By Alex Vaillancourt
PROMPT — During COVID-19 ...
During the COVID-19 global pandemic, I realized my dream of becoming a children's TV host. It started with Facebook. I made a few videos of me reading a book a day, Mister Rogers style, and talked to the camera as if I was talking to a group of children. I posted them on my Facebook wall. That worked for reaching a wide audience, but what about the kids who were in my preschool classroom, the ones I wouldn't be able to see for the rest of the school year?
Zoom to the rescue! I was not new to Zoom calls, having used them for a year while I was getting my parent coaching certification. I was, however, new to the video function; I had not been able to see the women in my cohort, nor had I been able to see my instructors.
The first time I set up and joined a Zoom meeting with video, it was such a thrill to see all those little boxes light up as children joined our session. As the host, I could mute everyone (have you ever been part of a Zoom meeting with 14 preschoolers? It's loud!) and then unmute each child one at a time to talk. We've had morning meetings with Zoom every day for 30 minutes since April 1st. It's so much fun! I begin our meetings by reading a story, then I unmute each child so they can show or tell something. When they finish, I say thank you, hit mute again, and go to the next child. I've become quite good at managing the time and controlling the mute button, to say nothing of changing my virtual background. That's life-changing stuff!
Our meetings have morphed a bit. The other teachers take turns leading the meeting. They might bring a book to read, or start with sharing first, then end with a song. The children have come up with ideas, too. Once we all did drawing together, then shared what we had drawn. Another time, each child brought an instrument to our meeting. I counted--there were 23 instruments at our jamboree! We've had a Sports Day and a Pajama Day. We might have a Special Guest day soon, where some teenagers who used to attend our preschool will join in.
I've expanded my virtual hosting to the sleep-away camp I work at in the summer. Usually, I run the makerspace, just like I do at camp. Today I was a fortune teller, telling the future to ten kids, aged 7-13. I never imagined I'd be able to connect with kids through a computer screen, but the pandemic has allowed me to push the boundaries of what's possible, and for that I am grateful.
Alex Vaillancourt is a parent coach, educator, writer, and stepmom. When she's not writing, she's taking photos of her three cats and drinking tea. She sees the glass as more than half full.