Last week I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Becky Bailey, creator of Conscious Discipline, deliver the keynote address at the NCaeyc Annual Conference. As I reflect on that time, I realize how lucky I am to have had the opportunity to hear her speak multiple times over the past 15+ years. I am a lifelong learner, so I love to fulfill my professional development requirements and as an early childhood educator, I always hope my staff feels the same way. But that isn’t always the case. In fact, I live in a state where religious sponsored child care centers are exempt from some of the child care requirements including in-service training for staff. I feel strongly that as a preschool director, I have the opportunity to share this love with my staff who, in turn, hopefully share it with the children.
Following are some tips I can share which may help you foster lifelong learning with your own staff.
1. Set Clear Expectations
Simply let your staff know the expectations for staff development! This could include the number of hours and/or any required subjects, but the more specific the better. In the contracts for my staff members, the number of hours required each school year is clearly stated (12 hours for lead teachers and 4 hours for assistant teachers). This doesn’t vary based on the number of days they teach, so even the teachers who job share (each only working 2 days per week), have the same requirement.
2. Put Your Money Where your Mouth Is
If you require it, then pay for it! I know this isn’t an option for all programs, but as much as you can, you need to make it happen. None of us are in early childhood education for the money, so I budget a reasonable amount for each staff member. What do I consider reasonable? I am fortunate to live in an area where there are several colleges and universities along with an abundance of opportunities for workshops and other learning experiences. Our local school system is our primary source for workshops which cost $16 for two hours. So, I use the $16 per hour when figuring reimbursement rates. That is a flexible figure though. Sometimes we have FREE opportunities, so that leaves more money for other opportunities. If you don’t have the budget, there are often grants and scholarship opportunities for conferences.
3. Convenience is Key
Again, none of us are in early childhood education for the money, so we must be realistic in our expectations of when our teachers can fulfill these requirements. Many of my staff have school-age children so training during school hours is preferable to evenings and weekends. Using some time during teacher workdays and staff meetings when staff are already working is one way to make it convenient. There are also times when workshops are scheduled close to or overlapping our school hours, so providing classroom coverage so staff can attend is another way to make some workshops more convenient to my staff.
4. Make it Meaningful
Just because you are interested in learning more about a topic doesn’t mean everyone else is! One of the best ways I’ve found to make learning meaningful is to take yearly staff reflections to create individualized professional development goals. From those goals, I help staff find activities which will help them be successful in meeting those goals.
5. Be Creative
Preschool Directors and day care administrators must be creative in a variety of ways! If funding is an issue, you need to be creative in finding free or inexpensive staff development opportunities. Invite a speech or occupational therapist to talk with your staff about things to look for in addition to ways teachers can meet the needs of students in their class. Another option is to share the cost of a speaker with another facility. In addition to sharing the cost, the interaction between staff can be a great by-product. Find free or inexpensive online training. Offer staff the chance to learn through means other than a traditional workshop or webinar. A self-guided book or video review (and maybe requiring the creation of a study guide for future use or reflective writing on how to implement what they’ve learned) will enable staff to complete their requirements on their own time table thus helping maintain a healthy work-family balance.
I know you are resourceful and creative (as early childhood educators it’s a prerequisite, isn’t it?), so I’d love to hear some of the ways you encourage your staff to be lifelong learners! Leave a comment below!
About the Author
This is a guest blog post from Beth Dickinson. Beth spent five years teaching primary grades in public school before having children. She has spent eight years as a preschool director including the last six years as the Director at Hayes Barton Baptist Preschool in Raleigh, NC.