A new day! A new start! A new school year!
As the Director of an Early Childhood program, I always loved beginnings. They gave me the opportunity to start over again every single year.
What a gift it is to start fresh and to: take what I learned the previous year and add it to my practice; remember those things that had gone especially well, and keep them in this year’s repertoire. And, yes, to reflect upon those things that hadn’t gone as well as I had planned (Should I, this year, drop these ideas altogether, or figure out what might work better?).
Reflection has always been a big 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 another 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 focused on three things at the beginning of each school year.
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. 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 used this guide to be sure we were 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 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 all moving in the same direction. It also set the expectation from the start.
For those of you who would like more information on professionalism, creating a shared vision, plotting the course and setting goals and expectations, take a look at my blog posts from October and November of 2010.
If you are so inclined, let me know what you think or could add to the virtual dialogue. And please, forward the link to this site to other colleagues who you think would appreciate and enjoy it!
Meanwhile, Happy September!