Category Archives: Professional Development

Grow the Good in You

professional-development

“The most valuable resource that all teachers have is each other. Without collaboration our growth is limited to our own perspectives.” – Robert John Meehan

Have you ever felt unmotivated? Have you ever been stuck in a rut in your classroom? Have you ever felt like you’re doing the same old things with the same old materials in the same old ways, day after day after day? I promise you, you’re not alone—all educators, if they are being entirely truthful, at one time or another have felt this way.  The question is, how do you shake it off…how do you get your teaching groove back? One of the best ways to do this is to attend an early childhood professional development conference!

Here are just some of the ways teaching professionals can benefit from an event such as this:

  • Connect with other early childhood educators. Being around people who do what you do everyday creates a deep sense of belonging and camaraderie. Having conversations about topics that are of mutual interest to you and other conference attendees, helps you establish new professional relationships, and sometimes even friendships.
  • Learn new strategies, ideas, methods, concepts, etc. This is a chance to pick each other’s brains! Learn from those around you who’ve “been there, done that,” and share what you know so that others can benefit from your knowledge and experience, as well.
  • Reinforce the fact that early childhood professionals are, in fact, professional. As in any other field of work, continuing education is necessary to stay current and knowledgeable about best practices. Participating in quality professional development on an ongoing basis cements your place as a true early childhood professional.
  • Earn professional development credit. If you play your cards right, you can often find early childhood conference offerings that will help you earn professional development credit/hours needed for things like renewing a CDA credential, or participating in a statewide quality rating and improvement system like Ohio’s Step Up To Quality or Kentucky’s ALL STARS.
  • Take a well deserved break from the daily grind. Remember that rut I mentioned earlier? Sometimes just getting out of the classroom for a day or two lets you shake off those cobwebs and come back feeling refreshed and renewed.
  • Gather new resources—and free stuff! Exhibitors usually attend these events who are more than happy to talk with you about the services they offer, and many times you’ll be lucky enough to score information packets and/or free samples to take home with you.

If you choose to attend one of these events, remember to make the most of your experience. Your time out of the classroom can often be limited, be mindful of not squandering your opportunity. Show up for registration and workshops on time—get a good seat! Come prepared to listen, learn and share. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there…nothing ventured, nothing gained! Bring a pen and a notepad to jot down any ideas that strike you. If you have business cards you can hand out, bring those to give to new folks you might meet.

Have you ever been inspired? Have you ever been introduced to a new concept, or idea, or way of doing something, that lights a fire in you? Have you ever attended a professional development workshop that makes you so excited about the subject matter that you want to run back to your program and try what you’ve learned RIGHT THIS MINUTE?! If you choose an early childhood conference that’s right for you, you’ll see just how great it feels to grow the good in you!

It’s Lonely At the Top: Making the Move from Teacher to Program Administrator

administrator

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” – John C. Maxwell

You’re sitting at your desk on a Friday afternoon. A group of women passes by in the hallway— women you’re friendly with, women you joke around with, women who confide in you. You hear them talking about plans for meeting up for dinner tonight. “Dinner?” you think, questioningly. “I didn’t know they were meeting for dinner. Why didn’t they invite me?” And then you remember— “Oh yeah, I’m the director now. I’m The Boss.

Many of us who hold positions of leadership in early childhood dug our way through the trenches to get there. We may have started out as floaters, or assistant teachers, worked our way to becoming leads, and then made the leap to administration. Often, these steps may happen within the same program, putting us in the position of leading those who were our peers just a moment ago.

It is human nature to want to feel accepted. Especially by those who we work closely with, respect and admire. When you become a classroom teacher in an early childhood setting, the nature of your position and the environment in which you work can often lead teachers to become fast friends. When there is more than one teacher working in the same classroom, this bond can be especially deep. As the only two adults in the room, you support each other. You listen to each other vent. Together, you make your classroom run like a well-oiled machine—her strengths make up for your weaknesses, and vice versa.

Then, suddenly, with your promotion to administrator, this changes. You’re working in “the office” now. You have a whole new set of responsibilities, a completely new role…and all of your staff is watching to see if you’re going to sink or swim. This can be a lonely, isolating experience for many of us.

What do we do? How do we transition into our new role successfully, while supporting, and maintaining relationships with, the teachers in our program? Here are some tips for making the move from classroom to office as painless as possible:

  • Be proud of your new role, but not boastful. You made it to the top – yay, yippee, good for you! But don’t forget that everyone else is still doing the same job they did yesterday.
  • Expect social roles to change. Expect it. No really, EXPECT IT. You are now the superior, responsible for evaluating, hiring and firing the very same people whom you had coffee with last week.
  • Seek out others who are in a situation similar to yours. If you’re lucky enough to have other administrators at your program or organization, get to know them. If you’re the only one in charge, Look for professional development offerings geared toward administrators (Check out 4C’s opportunities in Southwest Ohio, the Miami Valley, and Kentucky) to help you be successful in your new role. It helps to meet others you can talk to who have walked a mile in your shoes or are experiencing the same things.
  • Observe other early childhood leaders—take note of their various leadership styles. Visit other quality early childhood programs in your area and observe a day in the life of the administrator. This serves two purposes—it gives you a glimpse into what your new position may consist of from day to day, and it allows you to learn about leading and motivating staff in a positive way.
  • Get input from your staff when possible. When people feel like they matter in an organization—like their voice, their opinion, is important and valued – they are much more likely to be a “team player” and make positive contributions to their work environment.

When you enter into a leadership role, remember that day in and day out, you will be setting the example your staff will follow. People will look to you for guidance, even when you may not be quite sure which way to steer them. It is up to you to lead your program with confidence, positivity and a genuine passion for providing all children the quality early childhood experiences they deserve.

Why You Should Invest in Your Development

invest-in-your-development-for-children

Investing in professional development translates into the learning of the children you care for everyday!

It’s important that early childhood professionals have the tools they need to run high quality programs that engage children and families. It’s important to seek opportunities to sharpen your skills, master new concepts and implement new strategies into your program.

Just as doctors continue their education to stay abreast of new advances in medicine, you must stay up-to-date on the advances in education and child development. Education is an investment of time and money that translates into the learning of the children you care for everyday. Advanced education might come in the form of a one-day workshop, a community meeting, or an all day event. Whether you are a teacher, program administrator, or family child care provider, you are an advocate for children and families. To be the best advocate you must stay educated and then share your discoveries and knowledge with those you work with.

Conferences are a wonderful way to bring fresh energy and inspiration back to the surface. Early childhood program administrators with training in leadership are known to succeed in attracting and retaining highly qualified professionals. All early care and education professionals who attend these conferences are able to bring fresh ideas and motivation to the program to enhance the culture.

4C for Children’s Miami Valley Early Childhood and Leadership Conference will be held on Friday September 23, 2016 at Sinclair’s Pointz Center.  After hearing from keynote speaker Erin Ramsey, there will be knowledgeable professionals offering eleven breakout sessions to keep attendees informed of the latest research, stay abreast of best practice and offer information regarding new concepts. One of the breakout sessions that will be offered is titled “Assemble an Environment to Maximize Your Space” presented by Jenni Jacobs of the University of Cincinnati.  What a valuable topic for so many educators who need help taking a small space and turning it into the most conducive learning environment. Expertise in this area is useful for professionals both new and old. This is just one of the many sessions that will be sure to promote higher professional standards that will strengthen early childhood. Learn more about this exciting upcoming opportunity!

How to keep staff motivated

I recently facilitated a workshop on how to keep early childhood education program staff motivated and inspired. We are experiencing some beautiful weather and that alone is enough to increase one’s apathy not to mention all the other factors that can contribute to a lack of motivation. I once was a director of a child care program where we could literally hear the roller coasters at a nearby amusement park. It’s super hard to retain the motivation of the seasonal support staff when they can hear their friends screaming in joy down the street.

How can you meet the needs of your staff and keep them motivated?

How can you meet the needs of your staff and keep them motivated?

We had some really solid discussions during the workshop that we framed using an article I found called 8 Deadly Ways to Kill Employee Motivation that can absolutely show up in a child care program if we let them. We talked about 7 of the 8 motivation killers. Hopefully some of these can help you figure out how to keep your staff motivated:

  1. Toxic People. We have all worked with them; the negative Nellie’s. The ones who find something negative to say about any and all things. They find faults in the lesson plan you are super excited about and are never on board with changes. And being excited about aiming for the next star in the quality rating system? Forget about it. Surround yourself with positive people. And if someone is that unhappy in a program, maybe it’s time for them to move on.
  2. No Professional Development. Since this is a state regulation, it may seem like a moot point, but it’s not. At 4C for Children, we hear time and time again that folks come to a workshop because they need the hours and their year is almost up or they don’t even know what the topic is because an administrator signed them up. Motivation will increase when training is meaningful. Encourage staff to give input on their own professional development based on their individual needs and interests. Search through the 4C online workshop calendar together, and call us any time for help with developing a plan.
  3. Lack of Vision. All programs should have a vision. It’s a plan for why we do what we do. Why does this business (for-profit or not-for-profit) open its doors everyday and where is it going? Once the vision is clearly communicated, it should be displayed everywhere (i.e. interview, orientation, reviews, newsletters, etc.); it gives focus to the work.
  4. Wasted Time. In our discussion during the training, what rang loudest and clear, are staff meetings. Staff meetings are necessary. It’s important to get everyone together and on the same page, but it’s also important that staff feel like their time is valued. Some tips we came up with are to allow staff to add to agenda items, have a set meeting time and place so staff can plan accordingly, and add food and fun. Ask a different room to “host” each meeting and what they do with it is up to them. Add team building activities. Sure, you may have some who think those activities are a waste of time (see point number 1) but most will appreciate the bonding, which inevitably will lead to motivation in the day-to-day.
  5. Inadequate Communication. There is no such thing as over-communication. Remember, whether you are in a classroom or running a program, people receive messages differently. If you have something important to say, say it a hundred times in a hundred ways (email, newsletter, posted near clock-in area, in-person, etc.).
  6. Vertical Management. Everyone wants to have a say. No one likes to just be told what to do all the time. Find ways to empower your staff to help make decisions and feel safe offering up ideas. And if you aren’t an administrator, let your voice be heard. Share ideas in an appropriate way and if you aren’t being valued, start looking for a new place to work.
  7. Lack of appreciation. This is the single, easiest way to keep staff motivated. SAY THANK YOU. Let folks know you appreciation them and what they do. Just saying it goes a long way but there also affordable, endless possibilities to show it. You can find lots of ideas on Pinterest for fun, affordable ways to show you are grateful for the work of your staff.

New year, new possibilities!

I can’t believe that it’s 2014.  I’m not sure what truly happened in 2013 that made it soar by so quickly, but here we are in the first month of a new year.  If you’re like me at all, you’ve already made your list of resolutions and are jumping on the band wagon to make 2014 the best year ever.  I have a mental list of all the things I would like to improve upon this year (anything from organization to fitness).

While you are preparing for a new year in your ECE program, don't miss out on what is happening in the here and now!

What does your mental list look like?  Classroom teachers, are you planning to rotate your materials to make your environment more interesting to the children?  Do you have goals of documenting children’s learning that happens through photographs?  Administrators, have you revisited everyone’s professional development plans and discovered what new and interesting workshops your staff could attend this year?

Making lists of all of the things that we resolve to do in a new year can feel very overwhelming.  So I think I have decided that the biggest resolution I have for myself this year is to slow down and just breathe. 2013 went by so very quickly that I can barely remember all of the important things that happened.  I hope that you will join me in taking time to slow down and enjoy the present today.

Whether you are a classroom teacher worried about keeping your portfolios up-to-date or an administrator navigating a new quality rating system or licensing regulations, take time to observe what is happening around you and appreciate the beauty of day-to-day life.  Classroom teachers, I hope that while you are keeping track of the goals that are set for the children in your classroom, you take time to play games with them and share their joy when they learn something new. Administrators, as you go through your checklists to make sure your teachers have all of the certifications that they need, I hope you also notice the good work being done in your classrooms and acknowledge their efforts. Wishing you and yours a memorable and productive 2014.  Happy New Year!

-Angie G.

Make your New Year’s resolutions count!

If you’re like most people, you’ve probably experienced the sudden burst of motivation that comes in early January, as holiday indulgences make their way to the waistline and New Year’s resolutions force a new look at the figure we see in the mirror.  “This is the year,” so the resolution goes, “that I vow to lose ten pounds and keep it off.”  Other common variations include goals to get back to one’s “true” weight, to fit into a smaller size, etc.  And worthy resolutions they are.  Sadly, New Year’s resolutions are notoriously short-lived, if not completely forgotten by February.

Make your new year's resolutions count!

So, let’s talk about how we can make one big resolution for the New Year: How can you be more positive? How can you impact the children and families you serve?  It’s easy to complain—everyone does it sometimes.  But what if you don’t complain, or at least try not to?  Being positive does not mean overlooking issues in your program that need addressing.  It’s important to point out problems in a professional way and solve them as team.  You might have said things like, “I don’t like the food” or “The paper towels aren’t very soft,” “The pay is low,” and “Some parents don’t appreciate us.”  All of those statements may be true, but do they really matter?  If they matter enough, work to change them.

It’s easier to have a good attitude when you direct attention away from yourself and focus on the needs of others.  No more complaining or “poor me” attitudes allowed.  You took a position in early childhood education to help young children, but contrary to what most people think, it’s not the responsibility of your employer or your supervisor or anyone else to make you happy –that’s your job.  Your employers don’t owe you; you owe them.  Now, don’t misunderstand, you should never be treated with disrespect or work in an environment that is physically or emotionally unsafe for the children or you.  But we tend to focus on our own needs rather than the needs of others.  Keep your focus on the children, and you’re likely to have a better attitude.

Now, let’s take this one more step.  Not only are you going to be positive and professional, you are going to help others be positive and professional.  When you hear someone say something negative, say something positive.  I realize that being overtly positive might not be a part of your natural tendency or personality, and it takes you out of your comfort zone.  Push yourself.  Make being positive a habit.

I suggest a few more steps:  Choose the right resolution, for the right reasons.  Create a plan and stick to it.  Stay on track.  With a good plan, making significant progress toward your goal may require very little discipline and you can make great strides by following the original plan.  My final piece of advice, remain flexible and keep on going!  Build in flexibility into your expectations; we can simply adjust things as we go.  Make the New Year a happy and productive one for your children, families and co-workers.  On behalf of our 4C staff, we wish all of you a Happy New Year and a prosperous 2014.

Calling all leaders, directors and administrators…

Like many of you, I was a director for almost 27 years and I cannot imagine a topic that I am more passionate about than leadership for early childhood directors. Some of the things that I have learned about leadership came from working with excellent role models, trainers, mentors and supervisors who set very high standards.

The 11th Annual 4C Leadership Conference is drawing near and we are inviting you to participate in a two-day event at the Oasis Conference Center in Loveland, Ohio. The conference promises to be inspiring, motivational and full of sessions that will challenge you to aspire to new levels.

Grow and expand your knowledge at the 4C Leadership Conference

On pre-conference day, October 10, John French from Lakeshore and 4C’s Kim Ginn will host a “Lunch and Learn” where attendees will have the opportunity to see how Lakeshore products align with Ohio’s updated Early Learning and Development Standards. You won’t want to miss the giveaways! The afternoon session will be spent with Cea Cohen Elliott. In her presentation “Balancing Life’s Challenges and Opportunities,” she will talk about taking time to care for ourselves and keeping our life in balance while still maintaining our sense of humor.

On conference day, October 11, our keynote speaker, Michael Hingson, will deliver his address: “Out of the Ashes: Learning to Survive in a Changing World.” Through the compelling account of his harrowing journey out of the World Trade Center to safety on 9/11, Michael demonstrates how to face and embrace life-changing events in a constructive way. Michael’s story will challenge you to access and strengthen your skills, trust, teamwork, risk-taking and creativity to ease your way through changes in your work and personal life. Michael will also have his bestselling book, Thunder Dog: The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog & the Triumph of Trust, on sale at the conference.

Good leaders are made, not born. Good leaders develop through a never ending process of self-study, education, training and experience. So register now for the 4C Leadership Conference.