We have spoken many times about how we adopt and embed the principles of Dr Jools Page’s work on ‘Professional Love’ and Tasmin Grimmer’s new research on a ‘Loving Pedagogy’ into our everyday practice and the ethos of our setting, but as we now reach the 5th week of re-opening in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, with all of our children now having returned seamlessly to the setting, we have begun to reflect on how and why this transition, after significant trauma and absence, happened with ease and whether or not, had our practice, environment and ethos been different, would the experience have been the same?
If we weren’t in the position to maintain the deep and personal relationships we’ve developed with our families over the elongated lockdown period, through a variety of mediums, would the children’s attitudes have been the same upon their return?
Are we lucky in comparison to other types of early years setting to have a more informal, friendly approach to our parent partnerships and the opportunities we have to strengthen these relationships? Are these all contributing factors to the effortless transition our children encountered upon their return?
In our opinion, yes. Even for our children who only returned this week, meaning they would have been absent from the setting for 4 months in total, these transitions were successful and the children walked back in as if they’d been present throughout, which as practitioners, and for their parents, was not only a surprise, but a relief.
We feel incredibly privileged to have been able to maintain our relationships with our families and children throughout the lockdown; via Zoom, Whatsapp, Tapestry observations and social distancing drop-offs of resources and materials – we know and understand that this wasn’t as easy for other settings, and we whole-heartedly believe by maintaining these connections and contact throughout such a difficult period, enabled us to pick up where we left off as soon as the children returned to the setting.
Similarly, as practitioners and as a whole setting, we have always shown the children physical affection from the outset and they have grown up with us and these values from the outset and so prior to re-opening after lockdown, we categorically stated that we would not be socially distancing ourselves from the children, nor expecting them to maintain this with each other either as we believed by doing so, would put the children more at emotional risk than the physical risks.
We have openly told the children we missed them and how happy we are to have them all back in the setting, as we believe the open and honest way we discuss things with them, whether it be in regards to emotions, feelings and overall experiences, it’s important that children are part of these conversations and know that they are loved, valued and a fundamental part of the group, which we hope that all our children have felt upon their return to the setting.
We have been astounded by the children’s resilience as they all returned after such a significant absence and the confidence they displayed as they left their parents for the first time in over 3 months, and we truly attribute this to the loving pedagogy and family values we have instilled from the very beginning and we hope that this ethos enabled our children to feel that their return was like returning to see family after a long period of time, as that’s certainly what it feels like for us having them all together under one roof again.
In Early Years, we are in such a privileged position to influence the feelings, experiences and outcomes of our youngest children, from their earliest experience and the things they experience with us, shape who they will be as they grow, and we want our children to grow into well-rounded, emotionally intelligent and secure young people and we believe that by growing up within a loving pedagogy for much of their early experiences, will actively contribute positively to not only the children’s own emotional wellbeing, but also the emotional experiences and wellbeing of their wider friendships and relationships, which will ultimately make us a more accepting, loving and emotionally intelligent society as our future generation grow up knowing love, feeling love, experiencing love and thus showing love as they learn and grow.
We truly believe that without this type of pedagogy and approach to our relationships and practice in the Early Years, that our children would not have returned to the setting so confidently and with the incredible resilience and independence that they have all displayed.
In our opinion, young children need loving and secure relationships to grow and learn from; and we pride ourselves on being an extension of these children’s wider family community and adopting the family values that are so important for young children learning, love, empathy, compassion and understanding.