Phase 1 Words

Interviewer: How did you first become aware of COVID-19 yourself?

Educator 1: I think I started hearing early reports in the news. I listen to the news on the radio a lot. And I think I started hearing about it, but just hearing about it in that way you hear about all news that’s distant. I don’t know, when I actually really absorbed it. You know, I know when I was terrified to be in my classroom, it was beyond absorbing at that point.

Educator 1: And I remember very clearly, you know, in the teachers lounge, talking with my teacher buddies, and just being like, “This is not good.” You know, I can remember saying, like, “Nope, I don’t want to be here. This is getting creepy. I want to go home, I want to be with my kids. I want to make sure they’re okay. I don’t want my kids in school. I don’t think these kids should be in school. I don’t think they’re safe. I don’t think we’re safe.” I can remember like those conversations really, really building up.

Interviewer: I’m curious if you remember a time when you talked with your students about what was going on?

Educator 1: Well, definitely the last week before they closed schools. At that point, I was just done pretending to carry on. So at that point, I remembered saying to my students, “Look, I am not going to lie to you. I do not think you should be here. And I don’t think I should be here.”

Educator 1: I remember over the weekend, the Friday through the Sunday before they closed schools, I spent almost 24 hours reaching out to everyone I know and saying “Please sign call, you know, tell the Mayor we just don’t want to go back. Please, please, this is a death wish. It’s a death wish for the students. It’s a death wish for us. It’s terrible death wish for our older custodians and our kitchen staff, just everybody. So I remember I worked really hard that weekend. And I remember being just completely exhausted. And when the announcement finally came, I was like, “Thank God, finally they closed down our schools.”

Educator 2: It just felt like another one of those moments where like, people that work with little kids just are not seen as mattering at all. Like there was no guidance from anybody about anything, you know, like I’d call the Department of Public Health, they’d be like, “Well, daycares don’t have to close. So you can just make your own decision” and I’d call the state licensing and they’re like, “Daycares don’t have to close, you can just make your own decision.” And like the childcare placement agencies would call me and be like, “Can you stay open? Are you staying open? Will you please stay open? Because essential workers are going to need childcare.” And I’m like, “Well, I don’t have any cleaning supplies, and nobody can buy them anywhere. So can you help me get them because if you can’t, then I can’t stay open.” That was a really challenging part of the whole process is just feeling like alone, abandoned, like totally invisible, you know, and that continues to be true.

Educator 3: Several of us have lost family members or close friends to COVID, not to old and not just, you know, high risk, like unexpected and terrible losses. And that has been compounded, I think, by the loss that everyone in the world is experiencing of just community and being close to each other and all of that, but also the very particular loss that teachers of young children are experiencing, which is like the sort of physical connection. It’s a very bodily, embodied connection that you have with young children. I mean, I think one of the dominant experiences that I am having emotionally all the time, it manifests almost as homesickness. You know, I’m just like, homesick for all of it. And I miss the sense of somebody telling us what to do. I miss the sense that there was an answer, I miss the sense that there was an explanation, I miss the sense that there was some predictability, all of that. And I think of how much our children must miss that.

Educator 4: Everyone was very fragile. And so we were trying to like, work with our own fragility, while presenting some semblance of normalcy to our kids online, which is actually really hard. But you don’t want to show up on the screen for your two year olds, like depressed and anxious, you know. And honestly, seeing them was uplifting in many ways, you know, I love them. I miss them so much. But it felt incredibly hard. I would be wanting to try so hard to reach them through the screen, these little babies, that I think I was over-giving in a way. Almost like pushing, pushing to try to get through them.

Educator 3: If you believe–as my teachers do, and as I do–in like what early childhood education is for society, what it is as an equalizer, what it is as an agent of social change, feeling as though you’re failing at that every day is like personally devastating, it’s societally devastating, it’s worrisome for the children that you love so much.

Educator 3: There’s been like, this tremendous wedge driven between schools and families, like the challenges that come with the relationship. Which is such an important partnership, and one that we’ve worked so hard to cultivate and to earn, and that we feel so honored to have–but also like, it wasn’t a present, we earned it. And to feel in some ways that parts of that are collapsing, or as though the asks are just like unanswerable–that’s been really hard. It’s hard on me. I’m shocked at how hard it is on the teachers.

Educator 4: Now by the time we started doing Zoom, the parents were not as appreciative of us as they had been. They were not–this is not all of them, some of them were still very appreciative and kind of seemed to see us–but I think my experience is that so many of them were so deep in their own anxiety and panic that they became very unhappy with us. Or that was my perception.

Educator 4: Teaching is for me about making meaning and connections and relationships. And the end of the year is always a time for celebration. It’s also like, hard because you’re ending these relationships, they’ll never be the same again. It’s usually like a time of connection: as teachers were celebrated by the parents, and we celebrate the children, of course, and the community that we’ve created. That for me, in my many years being a teacher, that is it. It is about the relationship and what you create together and to lose that was–I have to say–devastating.

Educator 5: How I experienced this pandemic is that we’re all still in shock. And also the shocks keep coming. It’s not like it’s one thing that happened, and then we’re getting over that. Many disruptions are continuing to unfold in all of our lives.

Educator 5: Yeah, I think every everyone’s experience is different. But I would say that I think the teachers were still in shock on the last day of school. We, as a faculty, were still in shock.

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