I love my job. It’s true; I love watching my students see bald eagles fly overhead, listen to the pileated woodpecker in the class, learn about the moose from the nearby calls. There is something magical about working outside with children in a shared space with nature.
This year, this crazy never-ending pandemic year, I am particularly grateful for my job being outdoors.
For a brief moment each day, I get to experience the patterns of nature through the eyes of a child and I’ll admit that in that moment I forget. I forget about the numerous protocols that all child care settings and education settings are implementing this year in an effort to remain open and safe for the children we serve.
Then, in an instant, I’m reminded.
A student reaches for a hug, a toy is kissed or a small cough escapes and suddenly the weight of the pandemic is back. Each action and reaction is questioned and reviewed. We gently extricate ourselves from the hug, we patiently gather up the toy to quarantine and the coughing child is pulled aside (usually crying) from the group. In a typical day of teaching, we teach for 2 hours. We clean for 2. We examine our decisions for 24. Should we isolate that child, can we comfort that child,, are those students too close, did we wipe down that surface, who touched that toy, who sneezed, who coughed?
Small business’ are stressed. We are trying to balance the needs of our customers with the demands of the pandemic. We pay our staff when we can, refund our parents if we’re able and buy bleach by the gallon. The families in our program are honest about their children’s health and respectful of our policies. We are so grateful to our nature school families.
But I won’t lie.
Running a preschool in a pandemic is exhausting.