Category Archives: Professional Development

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.

How to get the most out of your professional development

I recently had the opportunity to attend a national conference sponsored by the National Association of Education of Young Children (NAEYC). I always look forward to these opportunities to have a break from our everyday work routine, meet new people, network with colleagues, learn about new initiatives and grow my professional development resume.

You may often be faced either with your own need to attend a professional development opportunity or requests by your staff to attend one. Professional conferences can be expensive and not all managers understand their importance or their benefits. But think about this: as a manager, how do you propose any type of allocation of resources in your organization, center or company?  I believe you need to understand two components to make decisions: expense (the investment) and the return on investment.

Professional development is a modest investment that pays off in a big way!

Many benefits from conference attendance are hard to quantify.  For example, many experts agree that the top benefit of conference training or any professional development opportunity is networking value. Where else can you find so many people facing the same issues as you face every day in your organization?

Although networking is undoubtedly the most important aspect of a conference, it also the toughest to quantify. The more important question to propose to a conference attendee is the focus on what they (or you) will specifically bring back to the organization as payback for investment. For example: session content, tools, technology, vendor contacts, best practices and training.  In my most recent experience, I attended 10 different sessions and I honestly can say that five of them gave me concrete materials to utilize back in my agency.

Another best practice for professional development is to plan ahead. Review the choices for different sessions that you can attend and make first and second choices. Sometimes a description of a course does not give you all the information that you need to make an appropriate choice. Arrive early and ask the instructor for more information to help clarify your needs and questions.

Recruiting is also a forgotten art. If your team has had trouble filling certain jobs, or know that new openings are coming for a specific area, recruit why you are there. Most training opportunities offer job posting boards.

Lastly, you are an asset to your company. Offer to train others in what you learned when you return.  Share a trip report with your colleagues. A two or three page report with website links, articles, graphs and references is very helpful.  Connect the value of the conference to business/agency goals. Remember customer satisfaction, expertise and gaining more knowledge all play an important role with the company.

Why not get started now? Learn more about opportunities to grow your leadership skills with 4C for Children.

Are you on your check list?

Lately, it just seems as if life is moving so fast. It’s the end of the school year. Kids are taking tests. Schools are hosting end of the year concerts and taking field trips to local parks. There is so much to get done and so very little time to do it all. I don’t know how to get all of the things done that need to be done. I am overwhelmed. I am also task oriented, so I knew it was time for a check list.

One of the items on my check list was to attend a retreat with my colleagues titled Searching for Your Heart of Gold. When I first arrived at the retreat, I had a laundry list of things that I could be getting done racing through my head. Breakfast was served and still, all I could think about was pushing forward to the next big thing so that I could hurry even faster to something else. Finally the speaker arrived and she gave an assignment to complete: define who we are. I was so grateful to have something to do so I could push forward to what’s next that I was quick to get started. But I realized that rushing through her assignment wouldn’t do me any good. I took a deep breath and slowly began to open myself up to the activity of defining who I am.

Are you on your check list? The importance of self-care for early childhood educators.

We couldn’t define ourselves by the roles that we have like being a mom or our jobs. Rather we had to define what characteristics make us unique, what qualities feed our souls. I’ll be very honest, it was so hard to do. It took me many moments to define me and remember what feeds my soul. It’s something that is still on my mind, how can I take care of myself when I am losing myself in the day-to-day checklists I keep creating.

After the speaker finished and we had time for lunch and reflection, I took a walk around the space we were in. The sun was shining and I literally took time to slow down and think about the things that make me, me. I am creative. I am faithful. I am observant. I am kind. I am reflective. I am a thinker. I am a reader. I am passionate. I am a planner. I am a worrier. I am loyal.

I realized that in creating my check lists, I wasn’t part of the list. Everyone and everything else was on my list, but I was nowhere to be found. I wasn’t nurturing my soul so that I could continue to be the best me I can be!

In the field of early childhood, there are so many check lists that need to be taken care of, observations that need to be written, toys that need to be cleaned and rotated, parents that need to be greeted, children needing lunch, tables needing to be cleaned and sanitized. I could go on. My hope for all of us professionals in the field of early childhood is that we take time to add ourselves to our check lists. Take time to care for yourself so that you can continue to be rejuvenated and refreshed in the work you do each day.

– Angie

Overcoming the Generation Gap

Old or young, we have something to learn from every generation!Generation Y. Millennial Generation. Generation Me. Peter Pan Generation. These are all terms that describe the generation to which I belong, but I can’t say I like many of them. Generation Me? Peter Pan Generation? That certainly doesn’t make me feel like a valued employee or team player, which I strive to be.

Applying labels to different generations may have validity, but chances are no one will fit all the aspects of the label. It is very possible that anywhere from three to four generations could be represented in your program, and everyone has something to bring to the table, whether it’s years of experience or new ideas to try. Arming yourself with the knowledge of what these stereotypes are can help you work to dispel the assumptions if necessary. According to a publication from the Research and Training Center on Community Living at the University of Minnesota, here is the generational breakdown:

  • Traditionals—born before 1945, loyal workers, highly dedicated, but may have difficulties with ambiguity and change.
  • Baby Boomers—born between 1946 and 1964, believe that hard work and sacrifice are the price to pay for success, but may be technically challenged and expect to have authority.
  • Generation X’ers—born between 1968 and 1979 (which leaves some room for interpretation, with the 4 year gap from the last generation), like to receive feedback, aspire to achieve a balance between work and life, but have been labeled the ‘slacker’ generation.
  • Generation Y’ers—born between 1978 and 1995 (though the end of this generation is still undetermined), are confident multi-taskers, but have been characterized as demanding.

Whether you are a new administrator coming into a program with a wide range of generations or a teacher who works alongside others of different generations, it can be a complex dynamic within the child care program. That new Generation X administrator may struggle with establishing authority with her subordinates in the Baby Boomer generation. Veteran Traditional generation teachers may need to figure out how to work together with the newcomer from Generation Y. Or, just like me, those employees balk at the labels of their generation and you find that working together isn’t as challenging as you predicted.

If you would like to find out more about working with various generations, 4C is holding its First Annual Leadership Conference in the Miami Valley on April 19, 2013. A session will be provided on leading and motivating multi-generations, among many other great session topics. Look for registration coming soon on our Web site! I’ll leave you with a quote I found from the book Change the World for a Fiver: “Talk to old people. They know cool stuff you don’t. Talk to young people. They know cool stuff you don’t.” What have you learned from someone older or younger?

The Bank of Experience

In April of 2009, I was getting ready for work and watching the TODAY show as usual. Katie Couric was interviewing Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the pilot who landed that incapacitated US Airways flight on the Hudson River after geese had knocked out both engines. Sully’s split-second judgment and calm demeanor saved all one hundred fifty-five passengers and crew members on board. While his story is about grace under pressure, it’s also about the value of hard work..  “For forty-two years,” he told Katie, “I’ve been making small, regular deposits in this bank of experience. And on January 15th the balance was sufficient so that I could make a sudden, large withdrawal.” I gave great thought about this statement. What a profound leader he must be, and so confident in the work that he does each and every day.

When we think about being early childhood leaders, what deposits are we making in our bank?  We interact with children, parents, co-workers, community members and staff every day and we are banking our knowledge and expertise to use in every situation. Experience and practice are key. Sometimes hard work and good timing intersect. Sometimes they don’t. But they likely will at some point, and when they do, like Sully—you’ll be ready!

4C for Children is committed to helping the administrators and leaders of our early childhood community feel successful and inspired. The 10th Annual 4C Leadership Conference will take place on October 11 and 12 at the beautiful Oasis Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.  We encourage you to attend and take time for yourself to fill your cup with some inspiration and motivation. Make some of those small deposits in your bank…you never know when you will need to make a withdrawal!

Who Moved My Cheese?

I am often asked, by teachers and directors alike, to recommend books on curriculum, leadership and numerous early childhood topics. There are many books available; one of my favorites that I hold close to my heart is Who Moved My Cheese?  by Dr. Spencer Johnson. This book is written for all ages and takes less than an hour to read, but its unique insights can last for a lifetime!

Who Moved My Cheese? is a simple parable that reveals profound truths. It is an amusing and enlightening story of four characters that live in a maze and look for cheese to nourish them and make them happy. Cheese is a metaphor for what you want to have in life–whether it is a good job, a loving relationship, money (or a possession), health or spiritual peace of mind. The maze is where you look for what you want: the organization or company you work in, or the family or community you live in.

The four imaginary characters depicted in this story are mice! We meet Sniff, who sniffs out change early; Scurry, who scurries into action; Hem, who denies and resists change, fearing it will lead to something worse; and Haw, who learns to adapt in time when he sees that change can lead to something better. Do these mice sound like anyone on your staff or in your organization?

Our field is changing and the new initiatives that we continue to learn about are making us feel nervous, scared and overwhelmed. But at the same time, we are excited that the quality of early childhood education is finally moving in the right direction. We all share something in common: a need to find our way in the Maze and succeed in changing times. Change will happen whether we are prepared or not. We must find our own way, beyond our comfort level and fears. No one else can do it for us or talk us into it. We have to see the advantage and change ourselves.

In summary, this book is a simple read.  Share it with your staff, parents and a friend–or just make time to read it for yourself.  I walked away with a few important lessons that are listed as “The Handwriting on the Wall”

Change Happens–They Keep Moving the Cheese
Anticipate Change–Get Ready for the Cheese to Move
Monitor Change–Smell the Cheese Often so You Know When It Is Getting Old
Adapt To Change Quickly–The Quicker You Let Go of Old Cheese, the Sooner You Can Enjoy New Cheese
Change–Move With the Cheese
Enjoy Change–Savor the Adventure and Enjoy the Taste of New Cheese!

Be Ready To Change Quickly And Enjoy It Again and Again!

One at a Time

I have always suffered from the kind of allergies that warrant allergy shots, and left me dreading a bi-weekly trip to the allergy doctor. As I aged, I outgrew the allergies, and also the shots (yay!). Last fall I was retested and found a whole new set of allergies and sensitivities to certain foods. Recently, when I wasn’t feeling well, I scheduled a doctor’s appointment for a good once over. She found my blood pressure to be higher than normal and asked how I was doing in managing the new allergies. Not so well. After a good discussion about what I should cut out of my diet, a course of vitamins, and a few other recommendations, I was given my marching orders. No wheat, gluten, peas, blueberries or soda pop. She wanted to see me back in three weeks. See you later pasta and bread!

I took this challenge one day at a time. I planned meals and grocery shopped. I took the recommended vitamins. I bypassed the coke machine in favor of water. I walked and did strength training several times a week. I felt better. I lost ten pounds. I feel good about the results, but even better because I think I can stick with it by taking it one day at a time.

This concept is also the focus for the Sixth Annual 4C Northern Kentucky Leadership Conference which will be held on May 4. Big things can become small things if taken one step at a time. What project or task have you been avoiding because it just seems “too big”?