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.