When Pre-school Teacher, Cheeryl Tan, returned to work after the circuit breaker, she found that her job was no longer the same as before. Hygiene and social distancing had become the orders of the day; and there were also many new rules and protocols in place.
“We do a lot more sanitization and cleaning of toys, stationery and surfaces. We also have to constantly remind the children to wear their masks and face shields, wash their hands frequently, as well as to not touch their faces, eyes and mouths,” shared Ms Tan, who teaches at the pre-school Little Mighty Me.
“We also have to help the children adjust and wear their masks throughout the day. Some children do not like to put on the masks or face shields, and we do see some of them crying. We just have to be patient and help them understand that wearing them is a good thing.
“It can be tough as we need to constantly look out for the children’s hygiene as well as ensure that they are properly spaced out and sit only at their own places. The children naturally want to play with their friends, so it can be difficult to remind them to stay within their groups to do their activities. We just try to enforce social distancing as much as possible.”
Enforcing the rules and regulations is one thing but ensuring that the children understand the meaning behind them is a different matter altogether. And as Ms Tan shared, education plays a big part in what they do.
“We do teach the children the importance of personal hygiene and mask-wearing during these times, using simple terms to help them understand better,” explained the 29-year-old, who oversees the Nursery 1 kids.
“We try to read books and explain to them about how the germs are very small and cannot be seen. And that we should not share these germs with others as they might fall sick. We would also constantly repeat such activities to help them learn and remember better.”
Other than the challenge of imparting hygiene practices, Ms Tan also observed the difficulty that the young children had in adapting back to the schooling environment after two months of home-based learning during the circuit breaker. But she believed that the return to school was ultimately much welcomed by both parents and children alike.
She noted: “I think there is only so much that home-based learning can do for pre-schoolers. As a teacher myself, I taught and engaged my own son in plenty of activities during the home-based learning period, but not all parents would have the experience to do so.
“However, I can also see that the children needed some time to adjust upon coming back to school, with some even in tears. So, we had to talk to them and engage them in various activities to divert their attention. And after some time, we can see that they are actually quite happy to be back with their teachers and friends again.”
Prior to the circuit breaker, there had been news reports of several cases of COVID-19 clusters found at pre-schools. As a result, pre-school teachers were placed under intense public scrutiny, with many parents worried about the safety of their children. There were even some netizens who placed the blame entirely on the teachers.
But given that the kids could also be carriers of the virus themselves, Ms Tan felt that teachers like herself were perhaps unfairly targeted.
“When the news came out that some preschool teachers tested positive for COVID-19, some of the comments made online were a little upsetting. Some people were saying things like it was the fault of the teachers for getting infected,” she said.
“I believe none of us wants to be infected and sick. We are all trying our best to stay safe and we want the children in school to be safe as well. What we can do is to assure parents and communicate with them our good hygiene practices so that they can have peace of mind sending their children to school.”
And she hopes that her fellow teachers will not be discouraged and continue pushing on despite the myriad of challenges.
She added: “This is a new normal and like the children, we teachers also need time to cope and adjust to this situation. We will have to adjust our expectations of what we can do and what we want our children to do. I hope we will all stay healthy, eat and rest well, so that we can continue to be strong for the children in our care.”
This article is part of a new series, Coping during COVID, where danamic. features people from different walks of life to find out more about how they have been coping since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the shores of Singapore. Have a specific person or demographic you’d like us to feature? Write in: [email protected]
Photos courtesy of Little Mighty Me.