OMEP-USA, A NATIONAL CHAPTER OF WORLD OMEP
Organisation Mondiale Pour L´Éducation Préscolaire
Organización Mundial Para La Educación Prescolaire
World Organization for Early Childhood
Hello, fellow OMEP-USA member…
Did we fall down the rabbit hole?
During these turbulent times I feel like I am living in the fanciful world of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in a “Wonderland” that is not so wonderful. Current reality is like a gothic fairytale, as Alice said,
I almost wish I hadn’t gone down that rabbit-hole–and yet–and yet–it’s rather curious, you know, this sort of life! I do wonder what can have happened to me! When I used to read fairy-tales, I fancied that kind of thing never happened, and now here I am in the middle of one! (Alice in Wonderland, chapter IV).
It has been a little over a decade since the world experienced its last pandemic, the 2009 H1N1 swine flu. According to the Centers for Disease Protection and Control, between the spring of 2009 and the spring of 2010, the virus infected as many as 1.4 billion people across the globe. The 2009 flu pandemic was the second H1N1 world-wide pandemic. The 1918 Spanish flu was the deadliest pandemic in history killing 1-3% of the world population. Now, the world is in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, caused by a novel coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2.
It is evident that the COVID-19 pandemic is a health crisis with dire economic repercussions and, most importantly for our interests, a crisis for children and their education. UNESCO reports that in response to the pandemic schools have closed in 160 countries, affecting more than 1.5 billion students. In the U.S.A. we are facing school closures which impact at least 124,000 public and private schools and a minimum of 55.1 million students. Most schools are not re-opening any time soon and it is unknown if they will be open for the 2020-2021 school year.
Perhaps you are a university professor like me. If so, all of my on-ground courses including practicums have been reassigned to virtual formats. Teaching in this manner does become, “Curiouser and curiouser” (Alice in Wonderland, chapter II). As seen below in the words of Jaelyn, one of my undergraduate students:
After Spring Break, COVID-19 took over the world in a matter of days. It is so scary to think that a virus can travel this quickly all over. I was born in 1994 and since I was born I have lived through a terrorist attack on the Twin Towers, SARS, the Iraq War, the rise of the internet, the first cellphone, stock markets crashing, the list goes on, but now I can add pandemic. Which is crazy to me to think about. I am only 25 years old, but I am living through yet another part of history. I’m not scared for myself, but I am scared for my elderly family members, professors, and future as a student. I try to relate this to, if I was teaching through this, how would I try to help my students. The truth is you have to. We as teachers are responsible for every student we have. We are responsible for being their parent while they aren’t home, their friend when they’re upset, their confidant when they need to talk to someone, their protectors from other adults, their constants, their smiling face every day, and above all of that, we are responsible for their education. I know teachers did not sign up for this, but that is why everyone says, you have to really love what you do in order to teach.
Her words make me proud to be her professor and reassured that the lives of classroom children will be in such capable hands.
Heraclitus the Greek philosopher said, “Change is the only constant in life.” The world certainly has rapidly changed during the pandemic. Visible changes include parents educating their children at home and teachers virtually instructing their students outside of the classroom.
As a nation we grieve the loss of normalcy, of economic loss and the tactile connection to others. To answer the question which began this message, yes, collectively we have gone “down the rabbit hole”. As early childhood educators and lovers of young children the formidable work now begins. It is timely to develop a revised vision of how best to educate and advocate for children. As your professional work changes, we at OMEP-USA are here to serve and support you!
Be healthy, be safe, and take care of those whom you love and love you,
Judith Lynne McConnell-Farmer, Ed.D.