Between the pandemic and raising a child with exceptionalities, Alyssa Marion’s journey to Convocation has taken more than a few detours.
But on Friday, Oct. 15, she will reach her destination — graduating from Brock’s Bachelor of Early Childhood Education (BECE) program.
Marion, who has been in the early childhood education (ECE) field for eight years, came to Brock in 2018 to build on her ECE diploma and open more opportunities for her career.
“I just didn’t feel like my diploma was going to be sufficient anymore with the developments in the field and what they’re requiring in terms of professional development,” she said.
Not long after her Brock start, Marion took time off from the program to welcome her son into the world in the summer of 2019. When he was three months old, Marion’s ECE experience helped her to recognize her son was experiencing developmental delays.
“I had noticed there were things that children do in their normal progression of development that he just wasn’t doing,” she said.
A health scare later revealed her son was born with a medical issue that has caused delays in every developmental domain.
Marion’s courses at Brock, including one focused entirely on exceptionalities and others that covered topics such as language delays or different ways to accommodate children with exceptionalities during playtime, helped her to better support her son, she said.
“With what I’ve learned, I’ve also been able to add helpful items into his toys and books and different things like that, that I would not have known about from Googling and doing quick research.”
When Marion returned to Brock in fall 2020, she had to balance her son’s frequent specialist appointments with assignments and online classes.
“I’ve had to rearrange meetings. I’ve had to miss classes because his appointments come up,” said Marion. “I can’t move specialist appointments with his neurologist.”
The Brock community was key to Marion’s success. Faculty and staff worked with Marion, helping her to catch up, giving her extensions when necessary and supporting her when her responsibilities seemed overwhelming.
Even though her own schedule was full, Marion gave back to the community by running the Brock BECE Student Association during her fourth year, assisting with orientation and mentoring new students.
Reflecting on her time at Brock so far, Marion is proudest of completing her thesis while home with a toddler during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. She often found herself trying to write during naptimes or struggling to switch between speaking French, her first language, all day with her son while trying to work in English.
Her experience as an ECE professional and as a student during COVID-19 inspired her to focus her thesis research on educator burnout.
“I can only imagine what people are feeling in the field with all of these new COVID-19 protocols and different class structures,” Marion said, adding the rate of burnout among ECE workers is generally high without factoring in additional pressures created by the pandemic.
She plans to build on her undergraduate thesis research while completing a Master of Education at Brock so that she can teach future early childhood educators. Her goal is to create a mental health and wellness resource for ECE professionals.
“I really want educators to have some kind of tool kit or workshop that helps them to develop tools to better take care of themselves, so that they can take better care of children.”