What A Time To Be A Teacher
by Guest Blogger, Kathryn Garrity, Teacher, Geneva, IL
While chatting with some of my favorite early childhood teaching friends, we all agreed that we have never faced a challenge like the one that our current pandemic presents. We all agreed that we were somewhat fortunate because Covid-19 hygiene is part of the everyday preschool curriculum already. We’ve been teaching it for years! Hand washing upon entering the classroom, after using the bathroom, before eating, after blowing your nose, singing the alphabet song while hand washing, and coughing in your elbow.
While we try to move forward with our current situation, we would have to add cloth masks for all children that would be washed daily, and taking temperatures upon entering the classroom. Hopefully by this point most children are familiar and comfortable with masks. But even with a certain level of comfort with masks, there will probably be a regular cadence of reminders, acknowledgment, and adjustment for the children.
One aspect that creates anxiety for me is the communication issues that masks inherently create. As we all know a lot of preschool curriculum involves learning to identify emotions in yourself and others, as well as reading and responding to social cues in an appropriate way. Wearing a mask makes reading a child’s current emotional state of being and/or response to what you’re teaching extremely challenging. The mask on the teacher’s face makes it nearly impossible for the child to read the teacher’s response to what they have said or accomplished in class.
A teacher friend just told me about a specific type of mask that is used for the deaf that provides facial cues for children. It allows most of the lower half of your face to be seen while still following safety guidelines. I would suggest The ClearMask (or something similar) for teachers. So much of our interactions with children are communicated by expression, I would consider this almost essential for teaching preschoolers. Obviously, that is not a viable option for all of your students.
However, another resource teachers could utilize is facial emotion cards that are often used for MLL students. Why not use those for all of our students? Understanding a child’s current state of mind based on their facial expression being hidden behind a mask, is difficult, if not impossible. A set of small facial expression cards on a lanyard or bracelet that the teacher can present to a child while asking them to tell you how they feel about x, y or z, would be extremely helpful. We would be teaching the child how to identify emotions both visually and audibly while at the same time, avoiding misinterpretation of a child’s response on your part, and frustration on their part.
Kathryn Garrity has a BA in Communication & Media from Stephens College and has 10 years experience as a Lead Preschool Teacher in St Charles, IL.