This post was contributed by Lauren Jordan, director of Big Adventures Academy in Minnesota.
How do we find great leaders within the childcare industry? I believe one of the most efficient ways to do this is to help your own staff grow into the best teachers they can be and promote leadership within your organization.
There is an expectation on directors to have it all together and taken care of all the time. If we take the time to teach and delegate different tasks, then there is less on our plate and we can help our centers to succeed all around. Between assigning your staff different tasks, teaching your staff what leadership looks like, and encouraging programs within your company, there are so many ways to promote leadership!
Delegate small leadership tasks to your teachers
One thing we can do is assign different leadership tasks to our staff. I have worked in centers in the past that have roles like a health and safety coordinator who checks the center and playground for hazards, or a hall monitor who makes sure there are no plastic bags in the hallway, the floor is getting vacuumed, and the doors are being updated monthly.
Whatever the role, teachers who sign up for these roles are generally the teachers who want to work towards something bigger, like opening their own center someday. There is no way they can be successful at that without practicing and getting positive experiences from their current work environments.
Besides, how many times do you as the director get thrown into a classroom because somebody called in that day? Usually, the first things that get put to the wayside are tasks that can be delegated. Do we really have time to walk through the whole center along with the playground each day? We are only human. Lean on your teachers to help share the workload.
Set a positive example of leadership
Teaching your staff what a positive leader looks like can be such a great way to promote leadership. One of the biggest flaws I have experienced in the child care industry is when directors and owners do not practice what they preach.
A prime example is cell phones. We all have our cell phones attached to our body like they are an extra limb. We are so quick to make the rule that there are no cell phones allowed in classrooms. Some states have a no-cell-phone rule as a licensing requirement, but some do not. This can be such a challenging thing to tackle because it is such a huge part of our lives. Meanwhile, we are usually on our phones while we are telling staff to put their phones away.
A better alternative is to set specific and reasonable expectations, like “no phones while you are supervising children.” The catch is you have to respect these boundaries as well. You are never above the rules, especially the ones you set.
Introduce leadership programs
Some centers introduce leadership programs like a Training Director. These programs give staff opportunities to take on new challenges and move up within the company, while still working as a teacher. These programs not only grant teachers the opportunity to learn, but they also give the director somebody to fall back on in that leadership position.
Another option is encouraging and helping aides move into teacher positions. This can be accomplished by taking the proper college courses or completing their CDA certification. For many aides, the biggest roadblock for this is the cost. So how can we fix that? We can pay for it! Many programs offer tuition reimbursement if a staff member takes the time to move up in positions within that specific center.Now, do some aides become qualified as teachers and then move on to a different company because they get paid more or because they don’t like the position you have for them? Absolutely. As unfortunate as it is, if a staff member leaves your program, there is a reason. The best way to avoid this issue is to create a work environment that helps staff thrive. This job is taxing and relentless. Our job as directors is to hire quality staff and develop their early education skills so they can make sure our kids are happy, healthy and safe.
Build a leadership mindset
Recognition is a key factor in motivating staff within your child care business. It goes without saying that when you are nice to your employees, they tend to have a happier work experience and work harder and more effectively for your company.
Positive attitudes create positive experiences. The more we remind ourselves and our staff of this, the better we feel, and the easier it is to make better choices as leaders.
If you search online for the top qualities of a positive leader, you see the same things across the board:
- Helping others.
These qualities are the things we look for most within our staff when we hire them. From my experience in the childcare industry, we look for leadership qualities in people when we hire them, but then they never get the opportunity to move up. The more time and effort we put into creating these opportunities, the more longevity we get out of our staff!
About the author
Lauren Jordan is the director of Big Adventures Academy in Minnesota.