By: Dawn Irwin
These past several days have been something else. Things are changing so rapidly - locally, nationally, globally - I haven't been able to think about the future in terms of weeks, or even days. I literally think in hourly increments.
Like everyone else in the world, I am terrified. Terrified and feeling so alone.
Unable to think about anything except what I'm going to be doing in the next 60 minutes because if I start to think too far ahead, I get overwhelmed about the state of the world, my own life, the lives of those I love, and my brain short circuits. It's a state of mind I am not familiar with and I would really like to keep it that way.
After some much needed time of self-reflection, I think I've realized where a lot of my turmoil is coming from.
I am a helper that feels helpless.
I am not doing what I am suppose to be doing. I'm not engaging with my students and families the way I want and should be. I can't participate out in the world in the ways I'm use to. I can't fix the problem and I'm a fixer, so as you can imagine, this has created quite the mental and emotional struggle for me. And, I know I am not alone in these feelings.
All of us - educators, community leaders, parents, our kids - feel completely out of control of our lives and the world around us. We feel isolated and alone without any real sense of what lies ahead of us. And, when we think about that too hard and for too long, anxiety and fear kick in.
Luckily, I am an optimist. This means that these past several days have been a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows, but it also means that when I'm in the low I know I won't be there for too long.
I can't help but think about what good can come out of the bad.
Yesterday, when I felt myself inching back towards to top of the coaster, I started thinking about other places that have dealt with enormous tragedy and what good they were able to find in the bad. Almost immediately, Reggio Emilia, Italy, came to my mind.
In the mid 1940's, Italy was decimated from WWII. Everything had been destroyed, including their educational system. In a small area near Reggio Emilia, the community, particularly the women, decided they were going to create the early childhood educational system they felt their children and families deserved. Now, almost 75 years later, the Reggio Emilia Approach has been studied, emulated, and celebrated all around the globe (full disclosure: I am a card carrying member of the North American Reggio Emilia Alliance). The folks of Reggio Emilia took the darkness and devastation of a tragedy and turned it into one of the most beautiful examples of early childhood education in the world.
They turned helplessness into resiliency. Isolation into collaboration. Hopelessness into encouragement. Tragedy into triumph.
They made the impossible...possible.
Now, as I sit here writing these words, all I can think about is this - if they could do it, so can we. Let's use this unprecedented time to our advantage. Let's turn the fear, helplessness, and anxiety so many of us are feeling into hope and inspiration.
Let's become the agents of change we've always
wanted to be.
It's time to create the early childhood education system we have always dreamed of. It's time to build the future we know our children, families, teachers, and communities deserve. We're early educators. We do the impossible every day all on our own. Imagine what we can do together.
To learn more about the history of the Reggio Emilia Approach click the links below: