2020 has been anything but predictable.
The coronavirus crisis came as a shock the ECE community is still reeling from—and from the unforeseen school closures to heartbreaking employee layoffs, the impact of 2020 is one that will last well into the future.
But it’s not all bad news. As we navigate our way through the year—and past the coronavirus peaks—the post-covid trends are becoming clearer.
And clearer information empowers a clearer vision—something we could all do with a dose of right now.
With that in mind, we reached out to some of the top ECE pros to find out about emerging early education trends in 2020, why we need to rethink how we work, and how to prepare for the reopening of our ECE centers.
“In the immediate post-COVID world, children will need a great deal of social-emotional support and guidance.” — Cindy Terebush, Author, podcast host and professional development provider.
As a natural communicator, Cindy Terebush isn’t afraid of getting straight to the point when it comes to her passion for early childhood education.
For Cindy, 2020’s ECE trends are shifting toward putting children’s social-emotional needs first.
“We will have no choice but to prioritize the social-emotional domain so that children can function in a way that allows learning other skills. Keeping social-emotional skill building at the forefront would be a good outcome from [the coronavirus crisis],” she explains.
Bevin Reinen, inspiring Founder of Teach. Train. Love. is another ECE pro who believes a focus on emotional health is the future.
“We have all experienced this crisis. Social emotional learning (SEL) and self-care strategies for students, parents, and educators will be integral in laying a solid foundation for learning. We must nurture each other's emotional health and wellbeing needs first before we can even begin to think about addressing academic deficits. SEL matters more now than ever!” says Bevin.
When it comes to reopening your ECE center, Cindy believes supporting families and employees is the first step.
“Reopening isn't as simple as opening the doors. Many people—children, families, early childhood professionals, and administrators—have experienced a trauma and we can't just go back like it can be erased,” she explains. “Administrators and their staff need to learn about trauma-sensitive approaches to setting up their environments and having interactions.”
For Cindy, that means investing in professional advice on trauma-sensitive approaches.
“Seek reputable professional development about trauma-sensitive approaches, ideally before the doors open. We have to expand our thinking beyond the child and recognize that the social-emotional support we need to provide has to extend to everyone. When children, families, staff and administrators feel safe and valued, the learning will follow,” says Cindy.
Here are a few resources on trauma-sensitive approaches in ECE classrooms:
“If the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent shutdowns have shown schools/early childhood education centers anything, it’s the need to quickly adapt their practices to digital platforms.” —Dr. Erica Vernold Miller, CEO at Professor Patty Cake Consulting
For many ECE pros, one trend stands out above the rest: technology.
Dr Erica Vernold Miller has been coaching educators for over a decade and has witnessed the impact of the rise in digital first hand.
“ECE parents, like most consumers, desire—and in the current situation, require—learning/communication/enrollment/payment etc to happen online.” “Some schools and ECE programs have resisted embracing technology and, in the past, could do so with few repercussions. But unfortunately, they no longer have the luxury of doing so,” explains Erica, “These schools and ECE centers must adapt digitally or risk becoming extinct.”
For Erica, survival is about boldly taking new strides toward digital transformation.
“If the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent shutdowns have shown schools and ECE centers anything, it’s the need to quickly adapt their practices to digital platforms. The schools and ECE centers who already had an existing digital infrastructure have fared better than those who didn’t. This is not unlike retail and e-commerce—there’s a reason the Amazons of the world are thriving while retail outlets who don’t have a digital footprint are struggling.”
“The biggest piece of advice I can give regarding reopening ECE centers is to keep all stakeholders in the loop and maintain regular communication during the reopening process,” says Erica.
In a world where anxiety is on the rise, clear communication is your path to reassurance.
“Anxiety is bred in the unknown. Parents and ECE staff are going to be understandably anxious about reopening. It’s important that ECE centers be transparent, include stakeholders in discussions about safety and wellness, and use data/credible resources to make reopening decisions for their centers.”
For Erica, that means heading to tech for streamlined systems and total transparency.
“Creating systems to disseminate accurate information is crucial. If stakeholders feel like they’re not getting the info they need, they’ll likely create their own ‘narratives’ which might be inaccurate. The goal is to put systems in place that help all stakeholders feel informed, empowered and valued in the process.”
Here are a few resources on trauma-sensitive approaches in ECE classrooms:
“Some of the best practices such as ‘continuity of care’ and ‘family childcare programs’, which offer more personalized, smaller hubs of care, will be trending more.” — Zeynep Isik-Ercan, M.A., Ph.D., Professor of Early Childhood Education, Rowan University & Co-Director, Early Childhood Leadership Institute, Center for Access, Success, and Equity
As an ECE pro with over 15 years’ experience, Zeynep Isik-Ercan knows her stuff—and for her, 2020 is all about improving personalized childcare.
“I think some of the best practices such as ‘continuity of care’ and ‘family childcare programs’, which offer more personalized, smaller hubs of care, will be trending more,” she says.
But despite (or perhaps because of) this focus on relationships, tech-reliance is also set to boom.
“Program staff will embrace more technologies and online learning—with a caveat of personal and social connections and interactions—so more synchronous online meetings and trainings and less in person training and meetings may be trends,” explains Zeynep.
“Licensing, professional development and quality improvement will also be very important for states, following with the trend on state Quality Rating and Improvement Systems,” she explains.
Technology use in the curriculum has skyrocketed during lockdown.
And for Zeynep, the key to successful school reopenings is all about incorporating new online schooling communities into the ‘new normal’—and moving back into traditional school patterns slowly.
“Utilizing learning communities with parents through text based or mobile apps and focusing on a few developmental goals at a time will be helpful!” she says.
Here are some resources to help you ease into the new normal:
“Everyone has been changed by this event.” —Cindy Terebush, Author, podcast host and professional development provider
Although there’s no denying the impact coronavirus has had on the ECE community, Cindy knows every situation has a silver lining—that’s why she’s determined to encourage ECE pros to focus on the positives.
“There is no substitute for in-person interactions with early learners,” she says, “But there are some positives. In some cases, teachers and families are developing stronger partnerships because having to do distance learning has put us all in each other's homes.”
And it’s not just relationships that have been given a boost—for many people, even their work/life balance has improved.
“We’re learning many things can be done online, and sometimes, more effectively. We don't have to stay at work late to have meetings. We can meet online from our homes,” Cindy explains. “Professional development works well online when we use sites that allow for small and large group interactions. Early childhood settings are discovering that virtual tours of their buildings are another way to boost enrollment. People near and far can see your setting regardless of their work schedules.”
The coronavirus crisis has shone the spotlight on the resilience of the ECE community.
But resilience doesn’t just appear overnight: it develops from great people, teamwork and vision.
“The ECE community realized we were ready for evacuations, lockdown and fires—but not the possibility of a shutdown,” says Cindy. “Now, all learning models and businesses will need to add shutdown plans to their emergency management procedures. After this is over, we need to reflect, determine what worked and what needs more consideration. None of us want to live through what it was like the first couple of weeks of this again.”
It has been tough—but the ECE community is bouncing back. And the best outcome is closer connections and the continued recognition of teachers’ incredible hard-work.
As Cindy puts it,
“It would be wonderful if teachers and families continue to work closely together and to see each other as a team. I hope the work teachers do with children is as highly valued in the future as it is today.”