We also need to acknowledge that the trauma is twofold for our Black students. For Black families, the trauma of the pandemic is compounded upon the systemic racism that has traumatized their communities forever. Educators need to be prepared to address the specific trauma of our young, Black students after watching a man with the same color skin as them get murdered by a police officer. When we send our children back to school, we need to make sure the environment and teachers can provide this for them. They deserve it.
Right now, our country is showing that we do not value their education. We do not value the quality of their care. Preschool aged children need touch. They need to play with their friends. They need their bodies to be comfortable and unencumbered by a mask in order to learn. They need to see their teachers’ mouth move to learn language. They need to be able to nap. They need their special education providers to help them in the classroom. They need to see their teachers smile.
They will need all of this even more after what they all have gone through these past few months. The schooling experience we would be sending them back to in June would not be that place.
Teachers are scared and worried, and rightfully so. We will be overworked and underpaid, in masks and long sleeve button down shirts in the summer heat. Of course, we have always been overworked and underpaid. Now we are also working in hazardous conditions. We must change these conditions.
The government needs to prioritize:
•Helping families with unemployment if they choose not to or cannot send their child back to school yet;
•Fairly compensating our early childhood educators;
•Providing more stabilization funds to programs that cannot open yet;
•Continue paying open programs a stipend for each child enrolled in the program, as the cost of care has risen.
The early childhood education system has always been in survival mode but the response to this pandemic, if handled with care, can help programs thrive for the first time in history. We have a chance to rebuild the infrastructure of care, ravaged by years of austerity and now the pandemic.