Navigating a Pandemic: How to Reopen A Child Care after a 6-month closure?

Discovery Child Care Staff Training

As a licensed child care centre, we were impacted greatly by the COVID-19 pandemic. We officially shut down operations on March 17, 2020, and we remained closed until September 8, 2020. After being closed and disconnected from our team for almost 6 months we wondered…what conditions need to be created for our team to safely come back together and reopen our programs? To us, “safely” meant more than just cleaning and disinfecting…we wanted to ensure we were using the time leading up to reopening to build a foundation of trust and connection. We truly believe this would set the foundation for success as we navigated the uncertainty of the pandemic. Our leadership team worked tirelessly to lean on the theories and ideas of leadership gurus such as Cy Wakeman, Simon Sinek, and Brene Brown. 

We began thinking about the ways we wanted to show up for ourselves and each other during this unprecedented time. We spent a month together before we reopened and focused on the ways we wanted to support each other and ourselves. In this time, we reflected on our policies and procedures and reflected on the many ways we could be thinking differently about the programs we currently offer and the programs we aspire to offer. We believed that this time was all about perspectives. We have chosen to look at this time as a gift versus ruminating on all the negative components of this time…we felt like we owed this to ourselves and the children coming back into our care. This was an opportunity for us to dream and to reimagine our programs and our way of being at Discovery.

We spent time thinking about the language we use together to describe our practice and we co-constructed the meanings of our values, underpinning ideals, and our ethos. We spent several days “Operationalizing our Values.” This framework was offered to us from Brene Brown and we took the time to co-create and understand the behaviours that are reflective of the values that we reference in our Program Statement and Strategic Plan. We believed this process would be helpful in allowing us to continue to remain committed to our values during this time. We have since taken this work and transferred it into a written document to live alongside our Strategic Plan and guiding documents such as our Program Statement. 

Why Are Values Important? Why Do Children Deserve Inspired Educators?

Given the current context that we are in; we believe now more than ever we need to understand and live into our values as a daily practice as early childhood educators. We used a variety of different tools, conversations, and communities of practice to understand this in ourselves and each other. We believe that it is important to remain committed to our values especially when times are trying. We were inspired by the work of Simon Sinek and we wanted to understand and co-create our “why.” We thought together on WHY do we do what we do and how can we continue to remain committed to our personal and organizations values and goals all while operating in COVID times? 

Start with Why – Simon Sinek

We started to make meaning of these ideas offered and reconcile them with the context we are in as Early Childhood Educators. We wanted to understand What does it mean to be an inspired educator and why do children deserve inspired educators? We connected the work from the leadership gurus that we referenced and looked at our governing documents such as How Does Learning Happen? Ontario’s Pedagogy For the Early Years and our Program Statement and Strategic Plan. We thought this could be one perspective that we choose to look through as we embark through new challenges and ways of being with children. Here are some of our ideas:

Could it be possible to see this as a gift of time??

As an organization that was closed for 6 months; there is no denying that the impact of Covid-19 was immense for ourselves, our staff, the children, families and our community! We also recognize the many ways in which this pandemic has impacted families across the world and we will never be the same again. Personally, this impacted our team as we weren’t together as a team and we missed our families and children greatly. As an organization, we chose to view the time that we had to be closed as a gift of time to re-imagine our team, our programs and our place in our community. Here are some of our personal lived experiences:

  • We were able to slow down, focus on ourselves and our families and reconnect (virtually) with friends and family that we haven’t seen in some time
  • As a society as a whole, we were able to make amends to some of the damage we had done to the environment. Even at our location, we were amazed at the regrowth and the ways in which the natural environment had the time and space to flourish. This had us thinking about the ideas considered in anthropocentrism: the societal perspective that humans are more important than nature and the natural world. We noticed how although one narrative that exists is that society is being impacted but in other ways, nature is thriving. We reflected on the ideas and theories offered by Sir. Ken Robinson and how sustainable education models must involve understanding our oneness with the natural world. 
  • Personally, we grew, evolved, and transformed. We were able to focus on ourselves and grew as individuals and professionals. We were able to focus on our professional development and connect with new communities of practice that could support us in our pedagogical journeys.

 We discussed the ways this pandemic allowed us to think about our unique gifts, strengths, and attributes that will allow us to all operate from our “Zones’ of Genius.” We spent time getting to know ourselves and each other on a deeper, personal level and have witnessed the positive impact on our team since this time together. 

Time and Relationship as An Anchor during Challenging Times

When we look back and reflect upon this time together, we think of the metaphors of anchors. This time and these strengthened relationships allow us to have an anchor as we step into this new way of being with each other and children in our programs. We have seen the way this anchor has kept us grounded as we continue to navigate this time of change. This anchor allows us to look at every situation differently and through a strength-based, solutions-oriented lens. We are allowed to give ourselves grace when our plans don’t work as well as we thought they would and we are constantly relying on our communication strategies as we navigate this time together. We feel grateful for the relationships and time that we have had together and will continue to reflect on the way that it has shaped and moved us through this time. We are considering the ways in which we can continue to hold onto this time and create conditions for children that allow them to have a sense of security and connection to place. We are proud of the connection that we have cultivated together. 

We will always have this time together to keep us anchored to our values and what we believe children, educators, and families deserve. We are able to come together to share what we already believed to be best for children and reconceptualized new ways of thinking and being in our programs. This month together set the foundation that is leading us successfully through this pandemic while we remain committed to our values. We see it as an unprecedented gift that has shaped us all and will be a part of our story personally and as passionate educators committed to providing the best possible conditions for children to thrive, discover, and learn.