It's the beginning of a new year. You're starting out with renewed energy, goals, and plans. It's time to ask yourself: How will you meet those goals and fulfill your plans? How will you help the staff bond into a team? How can you develop a community within your program? Should you facilitate and guide this process or wait and see what happens?
Early education and care requires leadership. Just as teachers are facilitators of children's learning experiences, administrators and program leaders must facilitate the growth and development of the sense of community within their programs. When adults develop respectful relationships, the positives and the negatives of everyday communication are dealt with much more effectively. So take advantage of the opportunity to create an atmosphere of support, collegiality, and respect.
A routine for easy communication might be valuable in that it can provide a feedback mechanism and allow staff to process information, share concerns, ask questions, and even volunteer for new jobs. Make a Questions, Concerns, and Comments folder for each classroom and schedule QCC discussions. If you have five rooms, you can meet with one each day. Thirty minutes at naptime usually works well, but talk to each group to schedule the best time for all concerned. Everyone places notes and comments in the folder for the scheduled time. While not every question can wait for a meeting, the fact that you will be there to talk on a regular basis reassures the staff that their questions will be addressed. It is important not to cancel these meetings!
Establishing a sense of community includes shared rituals and acknowledging and recognizing others. Do periodic check-ups take the "temperature" of the group. Are they caring and empathic with each other? Model the behaviors you expect from them. As director, your modeling of care and concern for the staff will invite them to do the same for each other.
You may experience a side benefit from developing these bonds if staff members naturally apply these new techniques to their interactions with family members. The result will be better bonds between teachers and families. We will discuss this in more detail next month.
The time you invest in building bonds and a sense of community in your program will be worth the effort. This foundation will allow children to learn and thrive in a safe, secure, developmentally sound environment where people like and respect one another and enjoy the journey of learning.
Strategies for LeadersTry these strategies to help build bonds in your program.
Kimberly B. Moore, Ph.D., an author and consultant, has more than 20 years of experience in early childhood education.