Feeling left alone with a can of sanitizing alcohol for protection: Voices of Icelandic preschool personnel during the first wave of the pandemic

Kristín Dýrfjörð, Associate professor in early childhood education, University of Akureyri; Iceland (

Background: During the first wave of the pandemic pre and primary schools were open in Iceland. Suddenly preschool teachers were defined as frontline workers without similar protection as many other frontline workers. Asking preschool teachers about both their wellbeing and their views on their working conditions during the lockdown and ban on social gatherings, can be informative for a better understanding to adapt methods at later waves of the pandemic. 

Aim: To learn how the preschools’ personnel carried out their work and what they felt about being a frontline worker during the society’s lockdown. 

Method: An online survey with open and closed questions was distributed during the middle of the first wave of the pandemic, and the society’s lockdown. 658 preschool teachers and other personnel in preschool responded. Both statistical and thematic analysis was employed to analyse the data. 

Results: Participants understood that: well-being is multi-faceted, responsibility for wellbeing goes beyond themselves, job satisfaction is an important part of well-being to educators, educators’ well-being has impact on their practice, and work-related well-being has impact on personal life.  

Conclusions: Many preschool employees felt they were in vulnerable positions and in danger of both getting the virus and possibly transmitting the virus to their own families as well as the families of the preschool children.  

Implications for children: It is important for us that you feel safe in your preschool and we will do everything we can to make it so.

Implications for families: It is important that the staff feel safe and secure so they can take care of your children and you have a role with us to support that, and we must inform you.

Implications for practitioners: For children to have great experiences and outcomes from early childhood education, educators need to be well. This is a shared responsibility – it’s not all up to you as an individual! 

Key words: professionals’ voices, workforce issues, working during the pandemic 

This presentation relates to the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: