videos for them, thinking of interesting activities, all bring me close to the class, but in fleeting ways. I still love feeling any sort of connection to the children. Zoom visits are really fun and seeing the children in their houses with their cute young parents is wonderful. When the meetings are finished, I miss the children very much.
We may become used to some aspects of this very unfamiliar, strained time, but this interruption in our lives will be hard to ever forget. Suddenly not having freedom when we have only known it is startlingly oppressive. We read, hear and know we will be stronger for having lived through this. Fun will return and lovely choices will be part of our days again. Maybe we will take less for granted and value one another more deeply. Pettiness might be replaced by true understanding.
Hanging on to these bright thoughts helps me. I can almost hear the children’s dear voices and the beautiful bustle only they can create. Thank you, dear children. Lucky me.
Anne Martine Cook has 40+ years experience teaching nursery school children.