Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Saturday staff meeting

I have worked in early childhood for about 7 years and have experienced different types of leadership and different approaches to staff meetings.  I've had the opportunity to facilitate staff meetings. 

As a center director in Chicago, I found that the evening staff meets were unproductive as everyone was burnt out and watching the clock rather than focusing on the content that I was sharing.  After some dialogue with my staff, we agreed to meet in the mornings before work to start our day off on the right foot.  It worked, but I could only use that approach for team meetings. I struggled to find a time that everyone could gather. 

I'm now working for a different agency in Wisconsin and inherited the Saturday Staff Meeting.  I couldn't believe that this was effective.  That people would show up on a Saturday and not complain the entire time.  Today was the first of many Saturday meetings that I will attend/facilitate and I have to say that although some folks struggled to engage, I suspect that's more of a personality thing and less of an exhaustion thing.  Staff gets paid for their time (which is crucial) and it allows the entire teaching team to get together and visit.  This is an agency that operates 6:00 am - midnight, Monday-Friday.  It's near impossible for the first staff openers to get together with the 2nd shift closers to even say hello, muchless learn from each other.  I also appreciated that a light breakfast was available (especially the coffee).

I think there are pros and cons to the Saturday meeting and it was so interesting to see the way staff interacted and behaved within the context of the meeting. It was super helpful to get an idea of how the culture of the staff has been established and has given me insight into how I'd like to facilitate future meetings.  It was very scary to leave the comfort of a job I knew SO well to move to a new state and try my hand at something MUCH more involved, but experiences like today continue to prove that I made the right choice. 

I'm so excited to see how our Saturday meetings develop in the coming months!

-Ms. DanL

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year, New Job

So I technically started December 15, but I am very must still feeling like the new girl at work.  This transition has been huge and I am so excited for the opportunity to manage an early childhood program on such a large scale, impacting so many.  This is the job that brought my family back to Wisconsin and for that, I will be forever thankful.  It's still so weird to be in Milwaukee and so close to family.  I love it.  I love that I have a job that is demanding and exciting.  I love that I am viewed as a professional and an early childhood expert (heavy emphasis on the professionalism).  It's not an easy job, but I love a good challenge and I can't wait to reflect along this journey and see my growth over time.

With joy,
Ms. DanL

Thursday, October 2, 2014

How being a mom changed me as a supervisor

It's true what they say, "everything changes when you have a baby."  I foolishly thought that it just pertained to my personal life (including my sleep schedule) but now, 8 weeks into this ball game, I can clearly see that much (okay, all) of my life has changed, including my professional outlook.

Suddenly, it can wait.  Those little tasks that I would break my back to get done before leaving after an 11 day can wait, they will be on my desk and in my inbox when I return the next day.  I've learned to know the difference between an emergency and "it can wait."  Because as you know, babies don't keep.  My daughter will only be 7 weeks old once and I don't want to miss a moment with her because I'm fretting over something minuscule at the office.  I will never get these moments, these days back again.  She and I will never experience another October 2nd, 2014 again.  And I've realized my staff is feeling the same way about their families.

My biggest change perhaps has been in my relationships with staff.  I am more respectful of their time and what I'm asking of their time and their energy.  There are only 24 hours in the day and I am already responsible for 8 of them.  I see them with a new lens that I hadn't previously been privy to, the lens of a mother.  I see that these women are all someone important in the lives of their family members.  Almost all of my team members are mothers but beyond that, they are sisters, daughters, grandmothers, wives, girlfriends, best friends, etc.  They put on their teacher hat when they come to the building but when they leave, they switch their focus back to their other roles.  I truly believe that teachers are always wearing their teacher hats, even when they've left the classroom both for the day and for career advancement. Further, we don't take off our mom hats but rather channel our energies in other ways. I find that I now see those relationships as the most important aspect of my role as a supervisor.

I spend more time focusing on conversations with staff than on paperwork.  I want to know what's going on in their lives and how it's impacting their work and how I can support them so that when they're at the center, they are there physically, mentally, and emotionally.

I also have less time for BS.  There is no room for it, quite honestly, as I am trying to get all of my work done so I can walk out of the door with my daughter on time.  There can be no drama, no wandering of the mind... I am on-task and focused the entire time I am in the office and I find that to be motivating.  I may not get as much paper pushed around in a week, but I know I'm making a difference in the lives of children, families, and my staff.

Cheers to Friday & the weekend ahead!
Ms. DanL

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Comparing teachers

When we compare teachers to each other instead of to themselves, we not only create an undesired parallel process, we diminish the growth of teachers.  (That's a DanL original, folks.)

I met with my preschool team today for our continuity of relationships study and we wound up on the topic about classroom observations and the feedback they receive. This is a team that has had many (many, many, many) observers this program year, including some program staff and some outside agencies (like Teach for America or CLASS).  Both teachers mentioned how frustrating it is to hear how good they are.  I wanted to hug them both in that moment.  We reflected on why people might tell them they're doing well.  They were both able to see that from the outside looking in, it looks good:  they have a good system of working together to manage the classroom.  What those outsiders don't see is the stress, the worry, the anticipation.  We also spoke about how perhaps they are not the "squeakiest wheel" so to speak and they are not seen as needing foundational support, they are viewed as competent.  Which is good, but also frustrating!  

Be that as it may, we talked a bit about not comparing ourselves to others but to the teachers we were yesterday.  We spoke about reflecting on our actions and interactions with children and families.  I have agreed to spend more time video recording in the classroom and facilitating more reflective sessions with the teaching team.  They both wanted just feedback/suggestions but I reminded them that they are their own toughest critique and viewing the video together would allow all of us to be together and look at that moment again with our reflective lens and build ideas together.  I don't think that ME giving suggestions without that reflective piece would be as valuable. I'm so excited to see how this goes!

Side note:  A 7:00am team meeting was WAY better than a 6:00pm meeting.  Like WHOA.  Coffee in hand, I know my brain was far sharper and more alert than it is when we meet at night, when all I can think about is going home and crashing.  I'm interested to pursue this model with other teams who might be willing (I have three classroom teaching teams with whom I plan to meet).

yep, this is true...I want to be joyful always! So true...comparison with others creates a lot of jealousy...and we could use a lot less of that.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Reflective Supervision

December was a great month for me as I am thisclose to meeting my goal of meeting with each staff member for true reflective supervision.  I know there's one I won't get to as she is on a much-deserved vacation, but other than that, there's just one more appointment for me to keep and I will head into 2014 with my head held high.  I think the best part of my job is reflective supervision because it allows me to get to know the teachers and staff in a more intimate way and allows them to share their triumphs and frustrations in a safe place.  I'm learning how to guide these conversations and thanks to one of my teachers at Erikson have really learned some great key phrases...

Tell me more about that...
I'm wondering how that happened...
Is there any truth at all to what that person said?
Help me understand...

I am hopeful that I can maintain my stride in 2014 and continue this great new habit.  I've scheduled all of the January appointments for Mondays so there will be no interruptions, no last-minute runs to Admin for meetings.  Just me and my homies at the center.

I like to think of this as my New Years resolution (if I believed in such things).  What are you striving for in the new year?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Leadership Community

I am participating in a Leadership Learning Community as facilitated by the Ounce of Prevention & Chicago Public Schools' Prevention Initiative program.  This is one of 6 learning communities being facilitated this year and I am excited about this opportunity.  For me, this is a safe place to share ideas, worries, achievements, etc.  Today was our first meeting and we spoke about the goals of the community and set ground rules before creating a list of topics we might like to discuss.

The question posed today was how we came to understand & value quality....

I have had an interesting journey to get to where I stand & to become who I am, writing this post to share with you.  

A friend of mine recently asked, "How did you know what to do when you got this job."  Honestly?  I didn't. But I did know what I didn't like in a supervisor when I was a teacher.  So I did the opposite of that.  Much of my work has been based on this type of reflection.  Of course, some of what I do I have learned from mentors in the field.  I am so thankful that I made the leap to Chicago as it dramatically changed my philosophy of education -- in a 180 motion.

I am so excited to see what this group will bring to each other; I think it's a great opportunity to step outside of our centers and share hardships, problems, and also our triumphs in a reflective & supportive environment.  I'm pumped.

I needed this kind of boost :)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Don't you shrug your should--- okay, yes, shrug your shoulders.

For a split second this morning, I was upset with a teacher.  And then just as quickly as I had gotten upset, I was so over-the-moon pleased with that very same teacher for the very same reason I had originally been upset!  Our DCFS licensing representative came this morning for our annual review.  I went into the classroom just to let the teachers know that she was here and would likely be coming into the classrooms to see them and this teacher just stared at me and shrugged.  I don't know what I was expecting, but realistically, her response is exactly what I want.

Who cares?

It doesn't matter who walks into our center, we are providing the highest-quality care possible.  We don't put on a show to please a visitor.  We do our best for the children and their families. This is so important to me as a director, I cannot express it enough.  If we're only putting on a good show for visitors, we aren't making the children our priority.

I love my team.