As a director, program coordinator, or any position of management in early childhood, you will find yourself in an important position of leadership role. Early learning can be an exhausting job, and staff will often want to will often turn to their administration team for support. Having an open, supportive relationship between leadership and staff will set your entire center up for success.
1. Create Open Communication
Cultivating open, constructive communication is the basis for a successful relationship between you and your employees. This requires conscious planning on your part, particularly when teachers spend their days in their own classrooms and are thus not able to quickly turn to leadership for assistance. To create opportunities for open discussion, conduct regular check-ins and try to maintain adequate staffing levels to allow classroom coverage so that teachers can step away from the floor to seek guidance.
In these conversations, it is important to really listen to the comments, concerns, and challenges that teachers share. As part of a leadership team, your job is to figure out how to best support teachers who are on the floor in order to provide the highest quality care for children.
2. Make Yourself Available
Teaching and caring for young children involves relationships with children, parents, and team members that are highly rewarding but sometimes challenging. Make yourself available to support teachers who are experiencing challenges. This might mean stepping into the classroom to offer an extra set of hands, or joining in for a parent-teacher conference. Whatever the teacher needs, make sure to deliver the message that you are there to provide support during moments of frustration. This will help prevent teachers from feeling overwhelmed and avoid the dreaded teacher burnout.
Sometimes in the busy classroom flow, teachers get so used to powering through challenging situations that they might not even think to ask for help. Offer support to teachers, even when they do not ask for it. Pop into the classroom and offer to read a book with children while the teacher takes a moment to prep the next activity, or spend some time sitting with a small group to allow teachers to give some of the other children more 1:1 time. Giving teachers a hand can make their day!
3. Provide Professional Development Opportunities
It is important for teachers to be constantly learning and growing in their careers. Offer regularly scheduled professional development opportunities for teachers to learn new tips, tricks, and classroom practices. This will keep them excited about their work, and also ensure that the children are receiving high-quality care and learning from new and fresh curriculum ideas.
To gain staff buy-in, generate interest and input with a survey that lists a range of professional development options. Or take a poll and ask teachers if there are any topics that would help them deepen the quality of their practice. This will ensure that professional development is engaging and relevant.
4. Help Teachers Find Their Strengths
Everyone has something that they are good at and something that they struggle with. One of the great things about working on a teaching team is playing off of each other’s strengths. While one teacher might have outstanding organizational skills, another might be especially skilled in classroom management. Help teachers to discover what they’re good at and encourage them to bring those skills into their curriculum!
Educa recommends sharing personality tests with your team to help them learn more about themselves and identify their strengths. A popular and free online option is The Four Elements, which you can find by clicking here.
5. Provide Classroom Supplies
Unfortunately, it is all too common that teachers feel they must purchase supplies for their classrooms using their own money. Because ECE teacher salaries are low, this can be a huge financial burden for them. Ask teachers regularly what they need for their classroom, and ensure that the materials that they require are purchased in a timely fashion. This helps teachers feel supported and encourages them to engage in conversations with you and with colleagues about the curriculum ideas they are planning and implementing.