Beginnings …

A new day! A new start! A new school year!

As the Director of an Early Childhood program, I’ve always loved beginnings. They’ve given me the opportunity to start over again every single year.

What a gift!  To start fresh – to take what I’ve learned from the previous year and add it to my practice. To remember those things that went especially well, and keep them in this year’s repertoire. And, yes, to reflect upon those things that didn’t go as well as I had planned (Should I, this year, drop these ideas altogether or figure out what might work better?).

This is definitely the reflective part of my professional life – I think about everything that has gotten me to this point, I jot down thoughts as they come to me, and I begin to shape the year ahead. Someone once said (and I’m paraphrasing here) – How will you know when you’ve arrived, if you don’t know where you’re going?

As I see it, that’s my job as the leader of the program, school, organization – to set the course. And, the best part of beginning is that I can reset it annually.

What I’ve learned is that how I begin each school year, each training session, each presentation, each meeting, sets the tone for what is to come, and the expectations that we are all to meet or exceed. It is that important!

As a leader, I’ve always had my eye on quality and the highest standards – for me, personally, for my team of teachers, and for the organization. My dad used to say, “It’s not worth doing, if you don’t do it well.” So very true – and, you know, it just feels better to do it well!

I have also learned that people will rise to the challenge – if it is clearly articulated, and the expectations set. So, I’ve always set my sights high, and my teams have risen to the occasion!

To this end – to set the appropriate tone, and to move forward together, I focus on three things at the beginning of each school year.

I’ll mention them briefly in this post, but will write about each in more detail over the next few weeks.

A Way of Being

I believe there is an appropriate way to work – with children, with families, and with one another. And I believe it is critical to our credibility as professionals, and to our commitment to quality. People use the word “professionalism” all the time, but I’m not sure we always display it at work. It is so much more than the way we speak and act.

At each beginning, I include this important way of being to set the expectation. I have a well-written article on this very topic to share with you. Lots to think about, and perhaps discuss virtually.

A Shared Vision

Years ago, members of my team wrote a beautiful document that outlined everything we thought to be important in our work with children, families, and one another; how we would design our environments; and what our infant, toddler, preschool, and kindergarten programs would include.

At each beginning I use this guide to be sure we are on track. I’ll share some excerpts from “We Believe In …” to give you an idea of how we put our values to paper to shape our philosophy and vision for our program. It takes work to create such a document, but we’ve used it over and over again as a training tool – definitely worth the effort!

Plotting the Course

As part of every beginning, I provide a roadmap for us to follow during the year – in the way of goals. What do we want and need to accomplish this year – as individuals, as a team, and as an organization? Sharing these goals, and the plan for accomplishing them, gets us focused immediately and all moving in the same direction. It also sets the expectation from the start.

In another upcoming post, after having tweaked it for many years, I’ll share with you the who, what, why, and how of our goal setting process.

I look forward to your comments, feedback, ideas, and thoughts.

Next week, a little more about Professionalism …

Meanwhile, Happy September!

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4 Responses to Beginnings …

  1. Paulette says:

    Marcia,
    Your blog is so well done!! As I read your new posting on professionalism, I could see you on the first day of our yearly closings as you addressed our staff, planning and setting the tone for the year with your wise words of wisdom. I am looking forward to the rest of the series. I know you will have wonderful feedback. PMP

  2. Judy Kilgore says:

    Marcia–
    Sounds like you are having the time of your life. I’m glad!
    This post has reminded me of how important it is to build the vision with the teachers, not to just try to impose the values that I hold dear or that are inherent in other models (e.g. Reggio Emilia). I needed to remember that motivation comes from within…always…even when it is inspired by outside influences. So thanks!
    I’m working with a very undertrained, undereducated staff so this is a challenge. But I do trust that if I begin where we actually are we will get further than if I pretend we are someplace else!
    Judy

  3. Judy Kilgore says:

    Marcia–
    Sounds like you are having the time of your life. I’m glad!
    This post has reminded me of how important it is to build the vision with the teachers, not to just try to impose the values that I hold dear or that are inherent in other models (e.g. Reggio Emilia). I needed to remember that motivation comes from within…always…even when it is inspired by outside influences. So thanks!
    I am working with a largely undertrained staff, so this is a challenge. But I do trust that if I begin where we actually are we will get further than if I pretend we are someplace else!
    Judy

    • Marcia Hebert says:

      Judy – Isn’t that the truth. Thank you for your insights as well. I’m interested to keep in touch – you have a unique situation and an extraordinary opportunity where you are. My best –

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