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Early Childhood Education teachers and the challenge of the distance learning

All of a sudden, a new reality emerged and caught all teachers by surprise. Overnight, the pandemic and the need for social isolation required them to completely reinvent the way they work. Particularly for those dealing with smaller children, the challenge seemed even greater. How to build a new educational model that guaranteed meaningful and enchanting learning, based on affection, play, and exchange, when there were no more open spaces to explore, no contact with nature, no hugs and affection, no games and conversation circles, nor the constant presence of peers?

Since the start of online classes, be.Living’s Early Childhood Education pedagogical team began to challenge itself with questions that could shine a light on: “How are we going to intervene? How will we ensure progress, mediate knowledge, instigate, provoke investigations and good reflections in this new scenario?” Joara Imparato, coordinator for the little ones, tells us. She says that, more than ever, they needed to build new teaching, interaction, and intervention strategies. “We were already carefully watching all the variables that could interfere in our pedagogical work before, so we had to double our attention in these last few months of online classes. Our journey was full of exchanges, learning, assessments and, of course, adjustments.”

Joara explains that this new teaching format implies addressing many issues, ranging from planning the groups, so that the virtual meetings are rich in exchanges and learning, to reorganizing the curriculum and new pedagogical practices. “We had to think about the duration of virtual meetings, using materials accessible to the children, providing them with guidance on using cameras and microphones, showing the families the importance of the space and furniture used by the children, holding the children’s attention even with so many interferences and stimuli around them, and considering that the processes are individual. But most of all, to make progress in this journey we needed teachers who were engaged, available, prepared, had knowledge of the phases of child development and their needs, and were willing to deal with different technological resources.”

Blue 1 teacher Lívia Novaes says this was the biggest challenge she has ever faced in her professional life. “I think all teachers felt the impact of online classes, because Early Childhood Education focuses significantly on interaction, experiences, contact, looks, gestures. The change to remote teaching was very demanding, we really had to reinvent ourselves to be able to achieve what we believe is paramount in Early Childhood Education: maintaining contact with the children, the group’s memory and interactions, even from a distance. Then we discovered online platforms and tools that we weren’t familiar with, or that we had heard of but never used. All to make ideas come true and get closer to the children. The online tools proved very powerful. From the moment we took ownership of them, we were able to bring the children much closer to what we wanted them to understand.”

Green and Blue teacher Caroline Carvalho agrees that the deconstruction process they had to go through was very impactful and significant. “At first, it was as if we were deconstructing everything that we believed to be part of an active education, which could only be effective in the school environment. We had to adapt to the new format.  We needed to create bonds, through affection, between children who were still getting to know each other and perceiving themselves as a new group. Despite the challenges, the groups got closer through our remote meetings. The live streams gave us the chance to build new procedures and ways of learning with the children, bringing them as close as possible. The children had the opportunity to play, exchange ideas, and learn new possibilities in this new context.”

Blue 1 teacher Rosana Vieira said that at first she feared working with the little ones from afar would not be possible, especially in a class where the children are going through the process of literacy development. “I gradually realized the possibilities and broadened my way of seeing teaching and learning. I had to think of new ways of doing what I did before, such as reflection work on the writing of words. In the classroom, we do this all the time and with meaning for the children. In remote teaching, we only have the live streams. So we had to watch the children more closely to understand their new interests, to think about how to divide the groups to better meet individual needs, and, more than ever, to rely on the support from the families.”

 For her, the biggest challenges were keeping the attention of such young boys and girls, and the fact that she could not be close to the children, looking into their eyes to understand what they were feeling and thinking at each moment. “Understanding the dynamics of each child in this new learning format was fundamental to have them engage in our proposals. The groups and pairs, thought out so that we could teach them more “closely,” made all the difference so that the children could make progress in their learning.”

Blue 2 teacher Renata Ottoniel recalls that the driving forces behind learning and development in this stage of life are interaction and play, which involve presence and affection. In order to ensure these learning rights, they had to be creative to readapt practices and propose meaningful situations, guided by an insight into the construction of the collective, both playfully and remotely. “We worked to understand and talk about the effects of isolation on children with empathy and a welcoming spirit, which helped us develop a plan that provides fun and affection even from afar.”

Despite the short face-to-face time at school, Renata said that she was able to get to know her groups well and that this vision was fundamental for the effectiveness of interventions and adjustments. “In works focused on logical-mathematical reasoning, development of phonological awareness, text interpretation, and deeper discussions, we prefer interactions in smaller groups. Thus, we were able to map the development of each group and organize productive partnerships for what we want for each child.” 

She said she was positively surprised by the resilience and absorption of the online agreements that were made with the class, which enabled the children to communicate in rich, meaningful, and autonomous ways during the live streams. “In the live streams, each window represents a person. But we chose to share the screen with pictures, images, and books in order to bring attention to one thing at a time. This was important because we were able to steer the whole group in the desired direction, as we did in face-to-face classes every day.”

With so many challenges and new things, the be.Living team joyfully recognizes the achievements that were made during these months of online classes in Early Childhood Education. “Considering all these variables that we mentioned, we wondered if there would be progress, whether it would be possible, in fact, to make good interventions. With the development of this new way of work, we realized that the children were indeed making progress,” Joara said.

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