Friday, June 28, 2013

Motivation from Within

Keep focused...
Too often I feel like my teachers give me the stink eye when I walk into the classroom.  Not because they don't want me in there but more so because they don't know why I'm in there.  What did they do wrong?  I remember this feeling as a teacher.  I knew that when my boss walked into the classroom, I was in trouble.  I carry that with me and work to make myself an everyday presence in the classrooms.  I don't want anything to change just because I'm there.  I want the authentic experience not only so I can identify & correct any issues with standards, but also because I want to catch them doing things well.

Every month, I work to catch our teachers doing things well.  We had a similar system when I was in middle school and our teachers would find us doing things well and our names would go into a raffle and there was a winner at the assembly.  Winner, winner, chicken dinner.

It's the little things that need the most love & support, in my opinion.  It can be things like remembering to enter attendance by the end of the day, thinking of an amazing rainy day activity, staying late to help a coworker, using great language with children, etc.  I like to catch everyone at least once a month.  Traditionally, I had been using a raffle for semi-fabulous prizes like gift cards to motivate.  I've found that as I've tapered that off (I was using my own limited funds for that project), behaviors still exceed my expectations at times!  I think the reason for this is the motivation has become more intrinsic.  They aren't doing it for me.  They are doing it because it makes them feel good.  So I'm moving towards sending weekly emails to the team highlighting their good work.  I want the team to support each other & I want them to know that their good work isn't going unnoticed.  

Do you think it will be a powerful tool?  Do you think I should still be offering gift cards?  I'm thinking about doing quarterly raffles... thoughts?

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Observation Phenomenon

One of my least favorite phenomenon occurs while I'm observing in a classroom.  Suddenly, the tone of the teachers changes.  There are activities on the table more frequently.  Children are engaged in play.  Why is it suddenly so calm compared to the chaos I've heard earlier this week?

Because I'm there.

And maybe, they have to fake it until they make it.  Would that be a terrible thing?  If we know that practice makes better (we're never going to be perfect, there is simply no such thing), isn't it a great thing if teachers have repeated opportunities to practice what they know is right?  Even if it seems to be just to please me?  Will they eventually learn these behaviors as part of their normal teaching tool kit?

Because I'm there.

As a director, it's my job to be there.  To be present not only within the center, but within their classrooms and within the moments I share with the children and teachers.  It's my responsibility to make sure the teachers are using developmentally appropriate approaches with our children and if that means they're faking it until they make it, so be it.  Eventually, the readings I share, the comments the Education Coordinator and I make, and the reinforcement they receive will encourage teachers to make the change in their practice.

Example:  We have one classroom that has been struggling to engage children in meaningful activities during self-selected exploration time (choice time) and I wasn't seeing much in the way of small group experiences either.  After several conversations and articles (with reflection) and observations by both the Education Coordinator and myself, we noticed something.  When the Education Coordinator walked into the classroom, it was quiet.  Children were working.  When the Education Coordinator asked the Lead Teacher why she thought that might be, the teacher immediately noted that children had learning opportunities set out for them that morning and the children were excited to use the materials.

And that folks, is what we like to call an "Ah-ha!" moment.  A light bulb above the head, if you will.


Friday, June 14, 2013

Head Start Parents Grown Up

Our Head Start Manager recently asked me to check in with my staff to identify those who are former Head Start parents and of my 8 teachers, 7 of them are former Head Start parents.  That last teacher?  Just had her first child and I am interested to see if she enrolls her child within an Early Head Start.  What does this mean to me as a director of a Head Start program?

It means that these strong women were once parents entrusting a program like ours to care for and educate their children.  It gives me a new appreciation for the population we serve and for the population of my staff.

I love this kind of moment.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Building a Lending Library

I am currently in the process of building a Lending Library with high-quality children's books for our infant toddler center and the families who share their children with us.  I'm in the market for Spanish board books and wordless books.  English books seem to be in abundance which, while awesome, doesn't do much for our families who speak a language other than English.  Think I can find board books in Portuguese?  I'm going to try!

It's a pretty solid start!

Do you have a  Lending Library or any ideas on how to beef ours up?  I'd love some creative suggestions!


The context of language

If a child has always been told to "pee pee toilet," or "flush the potty," their reaction to you saying, "Flush the commode"  is probably not going to be what you'd like it to be.

As someone who works in a child care center thriving with diversity, I am paying very close attention to language and the context in which it is used with small children.  While children absolutely come to "learn," they also come to use with prior knowledge and experiences they are trying to make sense of within the context of school.  Things that 'work' at home or are cute at home are not tolerated at school.

Case in point, the adorable child with ample (and oh so squeezeable) cheeks who has had her cheeks pinched her entire life by family members cannot come to school and squeeze the cheeks of her peers.  They simply won't allow it, even though she may be doing this to show affection and love much like her family members do.  It's kind of a tough thing to learn, that what's okay at home doesn't fly at school.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The verdict from licensing

I got to work Friday and was super anxious about getting a response from our licensing rep, knowing that she holds the power and if she didn't support my quest, it was pretty much time to come up with a solid Plan B.  I am the proud owner of a new purple bruise on my knee as I stood up entirely too quickly and bashed my knee into my desk in a rush to share the good news with my Birth to Three Education Coordinator.  It hurt like hell but was quickly forgotten in the heat of the moment.

Our rep shared her concerns and a forewarning that's not what she would do but that I am allowed to group the children 6 weeks through 2 years however I'd like.  And if I take that route, I need to include a detailed plan and can only have 1:4 teacher:child ratio.  Sometimes, I think people forget that Early Head Start already requires those ratios and my Birth to Three classrooms are capped at an enrollment of 8 already. I'm golden!

I just have to find the right way to share my vision with our Executive Director, Program Director, and the Board of Directors.  I hope that they can see the benefits of the vision and get past any obstacles, as they will only be obstacles for a short period of time while the benefits will last well into the future.