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How to Support Teachers as a Preschool Leader

How to Support Teachers as a Preschool Leader

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August 21, 2017 | Steven Bonnay, RECE
This is a featured article from one of our ECE team members, Steven Bonnay, who is a Registered Early Childhood Educator. Steven completed his ECE diploma and postgrad certificate in autism and behaviour studies at Seneca College. He worked both at the Seneca Lab School and as a part-time field placement professor before joining our team. Today he is discussing the benefits and applications of risky play inside and outside of the classroom.

People are constantly growing.

Having worked in the exciting world of child care, I know that change is a constant. In this article, I’d like to focus on the professional growth and performance of teachers in early childhood and offer 3 steps that leaders can take to support this.

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“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” - Jack Welch

As a leader at your center, it is worth asking the question: Why do your teachers show up to work every day?

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Image credit: Pinterest

Early childhood educators are more often than not passion-driven individuals. The big difference between a teacher that is engaged in their job is perspective. Some people show up for a “job,” while others show up for their “career.” Engagement at work all boils down to what we believe in and how our work contributes to that belief. The issue arises in the field of early childhood education when teachers are overwhelmed by the challenging situation of wearing many hats, meeting many expectations and maintaining a positive front through it all. Due to this, a teacher without proper support from leadership can burn out, lose that initial passion and show up to work simply for their "job" rather than for a meaningful career.

Here are some steps you can take as a leader to build up your team and support them.

Step 1: Start with Why

This is not to be confused with the mission or vision statement you have posted somewhere in your organization. Understand that each “why” is individual. The words and ideas have to have a highly personal root connection, the “why” should invigorate the mind and stir the heart.

Start with yourself. Understanding your personal “why” as a leader gives direction for your center’s “why." What I mean by this is that defining and upholding your center's core values starts with leadership. What matters to you? Is it building a sense of community for your families, is it exploring a specific pedagogy, or perhaps educating parents on the early development of their child. Once you have this idea, extend it to your team and build on it together. A strong centre-wide “why” comes from a joint-effort. Some centre’s annually revisit their “why” and collectively author their mission/vision statement. This keeps everyone on the same page and working towards the same goal.

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“All organizations start with why, but only the great ones keep their why clear year after year.” - Simon Sinek
Step 2: Invest in your staff and they will invest in you

Getting to know who you work with and what their goals are builds a strong foundation for productive team relationships. Listening to what your teachers want to do and where they want to be professionally will give you the insight you need to work towards a mutual alignment for success.

Micro-managing is not leadership.

A certain level of autonomy must be given to the educators that work in their respective classroom, day in and day out. When people commit to something, they will have ideas and thoughts on how to improve results - some of these ideas might be different and unique. Inviting members of the teaching team to provide their input on how to improve processes and systems at your center. Although not every idea will be implemented immediately, this creates a sense of ownership within your team. This way, everyone is invested in the success of your center.

You are a team after all, no?

Step 3: Find tools to help!

So you have your core values and have created an environment where you and your teachers are on the same page. What's next? Finding tools to improve and streamline your processes. How can you help your teachers achieve their best work every day?

Remain connected.

Ensure that you schedule time to have one-on-one “check-ins” with each staff and start talking about continuous learning and improvement in their role. The face of child care is undergoing change with different regulations and policies put into place. Child care as a sector has seen a rise in the administrative expectations of a center along with the rise in the demand for child care by working parents. Finding tools to keep up with the demands of the sector is key to ensuring that your teachers do not feel overwhelmed and burn out.

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“Working smart rather than hard lets you accomplish your work/goals in an easier fashion. And this is fine, as the work you’re making smart (rather than hard) is what you’re actually trying to accomplish something in.” - Matt Wiggins

There are some things that make your life easier and more effective. As a team you need to keep seeking those methods in order to improve your workflow. When I worked on the floor, time management was a constant juggling act. Documentation and program planning takes a front seat in this matter. Daily documentation and communication needs to be completed as a team. Keeping each other informed and the parents in the “know” can be a challenge sometimes and this is where smart time allocation is key.

The work of an early childhood educator is grounded in a teacher's interactions with children. However, more administrative expectations shifts this time allocation to paperwork. In this day and age, we should leverage available technologies to streamline repetitive reporting tasks so that we can focus on what matters most: the children!

ECE Leadership Resources: