Each year I look forward to the first day of spring—longer daylight, peepers, tree frogs and, yes, spring cleaning!
Part of my spring-cleaning ritual has always included reflecting about my life, and taking stock. Spring is my time for tossing out what doesn’t fit or work anymore, and thinking about what I might add instead. Re-assessing my long-range goals always gives me the big-picture view. From that vantage point, I can then add the details that will take me there.
If my earlier goals no longer seem realistic or important, what should I do with the rest of my life? Where do I picture myself in the next five years? What do I need to do to get there? Can I do this in my current position?
Sometimes, reflection will reveal to us that we want to stay on as the leaders of our programs. But we need to make some changes in how we do our work. We need to do some spring cleaning in order to get ourselves back to our original sense of purpose.
Dream a little. What would your ideal workday look like? How much time would you spend on professional reading and writing? How much time would you allocate to talking with your staff? When would you arrive and leave each day? How would you put your peak performance times to their best use? Sometimes it helps to keep a log for a few days to get the true picture of how your day is spent. Reading the log is usually eye opening. It generally provides some “Aha!” moments. And, it is a good first step in making thoughtful changes.
So, here are some other thoughts for you to consider:
Make yourself unique. Work to acquire a set of skills and talents that no one else has—things that interest and excite you, and might become your next work. The more we can reinvent ourselves in our lifetime, the more options we will have—and the more successes we will enjoy.
Seek professional outlets. If you find that your skills and interests are not being fully challenged, explore other sources of professional inspiration. Reading in depth the topics that interest you, writing for publication, consulting, offering local workshops, or teaching at the college level, are all options and opportunities open to you.
Cultivate new relationships. Look beyond your child care center director colleagues and establish rapport with licensing workers, college professors, and others in our early childhood field. By getting to know a larger variety of people who work, in some capacity, with young children, you increase your chances of being inspired, challenged, and supported.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Become involved in non-job activities. If your entire life is consumed by your job, you will be overwhelmed when that job is going poorly. On the other hand, if you have many gratifying activities in your life, your frustrations on the job are more likely to be balanced by the satisfaction in these other areas.
Indulge yourself. Being an early childhood director should not make you a martyr. Treat yourself to an afternoon at the art museum. Plan an exciting vacation. Go to the conference at Disney World. All work and no play make directors no fun to be around.
Remember that you set the tone for your early childhood program. You are the role model for every teacher, parent, and child at your center. Give thought to what you are projecting and what others are observing, hearing, and absorbing.
Start today; clear out the cobwebs; do some spring cleaning! Take one step at a time, and breathe new life into your work. And, then, share your experience with others!