Five years ago I wrote this blog post to share the thoughts I focused on every September – the beginning of the school year. I’ve tweaked the post slightly, but the message is a September message for all leaders, directors, and teachers. So, I am re-posting “Beginnings,” and I hope you enjoy it the second time around!
As Director of several Early Childhood programs, I always loved beginnings. They gave me the opportunity to start over again every single year.
What a gift! To start fresh – to take what I 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 was definitely the reflective part of my professional life – I thought about everything that had gotten me to this point; I jotted down new ideas as they came to me; and I began 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 saw it, that was my job as the leader of the program, school, organization – to set the course. And, the best part of beginning is that I could reset it annually.
What I learned is that how I began each school year, each training session, each presentation, each meeting, set the tone for what was to come, and the expectations that we were all to meet or exceed. It was that important!
As the leader, I 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 also learned that people will rise to the challenge – if it is clearly articulated, and the expectations set. So, I set my sights high, and my teams rose to the occasion!
To this end – to set the appropriate tone, and to move forward together, I focused 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 depth and detail throughout the fall months:
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 of the school year, I shared this important way of being with my teams to set the expectation. I have a well-written article on this very topic that I will 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 of the school year I used this guide to be sure we were on track. I will 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 used it over and over again as a training tool – definitely worth the effort.
Plotting the Course
As part of every beginning, I provided a roadmap for us to follow during the year – in the way of goals. What did 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, got us focused immediately and moving in the same direction. It also set the expectations from the start.
In another upcoming post, 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. In the meantime, enjoy the beginning of your school year.
Next month, a little more about Professionalism …