It’s been a rough time across the Early Childhood Education sector with COVID and other winter bugs, so we thought we would share this thoughtful and inspiring letter that our Sunnynook centre operator Kelly Seaburg (pictured with her family) wrote to her teaching staff after her experience with COVID.
Thank you for all the kindness you’ve shown me during my COVID recovery and your flexibility and resilience during trying times. You’ve really lifted my spirits and I have been reflecting on the impact COVID has had on us individually, and as a team, and what we can do to anchor ourselves during times of flux.
Searching for calm in turbulent times
I think everyone would agree that we are used to dealing with change in ECE. It makes us a dynamic and resilient bunch! But what we strive for when problem solving a period of change is the return to stability and routine. From a place of calm and familiarity, we can achieve goals that extend ourselves and deepen connections with colleagues, tamariki and whānau.
When we’re working from a place where there is change, it’s harder to feel grounded and even if nothing is necessarily “wrong” or “too hard” to manage, it means our small and big goals often get side-lined and we can feel like we’re treading water instead of gleefully doing backstroke through the waves! There has been a lot of treading water during this past two years. Often in the throes of the challenge we don our armour and launch ourselves at the situation, taking pride in taking on the challenge and making the best of what’s in front of us. But challenge after challenge can make us weary. We want the ground to stop moving and to feel like we’re making headway on the things that matter to us and those around us.
When the little things seem too big
Recently, I’ve found myself finding changes or challenges that wouldn’t normally bother me harder to process because they keep me away from the things that bring me joy. For example, I was inspired to review the block corners in the preschool classrooms. It’s taken me two months to achieve this, and it weighed on me that I couldn’t get it done due to illness and other work that had to take precedence. The block corners aren’t a big thing, but it was important to me that I could support the preschool classrooms in this way. I’ve noticed the same thing at home – I had a very simple task I wanted to do that has sat in the corner mocking me for not getting it done! I have become more weary and resentful of COVID for just always getting in the way.
From COVID’s waves come many ripples
In so many ways, COVID and its flow-on effects have impacted our team and centres in big and small ways. We’ve navigated constant changes of rules and procedures, working in bubbles, family passing away overseas and not being able to goodbye in person, being ill or the worry of being ill while waiting for a result, isolating, social distancing from each other, being short-staffed due to illness, wearing masks, changes to our programme, having teachers covering in the kitchen, worrying about the health of our family and friends, a reduced roll for the first time in seven years and, now, settling new children as we rebuild our roll.
Let’s not underestimate that the constant change is wearying – sometimes we can roll with it and sometimes it gets a bit much. Often there is nothing that can be done to fix the challenge being faced, or the solution is coming and we just have to wait patiently and tread water. Sometimes I’ve felt annoyed with myself for feeling bothered by something that wouldn’t usually faze me too much, but I acknowledge that it’s the culmination of the challenges that is the issue rather than the issue itself.
Moving forward as a team
Doesn’t this sound just so doom and gloom?! Well, I hope that by sharing my experience it might help normalise these feelings for others who might be feeling the same way. I wanted to think about what we can do as individuals and as a team to help provide support and stability, routine and familiarity, that anchors us and brings joy during changing times.
I have some suggestions but would love to hear your thoughts:
- Check in if someone isn’t their usual self. Maybe you can provide some practical help. You mightn’t be able to fix the problem but a hug, a flower or kind word might be just the thing to lift their spirits.
- Talk to someone in your team or a centre leader if you’re feeling “blah”. Let them know where you’re at. Talking about it might be enough or you might have some practical solutions to help you get through.
- Set small and achievable goals that make you feel you are getting somewhere and not just treading water. Tell those around you what you want to achieve so they can support you to get there.
- Acknowledge that sometimes things aren’t ideal but we’re doing the best we can under the circumstances. Slap on some lippy or some fabulous earrings and charge forth! If your team know this is your battle armour, they can look out for you even if you don’t fancy discussing it.
- And finally, gratitude – thanking those around us for their support is so important.
Our strength comes from being a team with resilience, stability, connection and understanding. I would appreciate any fun or supportive ideas you have that will help you or our team manage our COVID times.
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