Times of stress are difficult for children, parents, educators and business owners/operators. It’s important that we stay connected and care for each other as best we can during this time, especially supporting those isolated by COVID19. The strength of relationships and community will be a big influence in supporting people’s mental and physical health in the weeks/months ahead and ensure we all get through this together. As educators, your work is quite unique in the way you build strong connections with the children and families in your learning community. We have some strategies and resources to support educators, that may help you navigate this time of uncertainty.

What can this mean for Educators?

Individual isolation and closures mean we have to rethink some of our current ways of working and consider how we create the best possible experience for families and our team. Some points to consider are: What does ‘family engagement’ mean during closures? How can educators best collaborate and work together outside of the centre?

You may be wondering how you can support families in this situation? The good news is that you can continue to work in partnership with families, helping them to make this time a little less stressful, in several different ways.

 

 

Communication and Continued Partnership with Families

Using an online platform such as Storypark to communicate with families during this time, can help ease the feelings of isolation that families may experience.

  • Use your ‘community area’ to share updates, notices, policies, resources and have discussions with families who are in self-isolation. This enables you to communicate, share ideas, provide support and keep everybody busy and happy.
  • You can also encourage families to continue to share stories and photos with educators and other family members on Storypark. This is a great way to continue to contribute and support children’s learning at home. It can also be another way for parents to feel connected to the “outside world”.
  • This will be a valuable time for educators to share interesting articles and knowledge about ECE, I imagine parents will be thirsting for as much information as possible to prevent their young children from getting bored at home. Some of the Storypark Mat Time interviews with ECE subject matter experts may be helpful.
  • If closures continue for a prolonged period, you may wish to create individual plans for children in partnership with their parents to support them during isolation or centre closures.
  • Educators can use this as a way to help share specific resources with families to support their child’s learning at home and be in regular communication with parents (we’ve also created a suite of resources that can be shared with families here).
  • Encourage families to share their experiences at home with you via Storypark by creating a ‘Family Moment’. Then you can continue with the learning that’s been happening when you return to your centre. With parents creating their own observations on Storypark, this means that educators can use these to provide ongoing, iterative, relevant support.
  • Grandparents isolated by travel bans will also greatly benefit from stories created by families and educators during this time. They can create their own stories too. Asking grandparents questions about what their childhood looked like and encouraging them to share old photos and stories is one way of helping energise and engage families.

Continued Learning

  • You could support families through daily 1:1 or group video calls. Share invitations to video calls using the community area within Storypark or via a conversation with a specific parent or group of parents. As a side note, we recommend Zoom as the most robust, easy to use platform for this purpose as it easily enables multiple people to chat. Plus they are offering free access to support organisations through this crisis.
  • If families feel ‘stuck at home’ they are likely to wonder how to keep their children busy, how to continue the learning they have been engaged in at your learning service and when they run out of energy – are there any tv programmes or apps that you recommend?
  • This is a perfect time to introduce families to resources you refer to as an educator, all of those secret gems in your teaching hat.
  • With remote working such a common thing in the workforce now, have you ever considered remote learning? Set up zoom meetings in your community space on Storypark, and each day at a particular time, you could “go live” with storytelling, music and movement sessions, games, yoga… anything is possible. This is a fantastic way for children in isolation to still be involved in centre life and see their friends.

Professional Growth and Learning

  • If you yourself are in isolation, and your leave balance is healthy and aligned with your centre policies, this can be a time to engage in professional learning, and (if your centre has an allocation for it) admin tasks. It seems we never have enough time to concentrate on our teaching portfolio, this could be a time to do so. Writing your reflections and pulling your evidence together can take periods of uninterrupted concentration, so if time and the situation allow for it, snap up that opportunity!
  • Have you registered for any of our free online workshops? We have regular live webinars as well as prerecorded sessions to help you become a Storypark ninja.

Self-Care for Educators

The Coronavirus presents us with a situation that we have never experienced in our lifetime. Even if you are physically healthy, the stress will be affecting you in many different ways and it is so very important to indulge in self-care during this time. This may be easier said than done, and with the additional work in supporting children, families, the cleanliness of your centre… it is a tough ask! Here are a few ways that you can practice self-care

  • We cannot stress enough, that you need to allow yourself time and space to deal with your own emotions and worries. This will obviously look different for different people. Many people find journaling therapeutic. Somehow the act of taking pen to paper and writing your thoughts, feelings and emotions, is a great way to release stress and objectively find ways to address it.
  • Likewise, meditation and other mindful activities are such a valuable exercise. It is like spring cleaning your mind, it doesn’t necessarily take away the stresses in your life, but it can help balance your emotions so that you are better equipped to deal with the big challenges in your life. Mindfulness looks different for everyone, for some, it can be while gardening, colouring or exercising. Find your way and indulge!
  • If you are feeling overly anxious, or uncharacteristically nervous, talking to a professional is extremely important. There are resources available to support you when things become too big to deal with.
  • If you didn’t already, now is the time to eat lots of fresh and healthy foods. Give your body nutritious foods, and be aware of how certain foods can affect your mood or energy levels.
  • Drink sufficient amounts of water. Water is your friend, and staying hydrated is quite important at this time.
  • Exercise and sleep – who said you need to exercise only at the gym or while playing sports? Youtube has a ton of yoga and dance classes you can take. Kick a ball around outside, start skipping. This will also help you to sleep better and we all know the importance of getting enough sleep. Try not to have extra late nights and big sleep-ins. As indulgent as this feels, it can wreak havoc on your body.
  • Prioritise what is important for you during this time and learn to say no to requests that don’t best serve you or your families wellbeing. Don’t sign up to be the person responsible for sourcing 38 obscure objects for your child’s Easter dance recital. Is your garden full of weeds? They will still be there in a day or two, so if you need to have a nap instead, do so (at home, not work!)
  • Talk. Yes, it sounds simple, but don’t emotionally distance yourself (which is something a lot of teachers are guilty of doing). If you are feeling overwhelmed with stress and worry, finding someone to talk to will be helpful. If you don’t have anybody you feel you can talk to in person, search for your local free phone support lines. You will not only be able to talk to somebody trained to listen, but you will also be able to ask for further resources or agencies that can help you and your personal situation.

What other suggestions do you have? Please comment below and let’s share ideas together as a community of educators.

 

Posted by Sonya McIntyre

Sonya was born in Lower Hutt and went to Rata Street Kindergarten and Petone Kindergarten. A qualified ECE, she studied at Victoria University in Wellington and has worked with home-based educators, in community-based childcare and in kindergarten. With childhood memories of reading books and writing stories, combined with her passion for all things social media, Sonya segued into her role with us at Storypark as social media manager.


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3 Comments

  1. It would be awesome to see a community area developed that allowed families and teachers to share with all other families and teachers on the platform during this time so children can see what other children are doing and keep relationships up through it? I know we are already able to share (as teachers) with multiple families, however families can only share with us, not other families.. hope this makes sense! Keep up the good work though! So thankful to have Storypark, especially at a time like this!

    Ngā mihi nui

    Reply

    1. Sonya McIntyre March 26, 2020 at 3:02 am

      Hi Kelsi,
      What some centres have done is added an extra room to their centre, called ‘Whānau room’ (or something similar) and then turned on the ability for parents to post only in that room’s Community space. Then Family Admins have a room where they can make their own Community posts. I hope that helps?

      Reply

  2. Is good have this way to communicate to families and the community and we should also ask family to upload some of their culture activities they were doing at home with their children and share around other families in the community.

    Reply

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