Tag Archives: professional development

There’s Always More to Learn


Being new to the position of leadership coach at 4C but also having plenty of experience in the field as a director myself, I have noticed that one of the largest hurdles is getting staff to workshops willingly!

Getting staff on board with the idea of training during “off hours” can be a challenging and stressful job for the administrator. It can be overwhelming and time consuming, especially when you are trying to orient new staff to your program.

Acclimating new staff to what is expected of them as a professional can be a little like potty training a puppy. It’s not easy! Veterinarians say that it can take up to a year to fully potty train puppies, and even then some never step up to the challenge. To successfully train puppies (and your staff!), it takes time, effort, rewards and consistency.

Sure, staff need to understand the atmosphere of what makes your program tick, but they also need those basic skills that will help them enter the classroom with confidence and knowledge. What if the employees don’t understand what is developmentally appropriate? What if they don’t know how to write a lesson plan and what content they should be teaching? What if they don’t have creative ideas about behavior management? What if they knew what to say in an interview but had NO IDEA how to carry it out when they are faced with the actual children in a classroom?

Professional development is invaluable in building the confidence and knowledge that contribute to a great staff member. When teachers have exhausted all of their good ideas in the classroom, workshops offer them the chance to refresh and to explore new approaches to learning. So often I see teachers in workshops writing down ideas with excitement, ready to take what they have learned and apply it to their classroom.

Challenge your staff to take on professional development for their own growth. As a team look at what is offered and register for classes that will aid in their progress. Challenge yourself to not only attend the workshops yourself but model the growth process for your staff! Never consider yourself fully “trained.” There’s always more to learn!

-Joy S.

What We Learn When We Disagree

I love being a professional in the field of Early Childhood Education. One of the best things about my position at 4C for Children is that I always have the opportunity to learn. There are conferences and newsletters, blogs and instructors with knowledge to share. I truly enjoy the chance to sit down and listen to a new speaker, participate in a conference or read a newsletter or a blog by another professional in the field of early childhood.

However, I have on a few occasions met an instructor or read a blog that I simply didn’t agree with. I have also seen speakers present me with ideas that are different than what I had I anticipated. The question then becomes, “What do I do about it?” Like everything in life, we have a choice when facing ideas or people whose information doesn’t settle well or is different than what we currently know.

As a professional, it is my responsibility to sift through new information and make my own informed decisions about what I am being presented with. When I come across that information, I ask myself a few questions:

  1. Does the information make sense?
  2. Is there research that supports the information that I’m being presented with?
  3. Does it fit in with my personal/professional philosophy about working with children and families?

Professionalism doesn’t begin just because people register for classes, read a blog or attend a conference. Professionalism begins when people take time to reflect on the information they are presented with and make an informed decision about what they have learned.  My wish for all professionals in this field is that you take the time to reflect on the classes you take, the blogs and articles you read and decide if application of the information is appropriate.  My hope is that you will learn and grow, and that you all love being a professional in this field as much as I do!

Moving at the Speed of Life

“If we always do what we’ve always done, we will get what we’ve always got.” -Adam Urbanski

I remember the first time I used a computer. I also remember a friend saying, “Have you heard of this thing called ‘the web’?” Yikes! Just when I think I’ve caught up with technology some new thing comes my way and I feel behind again.

I came to 4C in 2004 to work on a project to offer new approaches to training, including college courses, coaching, and eLearning. I thought, “eLearning, what does that mean?” I hit the ground running with college courses and coaching, but eLearning stumped me. How could 4C deliver the best, most interactive and thought-provoking training through the computer?

I researched. I thought a lot about it. I talked to others with experience. But still I couldn’t determine the first step. As it turns out this would take a team approach to get it going.

eLearning, or distance education, means that some or all of the training can be completed on your computer at home, work, or the library. This may include reading, video, discussion board with classmates, or writing. Some forms of eLearning have a face-to-face component as well. In most cases learners can go at their own pace and complete the work when it is convenient.

I can happily now report that with the help of a great team, things are moving forward in the development of distance learning for 4C. It’s important for you to know that this has taken time because when 4C develops something new, we want to make sure that it is the best possible experience for participants.

5,300 or more people attend 4C training each year, and we estimate that to be only half or more of the early childhood professionals working in the region. By expanding 4C’s portfolio of high-quality professional development to include eLearning, we present a flexible and accessible approach to learning. This could be very attractive to some of our customers. We believe that learning occurs in a variety of formats, and our job is to bring you to best possible professional development opportunities wherever you are.

What do you think? Are you ready to join me on the eLearning journey?


How’s Your New Year’s Resolution Going?

This year my new year’s resolution was not to make a new year’s resolution. It’s probably not what you are thinking–it’s not because I know I will inevitably break it by January 31, it’s because I am looking at my new year differently. Instead of choosing one lofty thing to fix, I am evaluating the strengths in my life. Yes, strengths. Not weaknesses. My number one strength, as determined by the VIA Institute, is curiosity. I looked back at 2010 with a critical eye and evaluated what I did to nurture this strength. How did I use my strength in relationships, at work and in my personal life? I realized that I could have been more fulfilled last year if I had spent more time asking my friends what they were up to, and how they were doing. I mean really doing. In the past my curiosity about people had led to many deep and satisfying relationships, unfortunately the one thing that I did not make time for in 2010. So, now I have a personal action plan that actually schedules in this valuable time, and at the end of 2011 I will be able to reflect and see if I am indeed more fulfilled.

As you are perhaps working on your professional development plan or quality improvement plan for your early childhood program, take the time to reflect on what you do well. What are you (or your program) known for? Some would call this “your niche.” How are you making sure you are not losing what makes you and your program unique?

So as you begin your 2011 personal action plan, consider doing a self-evaluation. What do you want more of? More time? More peace? More job satisfaction?  I believe if you nurture your strength, that main thing that gets you up in the morning, many of these other things will fall into place. You will need to plan for ways to accomplish this. I have been challenged to choose one word to define my year as opposed to identifying a resolution, and my word for 2011 is curiosity… what is your one word? I’m curious – let me know!

Is Leadership Advocacy?

As I sipped my coffee watching the Early Childhood Directors filter into the Sharonville Convention Center this past Friday, I marveled at the commitment of this group of professionals.  It was an unseasonably warm, sunny day and they were making the choice to attend 8 hours of training.  Yes, there was yummy food inside, and potentially a day where they did not have to solve an emergency at their center, but they still had to say “no” to the beautiful day.

I observed a few seasoned directors confidently move around the room and compared them to the more timid, “newbie” directors.  I wondered at what point in their professional career they found this confidence.  It caused me to reflect on my tenure as a director and realized that the day I spoke up on behalf of the children in my care, I became more confident in myself as a “leader.”

On that day, I had to convince some well intentioned volunteers that painting the lobby and hallways during arrival time was endangering the children. They laughed and replied something like, “At my house, my grandkids would know not to get in the way of my paint brush.  I am sure it will be fine… you worry too much!” I realized that I needed to defend my position on safety, and defend it quickly as a few early arrivals were coming through the doors.  I briefly quoted a licensing rule, followed by my passion and concern for the children’s safety. When I added in the possibility of donuts and coffee if they would agree to paint on Saturday, I had struck a deal.

You may read that and think, “That’s not leadership! That’s just following the rules.”  At the time, I did not think of myself as a leader, and would’ve agreed with you. The moment I moved the conversation to what was best for children, however, my intention shifted from following the rules to advocating for children. Yes, ADVOCATING! While it might not have been large scale political advocacy as we often think of it, I do believe that by suggesting a different approach to the painters, albeit only in my tiny early childhood program’s society, I was advocating on my children’s behalf. I was not marching on the steps of city hall, nor was I writing a letter to a legislator, but the Core Knowledge and Competencies for Administrators defines advocacy as the action of pleading for or supporting a cause or proposal, and that’s exactly what I was doing.

A key thing happened to me that day… I found my voice!  I was able speak out on and plead for what I thought was right for children. I utilized the research that I knew, combined it with my passion about what is right for children and mustered up the confidence to propose it out loud… the first step to becoming an advocate and a leader.

I challenge you to arm yourself with research and combine it with your personal mission about what you believe is right for children. Watch for opportunities to share what you know with others less informed.  At a recent Developing Early Childhood Leaders seminar at 4C, Elaine Ward, our senior vice president/COO, encouraged our group to share our expertise with elected officials. They depend on us to inform them about what is happening in the trenches.  Although I have never considered myself a political person, I do enjoy sharing what I know about children. This year, I am taking a big step and writing my elected officials regarding early childhood in Ohio.  I found their names and contact information in the nonpartisan voting information guide published by the League of Women Voters of the Cincinnati Area. Perhaps you are not ready for this step, but as you passionately speak to those around you about children, take a moment to consider yourself an early childhood leader and advocate!

Where Do Words Come From?

Learning is a mysterious thing. How did you come to know that when you look up it is the sky that you see? Or that filling a cup too full of liquid will cause it to overflow? When children learn language, it works the same way.

I found an article in the New York Times about children’s language development recently, and it made me wonder. I asked our infant and toddler specialist about how children develop language, and she said “bathe the children in language, don’t drown them.” I like that. I immediately pictured an adult talking with a child rather than telling the child what to do. She told me about a study that compared the development of children whose parents only talked directly to them (“put your shoes away”, “eat supper”, “sit down”) to those who had conversations with them.  The children who had conversations were significantly more developed in language and communication than the children who were given directives only. 

The article supports what Christine said and the author gives simple advice to parents and caregivers to help boost children’s language development:  “Talk to your child about what they’re focused on. Read to your child often. If they’re in a bilingual home, speak to the child and read to the child in the language that you’re most comfortable with. Speak clearly and naturally and use real words. Show excitement when the child speaks.”

Hmmmmm, I think we can do that.

PD Track Makes Workshop Registration a Snap

PD Support Specialist Kelsi Dick gives you the scoop on PD Track…

Over the years, I’ve spoken with many of you as you registered for workshops at 4C.  You’ve given our staff some great suggestions about improvements to our registration process.  Now, thanks to a partnership with the Ohio Professional Development Network, 4C registration has received a total makeover—and I think you’re going to love it.

Remember the days of calling before you registered to see whether the workshop you wanted was full?  Now you can log on and see all 4C workshops at a glance—what’s full, how many spaces are left, and when registration closes.   Once you submit your registration, a space is instantly reserved for you—so I’ll never be calling to say we didn’t have enough space to fit you in again!  And if you realize that you’ve chosen the wrong workshop, you can cancel with the click of a button.  Same great workshops, new and improved registration process, all for you.

Signing up is simple, just visit www.opdn.org to get started.  The Ohio Professional Development Web site and PD Registry are managed by the Ohio Child Care Resource and Referral Association

Posted by julie on Thursday, February 18, 2010 2:50 PM