Last night I attended a Zoom event for preschool students and their families. Before the pandemic they were my world. Now I view them at a distance, looking forward to a time when it is safe for for me to return to work. Early childhood education is a career marked by being sick most of the time and working anyway as long as you are able and not contagious, punctuated occasionally by becoming so ill you can’t move or end up in the hospital. It is not for the weak.
I love what I do and if you are a regular reader you know I am a champion for early childhood education and believe it to be the most important thing we do for our children and for our future. I’m not lazy. I’m not selfish. I’m not afraid of hard work, long hours, crying children, anxious and demanding parents, rainy days, lost teddy bears or indoor recess.
I’ve gotten to a point where I rarely discuss my work life online anywhere anymore because there is a loosely organized cohort of local folks who don't like what I stand for or what I write about and their modus operandi is to go after people’s personal lives and professional ones. There’s a certain amount of risk in writing a community blog and I certainly don’t mind grappling with disagreements, but, this is different. If you stand in their way, you are fair game: you, your friends, your family, your work.
Last night, being given an opportunity to come into the homes of students and families so full of joy and trust it was driven home to me yet again that I would do anything to protect the sanctity of their safety. Forget concepts of teaching or leading activities or providing safe, supportive care. My foremost responsibility to these children, even when I am not working, is to keep them safe.
The last four years in this country have been marked by an explosion of intolerant attitudes and racist hate crimes. Howard County has not been immune. The number of local and vocal agitators who feel emboldened and justified to express and advocate for such views is alarming. We may be at a turning point in national leadership but these people are still out there in our community and they show no sign of letting up.
What is this post about, really? Maybe this: the most important thing I will be doing this holiday season and beyond is redoubling my commitment to keep the vulnerable safe. Whether is is shielding my students and their families from unwanted online scrutiny, self-isolating and always wearing a mask and distancing, sending funds when I can help those who are struggling, chiming in online to defend someone under attack.
It never occurred to me before this year that the most frightening thing I would face in my lifetime would be going through a pandemic with selfish people. The sheer evil of their selfishness sometimes overwhelms me.
Not today. I look at the light in my student’s eyes and I know I won’t let them down.