The lack of a healthy work-life balance in early childhood education is practically a cliche these days. Most early childhood educators (ECEs) work long hours for little compensation and receive far less recognition than they should given how big a role they play in childhood development. From a director’s perspective, the risks of a poor work-life balance are staff burnout and high turnover rates, neither of which makes for a successful business.
While there are tools educators can use to improve their work-life balance themselves, there are also specific actions childcare center owners and directors can take to help their ECEs. Here are three examples:
1) Setting boundaries with educators
The childcare industry naturally attracts people who are passionate about their work and passionate people rarely turn down the chance to take on more responsibility. Add the sheer volume of parental questions, comments, and concerns that come up over the course of a week (sometimes even a single day!) and you’ve got a recipe for educator burnout in even the most eager educator.
That’s why setting boundaries between managers and educators–as well as educators and parents–is an effective way to keep educators from becoming overwhelmed by administrative or other tasks that fall outside their core responsibilities. Remember that it’s important to set boundaries on time as well as on tasks. Before you send that next after-hours email or text, ask yourself if it’s really worth the disruption to your employees’ time at home.
2) Recruiting parent volunteers
Remember those parents who were continually bombarding your ECEs with requests, suggestions, and criticisms before you wisely set some boundaries? Well, just like eager children, eager parents can either aid the learning process or be an obstacle to it. Boundaries are the deciding factor here: if you give those children (or parents) structured opportunities to contribute, they might surprise you!
Parent volunteers can provide assistance in the classroom, making educators’ work with children more manageable, or they can offer administrative help, shouldering at least some of the endless paperwork that goes hand-in-hand with early childhood education. Just make sure your parents know what to expect as volunteers.
3) Simplifying childcare administration
Let’s face it: shifting the burden of administrative tasks from educators to parent volunteers is a temporary solution, at best. The simple fact is that, for many childcare center owners and directors, the amount of paperwork only grows as their center gains in ranking. This means you can support educators’ work-life balance by simplifying their administrative tasks.
Champagne Domingo, center owner and director of Uni-Vision Childcare in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, had experience with this first-hand. “Paperwork was extremely time-consuming,” she said, “Trying to track and file everything was just so overwhelming, and the more stars you get, the more documentation they need.” A big part of the problem here was that, like many childcare centers, Uni-Vision was operating almost exclusively on pen-and-paper.
With pen and paper the educators would have to write out the observations for each child, then they would have to go and find the learning standard, and then write out the learning standard to the associated observation. They were working overtime.Champagne Domingo, Center Owner and Director, Uni-Vision Childcare
Champagne found that the solution was to transition her center away from pen-and-paper to HiMama, while giving her educators 15 minutes of extra time at the end of the day for documentation.
That 15 minutes turned out to be all they needed.
The work-life balancing act in early childhood education
‘Work-life balance’ might sound like something static, like an educator perched on a yoga ball with a stack of observations, parent communications, activities in one hand and a stack of bills, a bag of groceries, and a (gigantic) cup of coffee in the other. That person might look serene and stable in the moment, but all it takes is a little more weight to throw things off balance. The less weight you can put on your staff–whether by setting boundaries, recruiting parent volunteers, or simplifying your administration–the better your educators’ work-life balance will be.
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