Can you hear me? Creativity in the time of COVID-19

KAREN HOPE shares what she has learnt about being ‘creative’ during the pandemic and engaging with children over Zoom, as well as the resources she has found useful—specifically from Nick Cave and the Reggio Emilia Educational Project.

Early childhood educators and children have spent so much time this year online. We Zoom in and out. We adjust our cameras, work out how to mute ourselves, how to put our hands up or ask a question. I think the defining phrase of the pandemic will be: ‘Can you hear me?’

It would be fair to say that no early childhood educators working in the early childhood care and education profession has worked this way before. The COVID-19 pandemic has meant that this sector has become the essential workforce behind the essential workforce. This is largely due to the very real fact that childcare is an economic necessity. The challenges that face our profession are many and varied and it can be hard to get our head out of this very reactive space and take time—real time—to consider what we are doing and why we are doing it.

While many feel overwhelmed and overworked, our core business has gone on. Children are still being educated and cared for and educators have been involved in a flurry of activity. A quick desktop review of popular social media sites can bear testament to this. The range of ways that services have remained connected to children and families during these remote times is broad. Early learning bundled up in take home packs, story time remotely delivered, handwritten letters to children and their families and care packages delivered. The list is exhaustive and very creative.

If you think about it, early childhood educators are inherently creative—it’s part of the job. But perhaps this need to always be creative and busy is making us feel exhausted and under additional pressure. Creativity has become somewhat of a currency during the pandemic and a lot of value is attached to it. We have also, it seems, applied this currency in our personal lives. We are baking bread, learning a language, decluttering, arranging virtual Zoom parties with families and friends.

Creativity has become almost like a competitive sport.

I doubt there are many blogs or opinion pieces related to the early learning and care workforce that cite Nick Cave as a way of thinking about our current situation but stay with me here. This singer, author, composer, actor and all-round legend has provided me with perhaps the most accessible response to living and working in the pandemic that I have read.

On Caves’ Red Hand Files website—a Q&A style forum where he answers questions, he provided the following response to a few questions around what he was doing during the pandemic and how creative he was feeling. He said:

‘Why is this the time to get creative?

For me, this is not a time to be buried in the business of creating. It is a time to take a backseat and use this opportunity to reflect on exactly what our function is — what we, as artists, are for.

We will know something of our resilience, our capacity for forgiveness, and our mutual vulnerability. Perhaps, it is a time to pay attention, to be mindful, to be observant.’

In the Reggio Emilia Educational Project, it is often said that time is a commodity of value and perhaps the one thing that that we have been given during this pandemic is time. Professor Carla Rinaldi, President of Reggio Children says:

‘Is it legitimate today when everything seems to go towards ever greater speed, in fact towards super-speed, to admire slowness, empty time, pauses? It is not a contest between speed and slowness, but about having the courage to rediscover the time of human being. And the children can help us to feel again the time that is inside us and the time that we are’ (Rinaldi, 2006, p 207).

So, if in ten years’ time, you are asked what you did during the COVID-19 pandemic, what will you say? How will you describe it? It is worth stopping to consider that you are the curator of your own narrative? I have been thinking a lot about the need to make ‘good use of our time’ and come up with creative ways of thinking and working. I do not feel particularly creative at all and instead have ‘leaned in’ to taking the time to look around me, reflect on what it means to teach and what early childhood education is for and generally just keep going.

And that’s ok!


ECA Recommends

Creativity and young children: Wondering, exploring, discovering, learning
By Amanda Niland

This book explores creativity as an essential part of early childhood, with a focus on building early childhood educators’ understanding of the features and values of creative processes and their outcomes. It presents theories of creativity derived from research in early childhood and beyond, examples of children’s everyday creativity, and ways in which adults can support children’s creative development and learning. It provides strategies educators can use to nurture and develop children’s creativity to support their learning. Visit the ECA Shop and get your copy here.

Karen Hope

Karen is an early childhood consultant, lecturer and freelance writer who has extensive experience in a broad range of services within the early childhood care and education context. Her consultancy practice and teaching aims to provide teachers and educators with a disruptive approach to working with, and thinking about, children. Challenging taken for granted practices and dominant discourses is a feature of her work.

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