jeron bailey

Culturally Responsive Recruitment and Retention of Quality Staff [Podcast]

This week on The Preschool Podcast, we are honored to have Jeron Bailey, Principal ECE Consultant, and Trainer join us to talk about the importance of culturally responsive recruitment and retention. She has seen too many educators leave the field because they do not feel valued, and this sparked her passion for finding ways to retain high-quality educators. We discuss her four key elements of retention:

  1. Investment in employees mental health and well being (provide an inclusive environment)
  2. Provide professional development opportunities and invest in economical sustainment and opportunities for advancement
  3. Ensure you are being culturally responsive. It is important to create safe spaces where anyone can show up and feel they have equal power to be themselves
  4. As leaders, you need to affirm employee’s belonging and their background

Listen to the full episode to dive deeper into these tips!

It allows you to humble yourself, listen and connect with others that you may not usually connect with. This allows collaboration across all levels of programming. Everyone has buyin and equal communication.

Jeron Bailey

Jeron’s Recommended Resources:

Related resources from HiMama:

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Read the transcript here or scroll to the bottom to listen in your browser!

Jeron BAILEY:

So, when you’re working with different types of children, you want to make sure that every activity that you implement, your environmental choices, are empowering and they celebrate everyone that is a part of that program.

Ron SPREEUWENBERG: 

Jeron, welcome to the Preschool Podcast!

BAILEY:

Thank you for having me. I’m honored to be here!

SPREEUWENBERG: 

We’re humbled to have you, Jeron. Jeron, for those of you who don’t know Jeron Bailey, she’s a principal, early-childhood education consultant and trainer. She joins us from Bahrain today. And we’re going to talk to her about recruitment and retention. Before we do that, let’s learn a little bit about you, Jeron. Tell us a little bit about your background and your passion for early-childhood education.

BAILEY:

Okay, so a little bit about me, how I got started. I’ve actually been in the field of education ever since I was a young child, living on the south side of Chicago, playing school with my cousins. And I always had to be the teacher. It didn’t matter, I just had to be the teacher. And that was just my role. I knew I wanted to be in education since then.

Later in life, I pursued pediatrics in college and had ECE [early-childhood education] as a minor. And then I fell in love with some of my professors in the way they taught and the craft of ECE, and I switched my major to ECE. And I’ve been involved in it ever since I graduated. From there with my bachelors, I went and got my masters in ECE. And I’ve worked for the military, shadowing programs for the last 12 years or so. So, it’s safe to say that I love it.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Awesome. And we’re going to chat a little bit today about culturally-responsive recruitment and retention of early education staff. Why is this something that you feel passionate about, talking about and supporting?

BAILEY:

Well, over my years of working in the field, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some extremely impactful educators around the world. But I’ve also witnessed the unfortunate circumstance of educators leaving the field because they don’t feel supported and they don’t feel valued where they are. Fortunately, some of the educators, they stay in the fields and they just elevate to different positions or different locations. But unfortunately, some do leave the field. And this really sparked my passion in retaining those really quality staff.

So, my role in a trainer position is usually, like, the first person that they meet. So, I spend a lot of hands-on time crafting learning experiences. And I spend a lot of time as a liaison between those staff and program directors. So, I get, like, firsthand input from them what they need. And so it’s my job to make sure that I help create those spaces that retain staff.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

And in your opinion, what are some of the key elements or ingredients of retaining great staff?

BAILEY:

It’s more complex than just one thing – I just don’t have one answer for this. So, one big thing I would say is investing, investing and investing. Number one, investing in the mental health and the wellbeing of educators. And this includes creating those inclusive environments so they can be their authentic selves. The next investment would be to provide professional development opportunities for educators that also validates and affirms them and bridges those cultural gaps. And lastly, I would say invest in economical sustainment and providing opportunities for advancement, creating incentives and rewards that actually reach across the dynamics of the staff that are in the programs.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

And one of the terms you use is “culturally responsive”. Can you tell our listeners what that means?

BAILEY:

Yes, so culturally responsiveness is creating those safe spaces where anyone can show up and feel they can have equal power to be themselves, regardless whether it’s inside of a training, inside of a classroom. They feel like they have a sense of belonging. And the trainings reach out and validate them and affirm who they are as a person and where they’re from.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Okay, interesting. And how can we ingrain this into our programs, when we think about recruiting and retaining great people?

BAILEY:

I’d say it starts with reflecting. We all can take a pause and reflect on the practices that we currently implement in our programs. And I think it’s really important to have that key. Sometimes reflection can be tough when you’re in a group and you’re having those tough conversations. But those uncomfortable conversations, that’s what really produces the most benefits to everyone involved.

And one way of doing this reflective practice could be something as simple as having to sit down with employees individually and allowing them to reflect on their performance and give you the review of how they’re doing and what they need in order to be better in their performances.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Oh, that’s probably a scary one for some of our listeners, is getting feedback from people that report to you as maybe their boss or their manager.

BAILEY:

Yes, it is scary, if this is your first time doing it. But just like anything, when you first stick your leg out, it might be a little tough. But as you continue to practice these efforts, it gets easier.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

And what do you think are some of the benefits of going through that exercise that maybe you’ve experienced or seen in some of the programs you’ve worked with?

BAILEY:

I think it allows you to humble yourself and actually listen and connect with other people that you may not usually connect with. So, it allows more collaboration from any level in the program. So, I should be able to, as a trainer or a manager, a direct care staff, be able to collaborate on things that we’re all using to push the program forward. This is really important, that everybody has buy-in and has equal collaboration.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Yeah, it’s interesting, I’ve actually seen some research that says the opposite of what might be intuitive. Because I think a lot of people think a great leader that everybody respects is somebody who has a very strong personality and really dominates the presence in the room, etc. But in fact, a lot of great leaders have great humility and are receiving feedback from their team, to your point here just now, and are showing vulnerability. Those are all things that make people human and makes other people want to follow them.

BAILEY:

Correct, I’ve found that, as well. And I’ve found that no matter where I am, this is the key ingredient that is missing in a lot of places. We feel, as a leader, “I have to be firm and I have to be no-nonsense and I have to do this and I have to do that.” And a lot of the time, you just have to be human. You have to put yourself in the place of the employees sometimes and see, “Okay, I would want this opportunity granted for me. I would want this type of flexibility. I want this type of input.” So, why not allow that from the employees?

SPREEUWENBERG: 

And I think the higher quality of employees and educators that you have in your programs, the better quality these conversations are going to be and the more productive and constructive they’re going to be. So, with that in mind, any tips or suggestions for how to find that great talent that is going to help have those constructive conversations?

BAILEY:

I would say, if you had a program that had those three investments that we mentioned earlier, with the mental health and wellbeing, professional development for all educators and provided those benefits, that I really don’t see a lot of programs having a hard time finding staff, if they’re advertising those things and retaining staff, if they are continuously doing those things.

A lot of people do a lot of these things to get staff through the door, but they don’t keep it up. So, staff say, “Okay, you got me in and now it’s not happening. So, I’m ready to walk out the door.” If you are doing these consistently and it’s ingrained into the fabric of your organization, you will not have a problem with continuing having those staff come into the program and staying.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Yeah, and that’s where it’s worth checking out some of our other podcast episodes on the Preschool Podcast because we’ve had a few conversations around creating systems and processes to make sure that we all have the best intentions, I think, for what we want for our staff and educators. But to your point, you can promise the world. But unless you have the systems and processes to deliver, it’s all going to fall apart.

BAILEY:

For example, if you have an opportunity for an advancement in your program, it’s one way to say, “You know what, I know staff member, I want to give them that opportunity.” But it’s not really equitable to do it that way. So, create a system where it’s transparent across the board where, okay, maybe you host an interview workshop and resume workshop and then you post a position. And anybody that is qualified or feel like they want to apply can apply. And you do it that way. And you have some people from the outside come in and interview the staff so it’s not biased. These are things that we need to do across the board for every type of opening so that it’s not handpicked; it’s actually very transparent.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Yeah, and what about applying this concept of “culturally responsive” to working with children? And when we’re in the classroom as early-childhood educators, is that something where it can apply, as well?

BAILEY:

Yes, of course. So, culturally responsive education in the classroom, it actually starts with the teacher themself. It’s not something that we can turn on or turn off because we’re stepping inside of a classroom. We actually have to practice this in everyday life. So, the things that we are engraining in different trainings, we have to be able to take that into the classroom and to really believe it because our values, our views, they leak out into everything we do. It’s very hard to hide how we really feel and what we really value in these spaces.

So, when you’re working with different types of children, you want to make sure that every activity that you implement, your environmental choices, are empowering and they celebrate everyone that’s a part of that program. And more of those type of things and less of the performative events that we do during particular times of the year.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

And I know, Jeron, you studied in the US, you spent some time living in Japan, you’re in Bahrain right now. Do you feel like that’s giving you a different perspective on cultural responsiveness? And then further to that, for folks who haven’t had that opportunity, is there things that they can do to maybe have that more sort of global mindset, even if they haven’t had the opportunity to live abroad?

BAILEY:

I absolutely think that it has everything to do with my response to this and me being an African-American woman and living it, as well. So, all of those things combined have given me this passion towards retention of culturally responsive staff. And those who have not had the opportunity to travel abroad, reading and taking courses is one way to do it. And actually just connecting and collaborating with others in the field, across the pond and within your own backyard, equally.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Yeah, that totally makes sense. And I know that’s another conversation we’ve had a bit on the Preschool Podcast with guests. And it’s sort of a similar point to what you made, which is it has to be sort of fully engrained in everything you do and believe, versus sort of pointed learning events that happen in the classroom.

BAILEY:

Right, and I think is just traditionally this is something that we all get into the themes of, especially preschool. We have themes for this and themes for that and we don’t really understand or implement these different units throughout the year and see the importance of it.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Yeah, totally. And so for those of our listeners who maybe this is something they want to dive in deeper or learn more about, do you have any suggestions for the audience in terms of their own professional growth and development that they can check out resource-wise about recruitment retention, culturally responsive approaches to these? Any ideas out there?

BAILEY:

So for me, I think it’s really important for educators, no matter what level you are at, to continually immerse yourself in professional development. And I do that constantly, myself. So, right now I’m reading a book called [A Little Guide for Teachers:] Teacher Wellbeing and Self-Care [by Adrian Bethune and Emma Kell]. And it’s really helping provide just different techniques to reflect and figure out ways to take care of yourself emotionally.

And I’m also taking a course – I’m a little bit more than halfway done, and it’s actually a free course, whispers, – it’s called Inclusive Ethical Leadership. And I believe it’s given by the University of Southern Florida. It’s totally online and it provides a wealth of information. There’s different professors across the world who are giving these little snippets of their input on ethical leadership. And it’s been amazing, it’s been amazing. And as far as retention, I feel like I’m an expert on that at this point. So, I have some resources myself that ones can reach out to me on my social handles and I would be happy to give those.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

All right, cool. So, where are you on social media? And if folks want to reach out to you, how can they get in touch with you?

BAILEY:

So, my company that I started based off of my experience is Bailey Insights. I am on Instagram, I am on Facebook, I am on LinkedIn. I also have a website, www.BaileyInsights.com.  You can find me in any of those locations. You can hop right into my DM’s [direct messaging], I don’t bite, that’s also an option. So, you can find me there.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Okay, that’s good to know. And for our audience. www.BaileyInsights.com. It’s been a real pleasure chatting with you, Jeron. Very, very great wisdom you’ve passed on to our listeners here today. And I encourage our listeners to check out your page, www.BaileyInsights.com. There are some great resources there from somebody who has been there and done that and across various different countries, as well. So, thanks so much for joining us on the Preschool Podcast today, Jeron!

BAILEY:

Thank you, it’s been an honor to speak with you guys. Thank you!

Christie White

Christie is a Senior Content Marketing Specialist at HiMama. She is passionate about children's development, parenting, and supporting the child care industry. She has been working to support child care centers with their events and marketing for almost a decade. In her personal life, Christie lives in Stouffville, ON with her husband Kyle and dog Tucker. She enjoys going for walks, baking, cooking, and watching reality tv!

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