Preschool educator evaluations the fun and effective way blog header

Preschool educator evaluations the fun and effective way (with a free template)

What if I told you that staff evaluations can be a fun and collaborative experience? What if you’ve been doing it all wrong this whole time and all you need is a shift in thinking to help your team be the best they can be in an appropriate manner? Read on!

Whether you’re leading a team or interested in your own professional growth, taking some time to evaluate progress is key to delivering quality programming to the children and families we serve. 

Let’s be real, evaluations are a source of stress for both directors and educators. A poll by Gallup revealed that only 14% of employees strongly agree that performance reviews are useful and motivate them to improve. In other words, if performance reviews were a vaccine, they would not be approved by the FDA. Yikes!  

It’s important to think about staff member evaluations not just as “the thing to do” as an early learning leader. The key to getting it right is to turn this traditionally stressful experience into an exercise to get to know your team and empower them towards their goals. 

Shifting this mindset is important now, more than ever, as labor is one of the top organizational risks in childcare. This article will help you revamp your staff evaluations so that you and your team get the most out of the process.

If we had you at “fun and collaborative,” access the template below:

Why is it important to conduct performance reviews for childcare staff members?

Regardless of where you work, or who you are, many people dread evaluations because of the feeling of being measured or judged for their work. It’s natural to want to do a good job and feel uneasy if that’s not perceived as the case. The reality is, performance evaluations are one of the most powerful communication tools that childcare leaders can use to connect with your team. 

These evaluations do not have to be complicated and should never be to focus on the flaws in an educator’s practice. On the contrary, they should serve as a space to talk about an educator’s performance as a whole, what challenges they are facing, and how to support them. This means starting with what an educator is doing well, and then where they can improve. Celebrate those wins!

In order to have a reliable pulse on how your team is doing, you have to get to know them personally. Relationships are everything in early education and the one you build with your team as their leader is the foundation of your program. As a leader, it is your job to create opportunities wherever you can within your organization to help them achieve these goals. 

Once you figure this step out, you’ll have a team of staff that are motivated, challenged and engaged. This will also contribute to your value as a leader as you’ll be building trust within your team. 

Lay the groundwork for your preschool staff evaluations

When conducting preschool teacher evaluations, it’s not just about their teaching practice, it’s also about their interpersonal and organizational skills.

Treat each preschool teacher evaluation as an individual process as your educators are all different. You can have some on your team who are hyper-organized planning masters, and others that are more comfortable changing gears and going with the flow in the classroom! Leveraging all the unique strengths on your team is more effective than complying to a cookie-cutter formula.  

It is important to understand that communication is a two-way street. Invite your staff to think about their performance as well! What were they proud of achieving? What could have gone better? Why? These are all questions that invite self-reflection and will give you insight on how to support them as a leader.

Also, have each educator consider their professional vision and direction – where do they want to be in a year from now? Two? Five? Even if they don’t have a detailed answer (or an answer at all!), that’s totally fine. Starting that conversation and encouraging a bigger picture outlook is food for thought and might inspire someone to think about their career a little more deeply just by asking. 

For example, you might have an amazing lead educator in your preschool room who creates beautiful portfolios for the families they work with. They might be an Instagram guru which could be a great asset to improve your center’s presence on social media. The point is, you can get creative in creating opportunities for your staff outside their core role that is a value-add for both your business and your team.

When and how to evaluate your early childhood educators

The average center conducts one evaluation per year – the dreaded “Annual Performance Review.” The traditional way of conducting performance reviews simply doesn’t work because it isn’t SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely). 

Teams that use the SMART goals framework can track their results consistently over shorter timeframes and make small improvements to enhance their performance and provide support. Think about it in terms of working out – you’re not going to do 50 pushups on the first day. To get there, you have to go in steps.

Yes, time is a precious commodity as a Director. Anything more than once a year would be a huge improvement on the current status quo. Try a conversation once every 6 months, once every quarter, or 15-minute check-ins once a month.  

Prioritizing this means setting a schedule to spend time with your team. Get creative with it by going for coffee instead of having it in the office for a positive tone. Investing in your team relationships translates into a team that is inspired to be better in the long run. A happy team that is challenged to grow in their roles improves the quality of your program and grows your business to boot. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.  

Things to look for in childcare performance reviews

Now, let’s get tactical. Here are six areas to include in your evaluation to ensure that you’re covering all your bases.

#1 Professionalism

This considers basic professionalism such as: 

  • Do they come to work on time every day? 
  • Do they use appropriate language at work? 
  • Do they have their necessary health and safety qualifications? 

#2 Program development 

This covers an educator’s approach to their practice:

  • How prepared are they for the day’s activities? 
  • How do they apply their teaching philosophy to the materials? 
  • Are observations done consistently and regularly? 
  • Are they adaptable to each child’s individual needs? 

#3 Work with children 

This focuses on an educator’s relationship with their children:

#4 Family engagement 

This area covers an educator’s relationship with the families they serve: 

  • Are they responsive to the needs of parents? 
  • Are they friendly and approachable? 
  • How do they handle sensitive information or concerns that parents might have? 

#5 Teamwork 

This section takes into account how an educator works with the rest of the team: 

  • Are they supportive and respectful of other teachers? 
  • Do they mentor their peers? 
  • Do they seek mentorship? 
  • Do they avoid gossiping about their peers? 

#6 Professional development

This is how an educator engages in their own development: 

  • Do they set goals for themselves? 
  • Are they attending any online / offline classes? 
  • Do they suggest or try new methods to improve their work? 

We’ve put together a detailed Childcare Staff Evaluation Template with all the areas that you can use and adapt to serve your needs. 

This template is not your typical staff evaluation where you mark performance as “Always,” “Sometimes,” or “Never” (been there, done that!). 

We’ve created this template to identify areas of strength and areas of improvement with a scoring legend of:

  1. 🌟 You’re a Rockstar!! 🌟
  2. 🙌 Good work, keep it up 🙌  
  3. 💪 Let’s improve on this 💪

One way to help your team own their performance is to have them fill out the staff evaluation form for themselves and review their scores with yours. This is a great exercise to build alignment within the team and have genuine conversations. It is also an effective way to get the most out of your time together. Done right, you can have frequent check-ins that are productive, growth-oriented, and, dare I say it, fun!  

Click the button below to download your free child care staff evaluation template!

We hope this article inspired you to try something different with your team. Even if it’s something small such as having your educators reflect on their vision for professional or personal growth. How do you conduct your staff evaluations? Do you have any creative ways of connecting with your team? Let us know in the comments below. Share this with someone who is planning their performance evaluation! 

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Carmen Choi

Carmen is the Marketing Coordinator and Preschool Podcast Manager on the HiMama team. She's been working with childcare business owners and consultants for 3 years. She is passionate making connections that empower the ECE Community through knowledge-sharing to support better outcomes for children, their families, and society!

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