Alicia Bauman

Thursday, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE), announced a localized, data-driven approach to the 2020-2021 school year to prioritize student and staff safety.

What would the school year look like? In-person? Distance learning? A hybrid model?

The decisions our local districts will be forced to make, in the coming days, will say.

The plan prioritizes keeping younger children in the classroom, with the understanding that transmission is less likely with younger students and in-person learning is more critical for younger learners.

Which I 100 percent agree with. In-person learning is so critical for our little one’s minds development.

As a childcare provider and educator, I know firsthand how important learning face-to-face is. But even more importantly, the social and emotional aspect the children need as a foundation.

I was once told by a wonderful lady who came into my childcare to help with social and emotional development, learning their letters, numbers, how to read words, add, and subtract, will come. But if they don’t have the social and emotional piece, it could be a struggle.

Kids need to know how to ask someone how to play, how to help someone up if they have fallen down, how to give a compliment, be a good sport, be kind, how to stand up for someone or find help if they see a child being bullied. They need to know how to dress themselves independently or use the bathroom.

How am I supposed to prepare a five-year-old for kindergarten without knowing what their first day of school will look like?

I’m doing so with lots of hope the kids will be starting in-person learning.

We’ve been reading books that illustrate vibrant, full-of-life classrooms, days filled with kids being together, painting pictures, playing games, running around the playground, eating lunch together sitting at a table in a cafeteria.

Buses filled with kids. Kindergarten classrooms with a wall of hooks, lined up with several backpacks and kids eager to learn.

Books illustrating in-person, togetherness.

Yet, the image could be very much different. How do you prepare a little one for this, when they may be already uncertain of their first big day away from home?

Meanwhile, the Governor is requiring all school districts and charter schools to ensure all families have the option to choose distance learning throughout the school year.

Does this mean, if the family so chooses, they could pull their child out of in-person learning, and do distance learning? While maybe their friends continue with a group setting?

Does this mean there’s a high probability that distance learning will be yet again? And parents, grandparents and even childcare providers like myself, would be expected to be the teacher, and ensure kids are completing assignments from their teachers?

Parents, in my opinion, cannot be expected to “be the teacher.” Most are working full-time, 40 hour per week jobs, or more. Evenings get to be very short, and to cram a seven-hour school day into a few short hours where supper, baths and winding down before bed needs to happen, could be a struggle.

Heck, there are some nights in my house, it’s just a struggle to get the kids to eat what I cooked for dinner.

I fully support in-person learning, but realize I need to be open to the idea of distance learning if that’s what it comes down to again. Socially, the kids need the interaction. They need normalcy, routine and learning outside of their home, and to learn from someone other than mom or dad.

Because let’s be real, kids listen to others WAY better than they listen to parents.

As a childcare provider, I’ve taken steps to develop plans dependent on whether kids are in-person or doing distance learning. I’m hopeful I can continue working with my daughter in the evening to help prepare her for kindergarten next year, and let the preschool teachers educate her three days a week.

I’m hopeful my two five-year olds in childcare get to wave to their mom, dad and older siblings while stepping foot onto a big yellow bus.

Yet, if distance learning happens, maybe I hire a preschool teacher to come into my childcare in the afternoons, and do school with age-appropriate kids.

We all have plans in place.

But I’m hopeful for an in-person plan.

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