It’s the end of the year and I’m working on staff evaluations and starting to think about working with each of the coaches to set some goals for the new year. I truly enjoy the experience of staff evaluations. I enjoy sitting down with each person, reflecting on their year and talking about their successes and growth opportunities. I enjoy reading their self evaluations and talking with them about the things that they valued throughout their year.
Goal setting and professional development planning is more challenging for me. It’s hard to sit down and think about what it is they might want to learn and work towards over the next year. I notice that it’s hard for the coaches too. We are all so busy with our day-to-day work, it’s difficult to imagine fitting in time to learn a new skill or strategy. And at the same time, as a supervisor, it’s important for me to encourage people to think beyond the busy day-to-day work and think long term about helping them feel like they have the tools necessary to do their work well.
One example of a goal might be to organize your space. What are your goals for the coming year?
I think to be successful with professional development planning and goal setting for the new year, we need to consider writing an effective performance goal with action steps to support meeting that goal. By meeting regularly with staff and observing them as they do their work, I am able to think about each of them as an individual and align their strengths and areas of opportunity to the mission of our agency. These observations keep their goals relevant to them and the goals of the agency. Another strategy that I plan to use to while setting goals and planning for future professional development opportunities with staff is to reference the Core Knowledge and Competencies (CKC) Documents that Ohio has written. Ohio has Core Knowledge and Competencies Documents for After-School Professionals, Early Childhood Professionals, and Administrators. These documents can be found here. Each of these documents has levels and categories to help the staff and I think about things that are relevant and specific to their wants and needs.
So, as I begin to think about the new year and setting goals with staff, I don’t feel so overwhelmed because I know that I have resources. I have the observations and regular conversations with staff to support us as we move forward. I have the CKC documents to inspire those performance goals. And I’m also trying to keep in mind that the professional development plan is a living document. Sometimes plans will need to change and that’s okay. The important part is that we have created a path to help our agency and the staff be successful. Here’s to the coming New Year. Happy 2015.
Lately, my life has been so overwhelming. In my personal life, my oldest is applying to college and reaching out for every scholarship opportunity available. There’s marching band and dance practice, homework and studying, dinners to cook and oodles of laundry. In my work life, we’ve hired two new staff and two people were moved to new roles. I’m working on a new project. The pace of life both at work and at home just seems to be speeding by and sometimes it makes me feel like I’m out of control.
When life feels out of control, I notice that I tend to be grouchy. And I’m probably less productive in all areas of my life. What I keep trying to remind myself of is that I do have control, not over the things that are happening around me, but how I respond and react to those things.
When life feels big, either at home or at work, remember these tips:
- Talk about it. Don’t get lost in the maze of all the things happening around you. Tell a trusted friend or colleague about your frustrations. Sometimes it can be helpful to label how you’re feeling and why you think you’re feeling that way.
- Take it one day at a time. Make a list and divide up your ‘to-dos’ into more manageable chunks. Not only will you break each of the tasks down, but you can feel accomplished at the end of the day when you’ve been able to cross things off.
- Be flexible. Think of your long list of tasks creatively, recognizing that there’s more than one way to be complete each piece. By channeling some creative juices, you might find you to-do list becomes more of a to-done list more quickly!
- Take a deep breath. When faced with a daunting set of tasks ahead, give yourself permission to walk away and recharge. Take a walk, enjoy a bubble bath, read a good book. When you have a chance to recharge your body and your mind, you come back with a renewed sense of hope.
And now that I can check this one thing off my to-do list, I feel so much better. At the end of the day, I hope that you can check something off your list and feel better to.
Our jobs in early childhood certainly aren’t “glamorous.” And yet there are people who have been working in our field for decades and can’t imagine doing any other job. I also have been working in the field for most of two decades and I can’t imagine doing anything else. I started to ask myself and others, why do we choose this job? What is it about working with young children that makes us get out of bed each day? I’ve gotten lots of answers. Most are what I think people expect: “I love children. It’s so rewarding to see them grow. My mom was a teacher and it’s in my blood.”
Why do you love your job in #ECE? How do you show others love through your job?
There was one answer to my questioning that made me just grin from ear to ear. The answer came from a man who is 86 years young and works as the general maintenance man for a local child care program. As he was sharing with me why at 86 years old he comes to work every day to do the important job of repairing the materials and grounds used by so many children, the most profound statement he made was, “because love is a verb and I can build and repair and restore to show the children and teachers how much I love them.”
With that in mind, as you contemplate a fresh day in your classroom, how will you show those you encounter each day that love is a verb? Could you extend a helping hand to the mom who has her hands full dropping off an infant and preschooler in the morning? Could you smile and greet each child and adult by name that enters into your classroom? Could you offer to help your co-worker who is having a difficult day?
I am so lucky. I truly do love my job. I work with a great group of people. I have the joy of visiting with teachers, administrators, families and children. I see teachers creatively provide opportunities for children to learn new concepts. As I thought about the idea of love being a verb, I realized I need to figure out how I can show others just how much I love my job. Knowing that our jobs can sometimes be challenging and life can feel really big, I encourage you to remember why you love your job. I also challenge each of us to show those around what that means, because love is most definitely a verb.
I was looking through the Sunday ads in the newspaper this past weekend and I noticed that back-to-school advertisements are in full force. New glue sticks and scissors, notebooks and pencils are all part of the back-to-school rituals at my house. I was talking with a good friend of mine about the trials and tribulations of sending kids back to school with the myriad of supplies that need to be purchased. She doesn’t have children who are old enough for elementary school yet. She does however have a 3 year-old son so I asked if she was planning to send him to preschool this year. Her answer surprised me. She said that she didn’t think he was ready. And that got me thinking, who needs to be ready, the preschool or the preschooler?
As a former classroom teacher for children ages 3 – 5, I spent many hours preparing the environment for the children who were enrolled in my classroom. I worked hard to have a safe space with materials that were interesting and engaging. I planned my lessons by starting with the knowledge of what children who are ages 3 – 5 should be able to do and what I hoped they would be able to do by the time they left to go to kindergarten. For all children who entered my room, my hope was that they came to play each day so that I could get to know them and plan things that were of interest to them. I hoped that they had a change of clothes just in case we found ourselves immersed in something messy. I hoped that they learned to love learning. I hope that I challenged them to try something new.
I believe that it was my responsibility to be prepared for the children who came each day.
So as you look forward to a new set of children in your classroom this year, I hope you take time to be ready for them. Happy New School Year!
Several years ago, my youngest daughter was identified as “gifted” according to the standardized tests that children take each school year. Once she received this identification, the teachers wrote an education plan to address her specific needs at the beginning of the year and then provided me with a summary of how her plan worked at the end of the year. This year, in particular, I was so impressed with what the teachers shared with me. The teachers identified my daughter as a leader in her group. They also used words like “complex problem solving skills noted,” “deductive and inductive reasoning skills exhibited,” “empathy and kindness expressed for classmates,” and “excellent work ethic” to describe her. I am such a proud mom. I know these are all skills that are going to last her a life time. But I will be honest, I wonder if these skills were evident because of her “gifted” identification or if her high quality preschool education prepared her with these life skills.
My daughter was fortunate enough to attend a high quality-rated preschool program during the early years of Step Up To Quality. Her preschool teacher spent many hours preparing the classroom environment, getting to know the children and educating herself on best practices to meet the needs of those in her classroom. Abby was blessed and so was I to have someone so dedicated to the field and best interests of every child she encountered.
When I think back to Abby’s classroom environment, it was arranged so that many types of materials were available and accessible for her to interact with. The classroom belonged to the children and the teacher was there to support what she saw them doing by providing a safe place for them to be. Children in this classroom were able to take risks and share ideas because they were valued. Their learning styles were noticed and planned for. Endless time spent at the water table dumping and pouring allowed Abby to develop those initial problem solving skills. When Abby would get her shirt wet, her teacher never told her what to do to fix the problem but rather encouraged her to think for herself and asked difficult questions to allow Abby to solve her own problems. When Abby wanted everyday to be swim day in the summer, her teacher helped her create a picture calendar of events so that Abby (and the other children) could determine what would come before swim day and after swim day. She didn’t give them the answers, yet provided them the tools to find the answers on their own. She trusted and believed in their capabilities—giving them the confidence to hold themselves in high regard as scientists and chefs and engineers or anything else they wanted to become.
My Abby has big goals. She hopes to be the first woman President of the United States. She wants to be a veterinarian and an author too. And I believe, because of the skills she learned early on, she can be any or all of those things. Most importantly, so does she.
Thanks Early Childhood Teachers, I am forever grateful for the next generation of dreamers and thinkers that you inspire.
In the next 3 months, I will be preparing to move from my current home into a new house. It is a very exciting and yet stressful time. I have been making lists of projects that I need to do, things I need to pack and the best way to get them all accomplished while still working full time and taking care of kids. I’ve lived in my current house for 10 years and we have accumulated a lot of stuff. Not only do we have a lot of stuff, but we also have a ton of memories. Sometimes I think that the memories my kids and I have had in our home will be harder to leave than packing up 10 years full of boxes.
I’ve been working hard to get my kids excited about our transition. We currently live on a busy road. We are moving into a neighborhood with sidewalks where kids play outside all day long! There are a ton of things to look forward to as we make this transition. But I also know there are lots of things that we will worry about. I try to be very open with my kids about the changes and I ask for their input before we pack a box or throw something away. Even though I have shared all of these exciting things with the kids and attempted to include them in the process, I still notice behaviors from them like fighting or whining or just looks of worry when the subject of the move comes up.
Knowing that transition is hard for all of us, I wonder, how do you help prepare your children for the transitions that happen at your early childhood program? Do you have a group of children preparing to go to kindergarten? Do you have older infants who are about ready to move to the toddler room? What kinds of intentional activities will you do to support them as they get ready to move from one place to another?
The new domain in the 5-Star Step Up To Quality system is called Family and Community Partnerships. It has a sub domain labeled Transitions. It asks us to think about how we will intentionally prepare children and their families to successfully navigate the changes that will occur. On page 44 of the SUTQ Guidance Document, it lists several activities that you may do to support your children during those larger transitions that occur. Take time to read that list and see what you can add to it. If there’s something missing from that list that you already do, add to it to the list and share with your co-workers.
Talk with your children about the exciting changes that are going to occur as they get bigger and ready to handle new adventures. And when children show you that they are sad or worried about their move, have 2 boxes ready for them pack; one box to put all of their special memories and things from your classroom that they will take with them and one box ready to collect all their new adventures as they move on to their new space. Because there’s always room for more one more box, especially to be filled with new adventures good memories.
As of April 1, 2014, my children had 43 days left of this school year. And my Sam who is wrapping up his junior year has 218 school days left to complete high school. I’m not completely sure where the time has gone. It seems as if just yesterday I was putting him on the bus to the first day of kindergarten and next September I will watch him drive away to the first day of his senior year. College seems so overwhelming. If memory serves, kindergarten seemed overwhelming too.
The funny thing is, some of the things that I remember helping Sam think about as we were gearing up for the first day of kindergarten seem to be the same things we are thinking forward to with college.
Everywhere I turn I see ads for kindergarten registration for next school year. As classroom teachers I think it’s important for us to remember that not all families have a comfort level with what getting their child ready for school means. As professionals in the field, we can support our families by sharing some of what we know.
- Inform: As you hear your families talk about kindergarten registration, and even if you don’t, share information about events that are happening within the community.
- Encourage: Tell families how important visiting their child’s potential school can be. Help them think through questions they may ask and some of the differences that they may see.
- Investigate: Ask families where they plan to send their child to kindergarten. Talk about kindergarten in your classroom to help children feel excited about the changes that are coming.
- Connect: Sometimes it helps to have a partner along the way. If families are open to sharing information with one another, introduce them to each other so that they can bounce ideas off of one another about things related to kindergarten.
- Be positive: Transitions, especially big ones, for both adults and children can feel scary. Help both families and children see the fun possibilities that lie ahead.
- Communicate: Talk with other professionals about the skills necessary to help children be and feel successful as they move from preschool to kindergarten. Share those skills with families so they can reinforce them at home.
As I look at the next 251 school days until my Sam transitions to college, I know I have a lot of work ahead of me. It’s really not much different than the work of families preparing children for kindergarten. I need to make sure that Sam and I have the necessary information to choose a good college, just like parents need to choose a good kindergarten. I need to connect with other families who have children at the colleges he is interested in so we can get the scoop on deadlines and fun activities, just like parents who are getting ready to send their children to kindergarten. And most importantly, I need to connect with Sam and his teachers so that I can learn about anything extra I can do at home to support him as he transitions from high school to college.
As early childhood educators, I hope you’ll take time to share with your families and children the things they can do at home to prepare themselves and their children for what’s next. So twelve years later as they start the preparation for college, they can remember the work you did with them to prepare for kindergarten and not feel so overwhelmed.