Following the shock of having to temporarily close or significantly limit the numbers of children attending during the emergency pandemic response, emotional upheaval and destabilisation for staff is likely – especially in a newly opened setting that is working hard at becoming established. Negative feelings can easily be front-of-mind, perhaps focusing upon what is being missed or lost; but paying attention to what is actually being gained can be very therapeutic and helpful.
Janet Packer, co-owner/manager of Growing Wild Outdoor Nursery in Barnsley, has already shared some of their journey in the ECO blog – and this week she shares how they used their virtual team meeting to switch feelings from despondency to appreciation. Awareness, positivity and gratitude for seemingly small things can turn out to be wonderfully beneficial!
Silver linings by Janet Packer, with thanks to the families of Growing Wild Outdoor Nursery for sharing their photographs.
The nursery had been open for six months, when we received the notice to close for Coronavirus restrictions. It followed one of our best weeks, where the sun had shone, an open day had brought thirty new children to visit, interviews had found two great new members of staff and we had planted over fifty trees with our families, in a new piece of land adjoining our site. We sat playing with the children in the sun on our last afternoon, feeling quite shell-shocked, as the thought of closing our doors sank in.
After five weeks at home, the reality of the pandemic had taken its toll and we were all feeling quite flat and withdrawn. We had our (virtual) weekly staff meeting, finding it hard to motivate ourselves and having no idea of how long lockdown would last. Later that week, I spoke to a good friend and colleague, who really lifted my spirits, bringing positive news and plans for the future. We shared stories from our experience of isolation and chatted about things we’d done whilst at home, and my mindset started to shift. There were many positive things to emerge from having had time to pause and reflect.
So this week we started our staff meeting with positive experiences that had evolved from isolation – our silver linings – both personal and professional. We’ve enjoyed the slower pace of life, having time to appreciate our homes and the areas we live in – walks in the woods in the spring sunshine everyday being a definite bonus! We have enjoyed spending quality time with our children, that hasn’t been interrupted or cut short. Those with young ones commented on how they had literally watched them grow and change. We have spoken to our neighbours and asked if they need anything from the shop. And we have truly appreciated the incredible work done by those in front-line jobs.
Our (virtual) weekly staff meetings have brought the team closer and given us an insight into each other’s lives, as our children wander across in their pyjamas, or the cat jumps up on the table. We work a mixture of part-time hours, and usually only catch up once a month, so these online meetings are something we will definitely try to continue. We’ve had the opportunity to stop and reflect on our first six months, to celebrate our successes and consider our options for development and improvement. We have devoted considerable time to CPD and online training.
We have made stronger links with our nursery families through a closed online group, where staff and parents have added posts, communicating with each other as much as with us. We have gained valuable insights into the lives of our families and they into ours. It has been lovely to see the children walking in the woods with their families, playing in the garden with their siblings or baking buns in the kitchen with their mum. Who wouldn’t smile to see a child making play phone calls to staff to plan a rainbow picnic whilst wearing waterproofs in the sunshine, because that’s what they wear for nursery!
We collectively agreed that we will no longer take normality for granted and we will appreciate the time we spend together and the freedom we have. We will value the little things and focus on what really matters. I wonder, if people across the country and around the world are doing the same, could this be a positive opportunity to change the way we live our lives?
Janet Packer, Growing Wild Outdoor Nursery, 12th May 2020
All images are © Growing Wild Outdoor Nursery. Images must not be used without written permission from the photographer or Early Childhood Outdoors.