Zooming into a new daycare world
Published in the Ashland Daily Press
April 25, 2020
With the threat of the coronavirus spreading, more and more of my daycare families were choosing to keep their kids at home. I made the decision to close my business, starting on Monday, March 23rd. Between my high blood pressure, my husband’s age, and my disabled daughter, Kristi, it wasn’t worth taking any risks.
After weeks of washing hands, surfaces, and clothing, I began to feel less fear, and more anxiety of the future unknown. According to the authorities, our community was expected to start seeing cases in approximately two weeks.
On March 24th, Governor Evers ordered all non-essential businesses to close. My husband and I agreed that my daycare would remain closed until further notice.
I kept one non-family caregiver, Deb, on staff to work with Kristi. Deb is like family, and Kristi needed her.
One day during the week, following that Stay-At-Home order, I was talking with Deb. I said, “I wish there was a way I could connect with my daycare kids.”
“Are they on Facebook?” she asked.
“Yeah,” I responded. “I’m friends with at least one of the parents of each of the kids.”
“Well, then it’s easy,” Deb said. She started walking away and said, “I’ll show you.”
Technology came easy for Deb. Not as much for me.
I was flipping through my tabs that I had opened on my laptop when I heard this strange guttural sound, like a telephone ringing under water. The screen lit up with a small white window. The headline read Incoming video chat. Below that was Deb’s Facebook profile picture with a message ‘Deborah is calling. There were two boxes below in the lower right-hand corner. ‘Decline.’ ‘Answer.’ I clicked on ‘Answer,’ and a live video popped up on the screen of Debbie talking to me.
Debbie rounded the corner of the daycare room and said, “see how easy that was?”
And it was. For me, it was also like the opening of a Pandora’s box.
I started thinking about how I could use this technology to connect with my daycare kids. I heard about the teachers providing online classrooms for their kids, but my group of children was young, ages one through pre-K. I wondered how or if that could even work.
On April 3rd, 7:34 A.M., I saw one of my daycare moms, Margaret, online in Facebook messenger. I placed the cursor on the telephone symbol, hit select, and I was soon dialing Margaret on her computer.
“Oh, good morning,” Margaret said, with a little laugh.
“I saw you were on Facebook, and I was hoping I could see Madeline,” I said. I realized I may have been a bit perky for a surprise, early morning call. I remember thinking, I probably should have sent a text first. I was sure a bit of my embarrassment was evident on my face.
“Well,” Margaret said, “we were still in bed. . .” She laughed.
“I’m sorry,” I said with a giggle. “I just learned how to do this and I guess I got a little over eager.”
“That’s okay,” Margaret responded.
I felt better when Margaret said, “I know Madeline would love to see you! Could we plan something for later this morning?!”
We arranged to have a video chat at 9:00.
It was a lot fun to connect with my young friend, five-year-old Madeline. There was a bit of a learning curve for me on how to best make it work. I couldn’t comb my fingers through her hair, hold her hand, or say ‘come sit by me for some snuggle-buggle time.’ Instead, I had to figure out how to get her attention and keep her engaged with fun topics and facial expressions.
After about 15 minutes, Margaret and I started chatting. She had real concerns about how children weren’t getting that kind of learning that can only be achieved through playing with their peers. Margaret talked about her Zoom Classroom experience, both the good and the bad.
“Do you think these young kids would like to connect like that?” I asked.
“Yes,” Margaret answered. “I know Madeline would like it. These little ones don’t understand what’s going on. I’m sure they wonder why they can’t see their friends.”
“I’d have to use the Facebook Messenger video chat though,” I said. “I am not that techy.”
“I could set it up for you,” Margaret offered. “I’ve actually been doing quite a bit of that lately. I’ve gotten quite good at it,” she laughed. “It would be easy for me to do. If you’d like.”
“I would . . .” I said, pausing. I couldn’t help but envision what an online classroom gone bad would look like. Turn-taking, problem solving, coaching, crowd control, were all social developmental stages that daycare providers worked on daily. How could I do that on a screen?
Margaret must have known what I was thinking. Because she had the answer to my problem.
“There’s a mute button?!”
“A mute button?” I busted out laughing. Society was evolving. What a teacher, parent, or other leader wouldn’t do to have a ‘mute’ button available in their job.
Margaret laughed, “I can help you with that. I have an assistant that helps me with my classroom management. That way, I can keep on teaching, while she takes care of the crowd control?!”
“Wow,” I said, still giggling. “If you are willing to help me with that, I’m in. Sign me up!”
The first classroom meeting, I had three families.
The second classroom meeting, I had four.
The children are getting the hang of it. I am too. The social skill of conversational turn-taking has been a great lesson for us all. Because when we don’t, all’s we get is a lot of noise.
The Stay-At-Home situation has forced the human race to find ways to create some normalcy in our daily lives, especially for the children. For me, instructing a class has been a learning process. I’ve had to be taught how to use a software program and share screens. I’ve had to discover how to hold a book in a way the children can see the pictures. I have to think about the flow of the activities, hoping to make them engaging and fun, while supporting the social, emotional, physical, and speech development of each child.
I miss how my life used to be. I miss going out for dinner. I miss family get-togethers. I miss my daycare kids and their families. I miss my freedom.
If there is one bright spot in all of this, I’d have to say it is this. I kind of like that mute button. Even though we didn’t have to use it much during our pre-school class-time, the thought of having it still makes me smile. And now, when I hear the newscasters and debaters flood my home with their childish quarrels and all that noise, I think maybe all they need is a Zoom classroom. The thought of a 2nd Grade teacher, holding onto a world-wide mute button, seems like a great idea to me.