Parents must help early childhood educators amid COVID-19 - opinion

As preschools are set to reopen, the government has changed virtually none of the restrictions for these age groups since the last two times we’ve returned to school.

Israelis return to school amid coronavirus concerns, September 1, 2020 (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/ MAARIV)
Israelis return to school amid coronavirus concerns, September 1, 2020
I work in early childhood education, and the past few months have been a particularly scary time for us for a variety of reasons. Not only do we work with an age group prone to sneezing and drooling on us when we know coronavirus can easily be transmitted these ways, but the government has barely helped any of us financially, if at all. Also on that list is parent behavior.
Barely over a month ago, as we hit 1,500 cases of coronavirus a day, the government was talking about the need for a lockdown. Now as we barely get back down to that same number, our self-serving government has decided this is somehow safe enough to send our kids back to preschool. To avoid another surge that makes a third lockdown inevitable, it is vital that parents do more to help this time around.
As preschools are set to reopen, the government has changed virtually none of the restrictions for these age groups since the last two times we’ve returned to school. But hey, maybe third time is a charm? The only chance we have is if parents step up.
It’s clear from the given restrictions that the government is unaware of the type of parent behavior with which many of us have been dealing. It is unfair that the onus is entirely on kindergartens to follow restrictions. For many of us, even when we followed Health Ministry guidelines to the letter in September, we still had parents bring coronavirus into our ganim within the first week.
Teachers are already in charge of large groups of young children. There is no justification for doubling the amount of people they are in charge of, because most parents need to be reminded at every single drop-off and pick-up to wear a mask and follow the restrictions they have been repeatedly been provided with.
I will also take a moment to point out that using unwashed hands to slap a mask half-on as you walk into a gan is by no means an efficient way of preventing the spread of coronavirus.
It seems lost on parents that we are not trying to inconvenience them but trying to keep their children healthy and safe and in a consistent environment, so they’re not being yanked in and out of quarantine every few weeks. Kindergartens are constantly having to evolve their policies, because if you ask parents to do quick transitions at the door, they still come inside or congregate at the door with other parents, at least half of whom will not be wearing masks correctly, if at all. To avoid the masses at the door, many ganim have had to change their policy to do transitions at front gates if they have them. Almost every decision is met with argumentative parents who still proceed to ignore the rules and enter the gan.
We already keep track of classrooms full of kids, and yet we’re expected to also hound parents every single day to put their masks on and bring their mandatory health declarations. We know mornings can be chaotic with little ones. But do you know where else things are chaotic? Gan. I say this with kindness, because we adore your children and love what we do, but we already spend a large portion of our day nagging. The last thing we need is to have to nag the parents as well.
HOWEVER, IT’S not just tedious aspects such as health declarations that are causing problems and about which many teachers have been complaining, but also the absolutely selfish behavior by many parents: parents who are in quarantine because they came in contact with a known case and think it’s acceptable to still send their child(ren) to gan without consulting their teachers; parents who send their coughing kids and then fight the teachers who are simply following government requirements when they require a health declaration before the child can return; and parents who are still constantly taking their kids out and about as if we’re not still in the midst of a global pandemic.
We know it’s hard to be cooped up with your kids. We do it all week, truly, we know! And we recognize the importance of them climbing around at parks and having new experiences. But there is no excuse for parents to be congregating mask-less with the other parents at the park while their children play. When the limit for gatherings is 10 people, that does not mean you take 10 kids, half their parents and none of your masks because you’re outside, especially when you’re all still touching each other and not practicing social distancing.
It also pains me that so many parents are either completely unaware or simply don’t care about multiple studies which have that asymptomatic children can spread the coronavirus for up to three weeks. This dismissive attitude seems to be based on the argument that kids are simply not getting it on the same scale as adults, however, there’s no consideration that those children can and do spread it. They spread it to their teachers and to their asymptomatic classmates, who then spread it to their parents and siblings, who then initiate the same spread in their own classes and to other family members they have seen while not showing symptoms.
So please, parents, I am begging you: Please be mindful. Be aware that every decision you make for your family right now is one you are in turn deciding for the other families at your child’s school, as well as for the teachers and their families.
I also want to point out that some of us, as teachers, are also at high risk. We want to be there for your kids. Help us do that by having our health in mind, along with the health of your children and loved ones.
These are hard and stressful times for all of us. We all miss birthday parties and big family gatherings, but there are bigger things at stake right now than one missed party and a few missed family dinners.
We are all fighting a battle with something we’ve never dealt with before, but we’re all fighting the same thing. Please, let’s all do what we can and make the decisions needed to fight this together instead of fighting each other.
As childcare workers, it’s very important to us to provide a healthy and consistent environment for your kids so they can feel safe and nurtured. By respecting the health guidelines while at gan and making more conscious decisions in their children’s day-to-day life, parents can help stop the spread and create a safer, less stressful gan environment.
The writer is a Sephardi Jew from Seattle who holds an MA in Middle Eastern Studies. She resides in Tel Aviv, where she operates a childcare business.