in a Time of Physical Distancing, April 16, 2020
Hosted by Boulder Journey School, educators.boulderjourneyschool.com
Alex Morgan, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lauren Weatherly, email@example.com
Simultaneously, our teachers found themselves navigating uncharted territory: Developing digital learning experiences with very young children, and partnering with families across greater physical distance than ever before. As this phase commenced in mid-March, we began to see outpourings of collaboration and mutual support happening on social media. It seemed as though everyone was looking for ideas, and everyone had a few to share. So while we didn’t have the answers about how to “do” digital learning for young children the “right” way, we knew we had many professional connections and a propensity for thinking about digital humanity. So we began to offer a series of virtual dialogues, free and open to any educators who wanted to join. The idea was that we would establish the time and virtual space, and lend our voices as facilitators, enabling the participants to feel supported in messing about with ideas. We were blown away by the response, hearing from hundreds of interested educators in just a few short days after the idea was launched. Week after week, the virtual rooms filled, and our treasured extended community of early childhood educators inspired, supported, and collaborated with one another professionally and personally.
As the weeks of quarantine, school closures, and physical distancing have continued, we have begun to understand these virtual dialogues as acts of self-care both for the participants, and for us as facilitators. In a time when we can’t see, touch, or hear others in person, the act of sitting in a virtual room with other like-minded and deeply caring individuals provides an incredibly safe and supportive space. So as the weeks have continued, and everyone’s feelings have continued to become more complex, we wanted to think more deeply about the ways in which the mental health and emotional wellness of our early childhood education community was being supported.
We had an idea to invite a panel of mental health professionals to sit in the virtual dialogue space with us, and share new perspectives on the emotional side of what we are all dealing with amidst this pandemic. Much to our surprise and delight, in little over a week, an incredible panel of experts in the areas of adult mental health, early childhood mental health, teacher self-care, and parent coaching was assembled. On April 26, for two sweet hours, we witnessed these six remarkable individuals sharing stories, reflections, and meditations from their lives and their work, speaking to questions and challenges posed by early childhood educators. The time was a gift, and the virtual space we held that day was celebratory of the highly skilled work of educators and carers of the very young and their families. Our community was seen.
At the beginning and end of the dialogue, we invited the audience to type one word into the chat box, expressing how they were feeling. We compiled these into word clouds, using size to indicate frequency. We invite you to watch and use the entire video in any way that will support your personal and/or professional journey at this time. As a preview, we offer the word clouds here, because we feel they are representative of not only the individuals present to witness the virtual dialogue, but we think they represent some important trends in our field right now.
Word Cloud #1: How the participants felt upon initially settling into the Virtual Dialogue room
We think this compilation reflects a realistic window into the complexities we are all facing. We are tired, anxious, and overwhelmed, but also hopeful about the work we are all doing and the possibilities that lie ahead. It represents what is so inspiring about the early childhood education field as a whole. We face hard realities in acknowledgement of both the struggles and the beauty.
Word Cloud #2: How the participants felt after the event was over
We think this compilation reflects the space the panelists held for the complexities, the inspiration and guidance they provided, and the reverence for early childhood educators that was so clearly expressed throughout the dialogue. It represents the ways we support each other and the ways we beam when our larger society sees us and values us.
We offer you this recording as a gift, and encourage you to share it with anyone in your life who might benefit. And we also find ourselves reflecting on the meaning of community care. To truly care for others, we also have to seek and accept care for ourselves. As educators and community leaders, we all have the opportunity to model what it means to offer gifts of love to each other, and ourselves, in an intricate dance.
So we leave you with a question upon which we can all reflect:
If we all commit ourselves to embracing the complexities of community care, how can we emerge from this current crisis stronger and more connected than ever before?
Thank you to all of our panelists, and they all shared an openness to you reaching out to them for any reason:
Dr. Lewin is a pediatric psychologist, sleep specialist, licensed clinical psychologist, and certified yoga teacher. He is Board Certified in Sleep Medicine and Behavioral Sleep Medicine and Associate Director of the Pediatric Sleep Medicine and Director of the Pulmonary Behavioral Medicine Program at Children’s National Medical Center and Associate Professor of Pediatrics at George Washington University School of Medicine. Dr. Lewin has conducted NIH funded research over the last two decades. He provides supervision of doctoral trainees, psychotherapy for parents and patients of all ages, and teaches mindfulness and meditation sessions.
Julia McGarey, MA
Julia has been working with children of all ages since 1998 and has a master’s degree in Human Development and Education. She became a mother in 2015, and through her own journey, realized the best way to provide long-term support to children was to support their parents. Her years of professional experience combined with being a parent herself has given her insight into the many challenges parents face, especially parents of sensitive and spirited children. Through one-on-one coaching, she helps parents drop their reactive patterns, minimize power struggles and challenging behaviors, and find more joy and ease in their relationships with their children.
Julie Zabolio, MA, LPC, IMH-E®
I am a Licensed Professional Counselor and have worked with children and families is a variety of settings - outpatient, residential, foster care, private practice – since 1996. I have been in my current position as an Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Specialist since 2012. In my current role, I provide Mental Health Consultation to parents, early childhood educators, and childcare providers. I am able to provide services in the community in both early childhood education settings and in children’s homes. I received my Colorado Association of Infant Mental Health endorsement in 2016.
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Laura Conley is a certified Life + Weight Loss Coach and a Certified Yoga and Meditation Teacher. She is obsessed with helping her clients feel like themselves once and for all. She specializes in working with her clients to create the best mindset ever so that they can free themselves from anxiety, stress, bad habits, food + body drama and weigh their dream come true weight - forever. She makes the deep work of becoming the best version of yourself permanent, sustainable and FUN.
Michele Starr Beach, MA
Michele Beach has thirteen years of experience working with families as the founder and Executive Director of The Patchwork School, a non-profit school for young children. She is also a Registered Psychotherapist, with an MA in Educational Psychology, and is completing her third year in Mindfulness-Based Transpersonal Counseling at Naropa University. She also has offered Parent, Family and Couples Counseling at the Louisville Family Center since 2017. In addition, she is a mother of three children, and she feels her children have been both her greatest joy and best teachers.
Theresa Melito-Conners, PhD (Dr. MC)
P: (781) 816-7352
Dr. Theresa Melito-Conners (Dr. MC), is the founder of “Dr. MC’s Self-Care Cabaret” as well as a public school administrator in the Greater Boston area. Inspired by her doctoral research, Theresa loves to help others practice better self-care and she is deeply passionate about this mission. Theresa is a recent graduate from Lesley University’s PhD in Educational Leadership program in Cambridge, MA. Theresa understands the challenges of balancing all of life’s responsibilities and the importance of making time for yourself. With a B.A. in Theatre Studies from Emerson College and an M.Ed. in School Counseling from Salem State University, Theresa has a variety of experiences from counseling special education adolescents with various mental health needs to choreographing professional musicals. Theresa has been presenting at different conferences in New England and she has two book chapters in the works. Please visit her website www.drmcselfcare.com for more information, to subscribe to her blog and find a link to her growing Facebook community @drmcselfcare.