I presented training that ranged from building effective teams, to creating warmer, homelike environments; from finding and using unique materials and activities for children, to building collaborative relationships with parents; from learning how to set goals and then moving toward meeting them, to de-cluttering spaces for children and de-stressing everyone in the process.
I coached and mentored aspiring, new, and experienced directors alike – at their schools, over the phone, and via email – troubleshooting, and finding solutions to staffing, space, organization, the rhythm of the day, transition, parent, and child situations. I observed both teachers and children – as another set of eyes and ears for the director – helping to make changes as needed. And, I consulted and strategized with directors who were opening new programs; directors who were expanding their programs; and directors who were closing their schools.
I have been pleased to experience, time and time again, the level of commitment, dedication, passion, and enthusiasm of these directors and teachers. They are reaching for quality. And, it has warmed my heart, because I know that the children reap the benefit by having wonderful early childhood experiences.
Recently, I returned to a program to retrieve my Sophia. Sophia is a puppet with spiky gray hair, wrinkles, and a long, black dress. To children, Sophia is real.
But, let me back up a bit. I was consulting with an early childhood program this past fall, and when I walked into one of the preschool classrooms, there was their puppet, Gloria, sitting on the sofa. Gloria is an identical twin to my Sophia! Can you believe it! Anyway, an animated conversation took place between the teacher and the children. And, I agreed to bring my Sophia to this busy room of preschoolers for a play date and an overnight. Well, apparently, the two puppets and the children had a wonderful time together, because, when I arrived at the school to retrieve my Sophia, I was greeted with stories, pictures, and a play-by-play of the Sophia/Gloria adventure:
“They had slept on the sofa under the peace quilt.” (that’s a story for another time)
“They weren’t afraid of the dark – they had a night light.”
“Gloria gave Sophia her necklace.” (a beaded one that the children made)
“Gloria and Sophia are going to be pen pals.”
“Could Sophia come back for another play date?”
And just before Sophia and I left, the entire classroom serenaded us with “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” – Gloria’s screeching voice heard above all others! Sophia and I blew kisses as we left the children and teachers. Pure magic!
Gloria is a treasured part of this classroom. To the children, she is real. They talk with her, care for her, worry about her, include her in everything. She listens, and whispers her thoughts. She is the voice for many of the “unspoken” things young preschoolers think about. And she is their friend.
The teacher who has added this puppet experience to the classroom is a masterful teacher of young children. She has added another dimension to an already rich program. In fact, a gift to everyone in the school – for Gloria is known and loved by all of the teachers, parents, and children!
Isn’t this what working with young children is all about?
I observed many magical moments this past year, as I moved from program to program and built relationships with the directors, teachers, and children. What a privilege to observe so many wonderful things happening for so many.
Our early childhood colleagues (directors and teachers alike) are doing extraordinary work with the young children in their care. They love what they do! And, there is the desire to want to do it better.
I saw the passion in their eyes; heard the enthusiasm in their voices; and noted the strong commitment to quality in their words and actions.
We are fortunate to have such people in our programs. As we know, it begins with a few, and then ripples throughout the organization. And, as we also know, it begins at the top.
As a director, are you creating a climate for magic?