“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!
I am often asked by directors for tips about “marketing.” When directors use this word, it sounds heavy and mysterious, as if it conjures up images of glossy brochures and television jingles. Well, I’m here to debunk the mystery. Look out; you were probably “marketing” at least five times today.
The majority of child care enrollment is said to come from word of mouth. That’s right, people telling their friends about your program. Even in this information age, we still trust our friends and family more than unfamiliar sources or even “experts.” So, your best marketing strategy is right in front of you. Also good news, you don’t need any special training or a fancy brochure to be proud of your program and talk about it all the time, everywhere, to anyone. Child Care Information Exchange gives 30 practical and often free strategies to promote your program.
Now, there are other more formal marketing techniques such as brochures, websites, a presence on social networking sites and other forms of media, which can be effective. Consider including those options in your plan as time and resources permit. But you have the resources for an excellent marketing strategy right now, without spending a dollar.
First start by honing in on your message and focus on friend raising. What are you proud of about your program? Are there unique selling points about your program? What keeps families who have been enrolled for a long time coming back? Once you know what you want to share with your new friends, begin by training an army (your staff and enrolled families) on how to share the good news about your program. It’s as simple as that.
When I first started as a director in an early childhood program, let’s just say I was in over my head. I was fortunate enough to have predecessors who were only a phone call away and able to throw me a life vest now and then. Even so, it seemed like the life vest would quickly deflate and weeks or even months would pass before I was able to come up for air. Every day I would walk in to my center with a list of things I wanted, needed, to do before I walked out the door. Unfortunately, I spent most of my time putting out fires, and that list caught fire and burned up before naptime.
I think that’s just part of the job. There was filling in when teachers called out, comforting sick children, doing bus runs, talking to parents and although these “fires” were enjoyable to me, there were other things I needed to be doing. What really wore me out was the administrative stuff: hiring the right people, motivating those who were already hired and keeping morale high. Even though I was the person people looked to for leadership, the person responsible for making the big decisions, I didn’t see myself as “the boss.” Passion is a huge part of being an effective child care provider and I wanted to be the one to keep the passion, not manage time off requests. And because most of the time I was busy with the everyday stuff, I never really understood the administrative side of being a director.
I remember after one particularly busy day, I went home and said to my husband, “I just wish I had a manual.” I wanted a guide on how to be a more effective administrator. 4C’s Beyond Survival series was developed for directors like us, for directors that want to do more than put out fires. If you want to to keep the passion and still get the job done, register for the Beyond Survival series.
Beyond Survival: The Step-by-Step Guide to Being a Successful Adminstrator will be offered this fall in Northern Kentucky, Butler and Clermont counties.
There are weeks when every day seems like a Monday. Your “to do” list is longer than your arm, and everybody else seems to be having a bad day too. Everyone is talking about and thinking about these tough times. We know that child care centers and family child care providers have a tough road ahead until the economy recovers and the workforce stabilizes again. We will get there. Until then, we have to lean on each other, seek assistance, and connect with others.
What I am wondering, is where you find support? What motivates you? How do you recharge yourself and find energy to keep it together? What joy do you see in your work with children, reminding you that you are making a difference?
Please join me in sharing, and also in celebrating each other….this community is for you.
Posted by julie on Thursday, October 29, 2009 3:15 PM