The Delicate Balance Between Work and Life

As the manager—of a home, a classroom, a school, an organization, a business— our weeks are filled with details—hundreds of details that need our attention. We must deal with hundreds of pieces of paper; hundreds of conversations, emails, or text messages; hundreds of interactions—in person, over the phone, or via Zoom or FaceTime; and hundreds of tasks to be completed. All of this takes focus, skill, a bit of juggling, and extraordinary organizational ability.

And, most of us have both a career and a family, which easily doubles the details we handle. How do we do it all? And, how do we balance the demands of our work and our life?

Strategies, tips, short-cuts, realistic expectations, setting priorities, managing stress, and cutting ourselves some slack in the process of living and working help greatly.

For several years, I was the Director of Work Life Programs for a large business in Boston. My job was to support our 6,000-strong workforce by helping them to find the balance they sought between their work and personal lives. Without balance, we cannot be effective in either arena. So, we added relevant informational programs, educational seminars, resources, and discussion groups to what we called our “lunch and learn” workshop program/schedule.

Because the world is moving at an even faster pace today, and finding balance between work and life is still a goal to attain for many, I have included some resources we found helpful. My hope is that you will, too. The following are all available through amazon.com.

The Art of Self-Renewal: Balancing Pressure and Productivity on and Off the Job by Barbara Mackoff. Ideas for working productively without working yourself to death. Tips on managing stress and balancing work with the rest of life.

First Things First by Stephen Covey. More life management strategies from the author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

Getting Organized by Stephanie Winston. Practical tips on using time more efficiently, including ideas for organizing papers and belongings, managing family finances, and teaching children to be organized.

Organized to Be Your Best by Susan Silver. A practical approach to organization skills and time management, with reviews of available resources—from filtering systems and labeling devices, to software and personal information managers.

The Relaxation Response by Herbert Benson. Simple breathing techniques that can be used to relieve stress.

Time Management for Unmanageable People by Ann McGee-Cooper. Alternative organization ideas for those who don’t respond to traditional time-management techniques. Suggestions for “visual organizers” who like to keep their work out where it’s easy to find.

The Power of Positive Doing: Twelve Strategies for Taking Control of Your Life by Ivan Burnell. Workable strategies for accomplishing whatever you want in your professional, personal, financial, and spiritual life. Includes self-tests and tips for how to change.

The Stress Management Source Book by J. Barton Cunningham. A principle-centered approach, with information on how to deal with stressful work situations, life transitions, and loss. Includes self-tests, cites research, and offers catchy sayings.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Reaching Your Goals by Jeff Davidson. Covers all aspects of developing and implementing goals in seven areas of life. Includes lots of tips, work sheets, illustrations, and side bars. Includes a good section on career goals.

Don’t Say Yes When You Want to Say No by Herbert Fensterheim and Jean Baer. Best-selling all-time classic on assertiveness. Offers step-by-step suggestions for expressing needs, changing habits, and reinforcing skills.

Guilt is the Teacher, Love is the Lesson by Joan Borysenko. Offers a thorough discussion of the subject of guilt and how to manage it.

Taming the Paper Tiger by Barbara Hemphill. Tips and techniques for managing all the paper and clutter at work and in your home, including how to set up a work center, organize your home computer, deal with bills and tax information, and keep track of family records and memorabilia.

From this vantage point in my life, looking back on the balancing act between work and life that I performed for forty+ years—sometimes successfully, sometimes not—I can give you a light at the end of the tunnel when I tell you that both work and life will get easier, less frantic, more deliberate, more satisfying, and downright enjoyable.

“This too shall pass!” This quote has followed me everywhere, and early on became one of my balancing strategies, my mantra. I had it written above my office door, where I could read it as each person entered! It helped keep me sane, and gave me the ability to put the situation at hand into perspective. I used whatever I could, whenever, to keep myself centered and focused.

For more ideas, tools, and strategies to use in your workplace, take a look at my early childhood leadership book: Beginning to End: The Life Cycle of a Child Care Center—A Director’s Storyavailable on amazon.com.These are my real-life, time-tested tips and techniques, and all of them worked successfully in my four childcare centers. I am pleased to share what I have learned. Take what resonates with you and then, one day, pass on what you learn to the next generation of early childhood colleagues. My best to you!

Posted in Child Care, Early Childhood, Early Childhood Curriculum, Early Childhood Leadership, Early Childhood Professionals, Early Childhood Teachers, For Early Childhood Directors, Managing Early Childhood Programs, Performance Management Skills, Quality Early Education and Care, Training for Early Childhood Directors, Training for Early Childhood Professionals | Leave a comment

Beyond the Book—Strategies for Weathering the Storms of Change

It is not the strongest of the species that survive,
not the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.
—Charles Darwin

And, isn’t that the truth

In my work as director of several early childhood programs, one of the important lessons I learned was that the only constant was change! Just when I’d get the staffing set—teachers hired, oriented, trained, and working together as a team—the enrollment would shift. Or, when the enrollment was at capacity, key teachers would make life changes and resign. The balancing act between having the appropriate team of teachers for the enrollment at hand was a constant challenge. It was always back to the drawing board! Over time, though, instead of reacting to it when it happened, I began planning for it in advance. I saved the better resumes from previous hirings and began my new teacher searches, much more quickly, with people we had already interviewed— and liked. 

Another important lesson I learned was that problems and situations never arrived one at a time; rather, many happened simultaneously. With teachers, parents, children, and everything that accompanied these three groups—along with the environment, our facility, health and safety, and the budget—the potential for a problem was always there. And, with each situation came the need to take action and, often, make some kind of change. Some were small changes—hardly noticeable—but every now and then, a major overhaul was necessary.

We can’t wait for the storm to blow over,
we’ve got to learn to work in the rain.
          —Peter Silas

Not all team members would see these necessary changes the same way. Some would feel insecure, confused, or uncertain. They might also feel a deterioration of trust or a sense of self-preservation. And, while we were making the sound decisions we needed to make for our organization, there was sometimes resistance from a few. This was harmful at first, but it ultimately backfired, because these people were seen by their peers as getting in the way of the solution. These were the people who were really no longer part of the team; the people who could no longer stay. Most on our team accepted that our organization was not changing to make our lives miserable. Rather, they listened and trusted that we were doing the appropriate things, and they grabbed hold of the future. From all of this, a new team was created.

Coming together is a beginning,
Keeping together is progress,
Working together is success.
     —Henry Ford

Throughout changes in our own programs, our work as directors will be to communicate, communicate, communicate! When we strongly communicate a clear vision for our organization—even if it changes every week—the vision will keep our teams from drifting. Any silence on our part will be interpreted as unfavorable. In the absence of information, people make things up and, inevitably, it is hurtful and creates panic. As directors, during periods of change, we must force ourselves to be on the front line. Even though we may be reluctant, we cannot hide behind the closed door of our offices—we must get out and be among our team. It will boost morale. Invite people to talk—it will increase our credibility and help us to uncover bad news before it becomes terrible news. When we can’t give answers (because of confidentiality), we can instead promise change, but communicate it carefully—that things will be different; that there is both good and bad news; that I’ll be honest with you. Always, always, always, protect our director credibility.

As the leader of our organizations, what else should we be doing during this time of change?

First, before anything else, we must manage ourselves.

Keep a positive attitude, but be authentic. Be enthusiastic. Be curious about the challenges and possibilities. Be interested in the opportunity to repair, solve, or create.

We must manage our emotions. They affect not only us, but the entire organization.

Keep a lid on venting and expressing ourselves inappropriately. Most importantly, be the leader. Seize the day. People in transition want to be led. Step up to the plate—make the difficult decisions and act on them.

We must also manage our teams, and put a great deal of energy into this! Raise the bar. Keep them busy, focused, challenged, stretching, and achieving. Motivate to the nth degree. Harness turbulence into positive energy. Harness concern into curiosity. Harness nervousness into attentiveness.

Re-recruit our best teachers. Our best teachers will jump ship if we don’t take care of them. Orient them to their new job description (the result of the change) as if we were orienting them to the organization for the first time. We do not want to lose any one of our top performers to our competition. Rather, we want to keep the best as the core of this new team. Create a supportive environment for them. Model the desired behavior. Begin to break the seemingly overwhelming tasks down into bite-size steps. Accomplish together; build on each success; and celebrate!

Guide our teachers during this time. Take the lead and advise them throughout this change as well. They are looking to us for confidence, calm, and support. 

To my teachers, I would say: Control your attitude – especially now. Breathe deeply before you speak. Take some ownership of the change. Choose your battles carefully. Keep your sense of humor. Practice good stress management techniques. Invest in the future instead of trying to redesign the past.

Finally, since we directors make changes to solve problems; to fix untenable situations; to get back on track; to get better in our work as we, ultimately, reach for the stars—

I leave you with this:

Excellence … can be attained if you:

Care more than others think is wise …
            Risk more than others think is safe …
            Dream more than others think is predictable …
            Expect more than others think is possible …
                                  —Unknown

For more ideas, tools, and strategies to use in your workplace, take a look at my early childhood leadership book: Beginning to End: The Life Cycle of a Child Care Center—A Director’s Story, available on Amazon.com

These are my real-life, time-tested tips and techniques, and all of them worked successfully in my four childcare centers. I am pleased to share what I have learned. Take what resonates with you and then, one day, pass on what you learn to the next generation of early childhood colleagues. My best to you!

Posted in Child Care, Early Childhood, Early Childhood Curriculum, Early Childhood Leadership, Early Childhood Professionals, Early Childhood Teachers, For Early Childhood Directors, Managing Early Childhood Programs, Performance Management Skills, Quality Early Education and Care, Training for Early Childhood Directors, Training for Early Childhood Professionals | Leave a comment

Beyond the Book—Observe, Listen, and then, Act

The Japanese people have an expression, Kūki o yomu, read the air, which, in essence, means to take in one’s surroundings before acting; to take a few moments to use one’s senses; to observe and listen; to gauge what is happening in this place at this moment, before doing anything else. 

Reading the air is a respectful practice. Enter a space or situation quietly and absorb what is going on—the level of activity; the level of conversation or silence; the level of engagement—how are others interacting, responding to one another, or are they not. The Japanese people observe and listen first. And then, they act or react in a way that fits the situation. If everyone is deeply engaged, talking quietly with one another, then enter in the same way. A loud and boisterous entry into a quiet place will have others shaking their heads and murmuring, “she does not read the air.” In Japan, reading the air shows respect to the people already involved, and to the situation at hand. It is a polite and considerate way of being.

We, in early childhood education, can also tap into this practice. Reading the air easily applies to the way we enter a classroom of young children; how we join a group of preschoolers already at play; and how we enter a conversation between colleagues. Do we enter quietly, respectfully, and take in all that is happening within the space? Do we observe and listen first? And then, do we enter in a way that fits with what is already happening? Do we read the air?

Or, do we enter the room with no thought to what is already happening in it and clumsily interrupt the activity and hum of the classroom?

Best practice teaching is often described as a cycle that involves watching and listening—with care. Teachers observe everything going on carefully, and listen closely to the children. Teachers reflect on, think about, and engage in dialogue with others about what is happening. Teachers respond thoughtfully in ways that support children’s ideas, questions, and thinking. Teachers gather data from the children, use what they learn, and act as a resource for the children. Teachers ask questions and discover the children’s ideas and theories. Teachers then find additional materials and equipment to test out the children’s ideas.

The best teachers of young children are keen observers and listeners. I suspect they read the air quite well and act appropriately and respectfully toward their children.

What about you? How do you see yourself? Are you adept at first reading the air in your classroom and then acting? Upon entering, are you respectful of the children and adults already engaged? Do you first observe and listen to everything going on? And do you then insert yourself into the mix with care and consideration?

If you haven’t yet spent some good time observing and listening to the hum of your classroom, I invite you to add this practice to your teaching this school year. It will take some slowing down a bit to actually do this, but once you begin to read the air you will see the enormous benefits for both the children and adults who live with you.

For more ideas, tools, and strategies to use in your workplace, take a look at my early childhood leadership book: Beginning to End: The Life Cycle of a Child Care Center—A Director’s Story, available on Amazon.com

These are my real-life, time-tested tips and techniques, and all of them worked successfully in my four childcare centers. I am pleased to share what I have learned! Take what resonates with you and then, one day, pass on what you learn to the next generation of early childhood colleagues. My best to you!

Posted in Child Care, Early Childhood, Early Childhood Curriculum, Early Childhood Leadership, Early Childhood Professionals, Early Childhood Teachers, For Early Childhood Directors, Managing Early Childhood Programs, Performance Management Skills, Quality Early Education and Care, Training for Early Childhood Directors, Training for Early Childhood Professionals | Leave a comment

Professionalism…

Each year, required reading for my teams of early childhood teachers and supervisors was an article by M. Parker Anderson entitled, “Professionalism: The Missing Ingredient for Excellence in the Workplace.” It was required because, after years of living, working on this planet, and interacting with thousands, I agreed with Ms. Anderson’s assessment that, “professionalism is missing and unaccounted for” in so many places of work.

What has happened to our work force, our self-image, our civility to one another, our work ethic? It seems pervasive enough to say that we have lost our way a bit—when working with others, working for others, or simply working.

Somewhere along the way, doing one’s best has taken a hit. There is a mediocrity, a doing-just-enough-to-get-by attitude, even a cynicism that is far from the standard of excellence many of us desire for our businesses, our teams, our customers, and even ourselves.

Having said that, there are those who do exemplify the highest work standards, ethics, and values—and whose achievement and success tells the tale. There are those who are professional in their interactions with others, who do their best in each situation, on each project, and who feel a sense of pride and accomplishment at the end of the day.

So, how is it that some places of work foster professionalism? Who holds the key to setting the tone, creating the climate?

It begins at the top of the organization and winds its way through every classroom, every office.

When there is professionalism at work, you feel it! Trust and confidence come through in professional interactions. Long-lasting positive feelings toward staff members, toward the environment, toward the organization, and toward the services provided by the organization are established. Relationships are easily built among all constituencies. People feel taken care of.

What are some of the factors that contribute to professionalism? And, what can be done to move toward creating a more professional climate in your organization? It is certainly more than just the way you speak, act, or behave.

You dress to work. What you wear, and how you present yourself can be comfortable and stylish, but it must communicate that you are ready, focused, and prepared for whatever might come your way during the work day. What message do you send?

Your attitude is positive, courteous, and pleasant. You come to work ready to learn and do, and are motivated by a strong sense of individual and group purpose. You have energy, are interested in what you’re doing, and bring a sense of joy to your work.

You know your own skills and abilities. And, you strive to know as much as you can about your career field, and your work within it. There is a thirst for knowledge, and a desire to get better at what you do. And, a never-ending quest to find new information, and then share it with others. You continue to grow and remain energized.

You are also motivated to initiate new ideas, propose new procedures, and find solutions to challenges and problems. The bottom line is that a professional does whatever is needed to get the job done, and to get it done well!

A professional always adds that something extra, goes that additional mile, and exceeds expectations.

And finally, professionalism requires personal responsibility and accountability. Personal responsibility means arriving on time, meeting deadlines, performing complete and accurate work, returning calls and relaying messages in a timely fashion, and following through on required tasks. And, if things don’t go according to plan, the buck stops with you – you fix it! 

Professionalism means displaying honesty, integrity, respect, and dignity in dealing with all people.

And, yes, ultimately, the professional hears the compliments, receives the accolades, and is known and recognized as possessing that elusive, but oh so important element, professionalism. I believe, an element worth striving for!

I invite you to look at yourself, your team, and your organization. What tone are you setting? Is professionalism a “missing ingredient” in your program? Or, is it alive and well, and recognized as soon as someone walks through the front door?

Food for thought …

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Beginnings…

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

As the Director of an Early Childhood program, I’ve always loved beginnings. 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; 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 yearly beginnings 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 the best I can!

I have also learned that people will rise to the challenge—if it is clearly articulated, and the expectations set. I’ve set our sights high, prepared us well, 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 months.

A Way of Being

I believe there is an appropriate way to work—with children, with families, and with one another. 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 set this 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 these guidelines to be certain we are on all 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 the 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, I’ll share with you the who, what, why, and how of our goal setting process.

Next month, a little more about Professionalism… 

For more ideas, tools, and strategies to use in your workplace, take a look at Beginning to End: The Life Cycle of a Child Care Center—A Director’s Story, available on Amazon.com.

Posted in Child Care, Early Childhood, Early Childhood Curriculum, Early Childhood Leadership, Early Childhood Professionals, Early Childhood Teachers, For Early Childhood Directors, Managing Early Childhood Programs, Performance Management Skills, Quality Early Education and Care, Training for Early Childhood Directors, Training for Early Childhood Professionals | Leave a comment

Beyond the Book—Coping with Change

In my work as director of several early childhood programs, one of the important lessons I learned was that, as in my life, the only constant was change!

Just when I’d get the staffing set—teachers hired, oriented, and working together as a team—the enrollment would shift. Or, when the enrollment was at capacity, key teachers would make life changes and resign. The balancing act between having the appropriate team of teachers for the enrollment at hand was a constant challenge. It was always back to the drawing board!

Over time, though, instead of reacting to it when it happened, I began planning for it in advance. One thing I did was save the resumes of potential hires. If I found several really good candidates by interviewing them for a position, I hired the one I needed, but told the others that I would like to keep their resume on file and call them if something opened. This became my feeder system for hiring more quickly and more effectively. Many teachers who interviewed for a position with us eventually did become part of our team—albeit at a later time than originally planned.

Thinking more proactively, and planning for the inevitable, worked well for me and for my programs.

Here are a few other work habits to cultivate:

  • Become a quick-change artist. Flexibility and adaptability in any situation will win the day.
  • Commit fully to your job. Which means, doing whatever it takes to get the job done well.
  • Keep moving forward. Meet or exceed all expectations. Be the best you can be.
  • Accept ambiguity and uncertainty. It is temporary during change. Focus rather on the positive end result.
  • Behave like you are in business for yourself. See problems and challenges from a more global view and hold to your vision—no matter what.
  • Keep learning. Keep adding to your skills and expertise. Gather strategies that work for you!
  • Hold yourself accountable for outcomes. And make certain the outcomes are positive and successful.
  • Add value. Every way you can! “How can I be of service?” Go the extra mile.
  • Manage your own morale. You are responsible for you!
  • Alter your expectations as circumstances warrant. Changes take time, so be patient, adjust your thinking, and react accordingly.
  • Be the best example, the role model, in your organization!

And, because a good quote always just sums it up, I leave you with this:

EXCELLENCE … can be attained if you:

CARE more than others think is wise …
RISK more than you think is safe …
DREAM more than others think is predictable …
EXPECT more than others think is possible …

Unknown

For more examples of Coping with Change in the workplace, take a look at Beginning to End: The Life Cycle of a Child Care Center—A Director’s Story, available on Amazon.com.

Posted in Early Childhood, Early Childhood Leadership, Early Childhood Professionals, Early Childhood Teachers, For Early Childhood Directors, Managing Early Childhood Programs, Performance Management Skills, Quality Early Education and Care, Training for Early Childhood Directors, Training for Early Childhood Professionals | Leave a comment

Planting Your Garden…

Summer is nearly here—in all of its glory!

The sun is strong, the rain is gentle, and the flower and vegetable gardens are thriving.

I don’t know who originally created the following ‘garden’, but beyond the play on words that will bring a smile to the reader, there is wisdom and guidance here for all of us.

This is a perfect reflection for this season. Enjoy!

Remember, what we sow, we later reap.

The Garden

5 Rows of “P”s
purpose
presence
promptness
preparation
perseverance

4 Rows of “Squash”
…gossip
…indifference
…criticism
…negativism

3 Rows of “Let Us”
…be true to ourselves
…be loyal and unselfish
…be faithful to our purpose

3 Rows of “Turn Up”
… your enthusiasm
…your conviction
…your determination

This is the time of year to reflect—upon this school year winding down, and the next school year just around the corner. This summer, during your planning time, your goal-setting time, for directors and teachers alike, consider planting this ‘garden’ in your early childhood program. It’s a wonderful way to set the tone for the year to come.

Posted in Child Care, Early Childhood, Early Childhood Curriculum, Early Childhood Leadership, Early Childhood Professionals, Early Childhood Teachers, For Early Childhood Directors, Managing Early Childhood Programs, Performance Management Skills, Quality Early Education and Care, Training for Early Childhood Directors | Leave a comment

Inspiring Others…

Whether it’s a beautiful sunrise, or a special message, each has the power to move us emotionally. I discovered this power long ago and began collecting inspirational quotes that spoke to me. I have journals of them.

I placed my favorites around our home—near the mirror in the bathroom for my first uplifting thought of the day; on the fridge in the kitchen; inside cabinet doors. I sometimes purchased quotes on strips of wood and three-dimensional blocks and placed them, strategically, where I would just come upon them during the day—on the fireplace hearth; on the top jamb of doorways; on shelves; or, if the quote was especially inspirational, on a wall.

As the director of several early childhood programs, I posted quotes here and there in my childcare centers as well. They were relevant to our life and work, and in the course of a day we saw and read several.

And you know, they served a valuable purpose. They set the tone. They shifted our thinking. They lifted our moods. They brought us peace. They made us smile.

Just reading a good quote can quickly take us from the moment we’re in, to another—and positively change our focus. Reading a quote provides a quick and timely burst of wisdom—often, just when we need it. It only takes 10-20 seconds. Yet, the message it contains can propel us for the day, week, or more.

This is powerful inspiration.

These messages appeal to our subconscious mind, where creativity resides. In the reading of these messages, our entire thought process can change—directing our energy toward a more positive path. For me, a win-win!

Yes, I have always been a big fan of inspirational quotes because with very little effort on my part, positive things happen. I have watched the subtle changes take place—the “aha!” moment, the epiphany—all because of a posted quote.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Wherever I am, be all there.”
“When writing the story of my life, don’t let anyone else hold the pen.”
“When the decision is clear, the doing is effortless.”
“We are the sum total of everything we have experienced.”
“I must stand guard at the door of my mind.”
“Notice what I notice.”
“Be careful how I am talking to myself, because I am listening.”
“Go confidently in the direction of my dreams.”
“Before we are leaders, success is all about growing ourselves; when we become a leader, success is all about growing others.”
“Say what we mean, do what we say, own what we do.”
“How do we know when we have arrived, if we don’t know where we are going.”
“People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
“Seek first to understand, and then, to be understood.”
“Do not get upset with people or situations; both are powerless without your reaction.”
“Leadership is not a position or a title. It is an action and an example.”
“Go farther.”
“Tell the negative committee in my head to sit down and shut up.”
“Reach for the stars and you may hit the treetops.”
“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”
“Dear Past, Thank you for all the lessons. Dear Future, I’m ready!”
“Good night, sleep well, dream of possibilities, and behold the magic that is within me.”
“In everything, give thanks.”

Did you find one you like?
I’d also love to add to my collection, so send along your favorites and I’ll post them as well.
We can call it a team project! 

For more examples of Inspiration in the workplace, take a look at Beginning to End: The Life Cycle of a Child Care Center—A Director’s Story, available on Amazon.com.

Posted in Child Care, Early Childhood, Early Childhood Curriculum, Early Childhood Leadership, Early Childhood Professionals, Early Childhood Teachers, For Early Childhood Directors, Managing Early Childhood Programs, Performance Management Skills, Quality Early Education and Care, Training for Early Childhood Directors, Training for Early Childhood Professionals | Leave a comment

A Look Back…

During the consulting part of my career, I had the privilege of working with numerous directors of early childhood programs, as well as their teams of teachers. 

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 move toward meeting them, to de-cluttering spaces for children and de-stressing everyone in the process, and much more. 

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—and I have had the best moments!

One day, I returned to a program to retrieve my Sophia. Sophia is a puppet with spiky gray hair, wrinkles, and a long, black dress. To young children, Sophia is real. 

Let me back up a bit. I was consulting with an early childhood program, 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. She is real. The children 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 added this puppet experience to the classroom is a masterful teacher of young children. She 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 during my career, 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?

For more details on creating magic for children, take a look at Beginning to End: The Life Cycle of a Child Care Center—A Director’s Story, available on Amazon.com.

Posted in Child Care, Early Childhood, Early Childhood Curriculum, Early Childhood Leadership, Early Childhood Professionals, Early Childhood Teachers, For Early Childhood Directors, Managing Early Childhood Programs, Quality Early Education and Care, Training for Early Childhood Directors, Training for Early Childhood Professionals | Leave a comment

Beyond the Book—Zero-to-Three Model (A Parent’s Perspective)

Making the shift from traditional, individual infant and toddler classrooms to the Zero-to-Three model (where the youngest children and teachers remain together until the child reaches preschool age) brought with it environmental challenges and extra training for teachers and their supervisors, but the benefits we anticipated, and then experienced, far, far outweighed the initial effort required.

The following is a letter from a parent in our John Hancock Child Care Center in Boston. As you’ll read, not only did the children and teachers benefit from the Zero-to-Three model, so did the parents.

“I had the good fortune to send my two daughters to the JHCCC. Kiley attended the Center from the age of 11 weeks until age 5. Caroline attended from 4 months until 15 months. Kiley experienced the entire 0-3 program, while Caroline’s experience was curtailed by the unfortunate closing of the Center. I have seen the pros and cons of both structures firsthand.

As a parent, I preferred the Zero to Three structure. Kiley was able to grow strong bonds to the same set of teachers and children during her most vulnerable and exploratory years. This provided her with a solid foundation to depend on each day. Also, her teachers knew her so well that as she aged and grew, they could anticipate her challenges and adjust to best meet her needs with ease. We didn’t have to re-introduce her to a set of teachers every few months and go through a learning curve as they got to know her. Kiley and her friends developed a sibling-like bond to one another. This could not have been accomplished without the consistency of the classroom over so many years. The families of these children also grew very close as a result of so many shared years together. Parents benefit so much from exchanging advice and ideas about parenting. This is much easier once you have time to develop relationships. I also grew very close to Kiley’s friends, since they were a common group for several years. It is remarkable to watch children grow from babies to toddlers to preschoolers, and I still have a strong affection for those children Kiley shared the Zero to Three program with. All of these individual relationships—teacher to child, child to child, family to family, parent to parent, and parent to other children—resulted in a beautiful, nurturing, strong community.

I am pleased with the care my youngest daughter, Caroline, is receiving at her current daycare. However, I felt like Caroline just got settled in her new classroom last fall and then suddenly moved by herself to the older toddler room with a new set of teachers. Some of the children overlapped, but others were completely new to us. It has taken me awhile to learn the names of the children and to be able to even talk about Caroline’s friends with her. The teachers had to learn Caroline’s quirks and preferences all over again. Only now, three months after her move, can I say that all of us are on the same page. That is a lot of lost time in a young child’s life! I also don’t have the sense of community I felt as a result of the Zero to Three program at the JHCCC. I share ‘hellos’ and ‘goodbyes’ with Caroline’s friends’ parents, but that is about all. I am starting to get attached to the children in her classroom, but soon some will graduate and others will move in from the younger class and there will be another shift in the classroom dynamic. More new faces to learn, more old friends to miss. Caroline’s experience is rich in many ways—she is learning a great deal. She is loved and challenged and happy. The experience is singular though, as opposed to a shared experience. It lacks a lot of the special qualities of the Zero to Three program.

 I hope my experiences help to inform your decisions. As a parent I found this program rewarding for all—children, teachers, and families. Children benefitted from the consistent care and strong attachment with both teachers and friends. Teachers grew closer to their children. They also enriched their teaching background by not being limited to one age group. And families grew closer to one another. We greatly respected, appreciated, and cared for our children’s teachers, as they helped us as well in our parenting. The Zero to Three program truly was a mutually beneficial structure.”

  Sincerely, JW

  Certainly, food for thought! 

For more details on creating positive change for your organization, take a look at Beginning to End: The Life Cycle of a Child Care Center—A Director’s Story, available on Amazon.com.

Posted in Child Care, Early Childhood, Early Childhood Curriculum, Early Childhood Leadership, Early Childhood Professionals, Early Childhood Teachers, For Early Childhood Directors, John Hancock Child Care Center, Managing Early Childhood Programs, Performance Management Skills, Quality Early Education and Care, Training for Early Childhood Directors, Training for Early Childhood Professionals | Leave a comment