I spent 2 days in EYFS during lockdown and left feeling hopeful about the future

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In this uplifting edition of the distance teaching diaries, primary school teacher Tom Brassington contemplates the freedom of an EYFS classroom.

In our current situation, it’s easy to feel hopeless. Stuck in our homes away from people we love, wrestling with the anxiety the daily news brings, desperately trying to create a routine in this new normal whilst also balancing our job in an unprecedented climate. It’s really difficult. Hopeful moments are few and far between.

I work in a 3-form entry City Centre school in Derby, which remains open as a host school for a number of other children in the area as well as the children of keyworkers and vulnerable families within our school community. Our large staff role means we are on a three-weekly rotation and going into school for a couple of days at a time.

It’s an anxious time

I have been struck when talking to other educators; whether friends, colleagues or fellow edu-tweeters, by the levels of anxiety that are rising from both staying at home – as we constantly reflect on how to help our classes without overwhelming them- and, when we go into school- anxieties about the risk of the virus spreading. So I have to admit that seeing my name on the rota for two days this week in EYFS with a range of children aged between 2 and 7 had left me worried.

But, to my surprise, I left feeling hopeful about our future, past this pandemic. When we can return to some kind of normality, it’s my hope we can all be a little more EYFS.

Back to the EYFS classroom

My EYFS experience prior to this week has been limited. I completed a 5 week stint as part of my Schools Direct course in Reception and witnessed the lows: a boy saving his poo in his tray to show his Mum because ‘he was proud of it’, and the highs: children walking into discover the magic beans they had planted had indeed grown into a giant beanstalk in the middle of their classroom. I had found it a real challenge and admired those who work in this field with such expertise, enthusiasm and dedication. I’m so glad that when I went back to EYFS in my new school this week, I was once again bowled over by the learning, the exploration and the sheer joy those youngsters and the adults who support them, bring to our education community.

There is a freedom to the EYFS classroom that, if you’re like me, can scare KS2 practitioners. I like a structure, I like to know my timings, I like to know where all my class are (preferably sat at a table) and I like to feel as though I’m leading the learning. But every time I take a step into that magical world that Early Years practitioners create each day for the youngsters in their care, I’m reminded of the sheer power of child-led learning, the freedom and discovery of play and the boundless opportunities that open up when teachers trust themselves enough to loosen the reins just a little.

Our world is scary right now. We need deep thinkers, we need inquisitive, scientific minds that can help us beat invisible enemies, we need responsible, strong-minded leaders who can work well in groups, we need performers who can spark happiness in others from what they do, we need artists, storytellers and musicians to make sense of the madness we are experiencing, we need strong, brave individuals who take risks to help others, we need people who look out, care for and support one another. This week I saw the developing and future potential for every single one of these attributes in the EYFS classroom.

Looking to the future

After this pandemic, things will change; including education. I hope that when they do, we will see the value in allowing children to explore and develop an inquisitive nature. I hope we will not forget the necessity in teaching children to be emotionally honest at all times. I hope we will continue to provide greater opportunities for young people to work together and develop strong, communicative and collaborative group work skills. I hope that we will strive to always challenge them, question them, encourage them, and support them to better themselves in every way they can.

I hope we will trust the next generation that, should they ever face a situation like the one we are in now, they can do better. And I’m certain, that if we continue to embolden, enthuse and excite our children during learning in the same way gifted practitioners do in the EYFS setting, they will do.

Tom is a primary school teacher currently teaching Year 4 in Derby. He is passionate about Mental Health in education and creating emotionally honest spaces within schools for children to thrive in. Alongside his brother, @jjbrassington he is currently writing a children’s picture book about emotional honesty, launching a blog focussed on this area and reorganising a Mental Health in Education Forum (an event that had to be postponed due to COVID-19. For more details on these projects follow @brassobrothers on Twitter. Follow tom on twitter at @brassoteach.

This article features as part of a special distance teaching blog series by teachers and educational leaders, about life during the current global health crisis. We want to hear about your experience of school closures, distance teaching, wellbeing and everything in between. Please email elizabeth@teacheroo.io if you’d like to contribute a blog.

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