One of the best ways to build a happy, engaged staff team is to invest in your staff members’ career growth. In fact, studies show that employee retention rates rise 30-50% for businesses with strong learning cultures. As a childcare or preschool director, you may not be able to pay your teachers the highest salaries, but you can help them grow and hone their skills as early educators—which can be just as valuable!
If you’re thinking about how to make the most of your staff training or just getting ready for the new school year, then this article is for you. You’ll learn how to plan a professional development day that motivates your staff, helps them bond, and inspires them to apply what they’ve learned (while having fun along the way!).
Start with a fun icebreaker.
It can be hard for your staff to jump straight into a long training day, so start your agenda with a fun icebreaker to help them warm up. This will help set the tone for your meeting and encourage your staff to engage and contribute throughout the day.
Your icebreaker should be lighthearted and give everyone in the room a chance to speak up and interact. Here are some ideas you can use:
- Two Truths and a Lie
- Group stretches and exercises
- Answering a fun question, like “If you could have any superpower, what would it be?”
- Improv storytelling: give your staff a title for a story. Each person will then take turns saying one word at a time to build sentences, eventually creating a cohesive (if not silly) story!
Share the agenda and the goals for the day.
As the training leader, part of your job is to make sure your staff members know what to expect from the session. Before you officially kick off your meeting, share the agenda for the day so they know exactly what’s coming up and how long each portion will take. This will help your staff team—especially those who love to plan ahead—be better prepared to engage and participate during each part of the training.
Take a moment to share your goals for the training day too. Help your staff members connect the dots between what they’re learning and how it will help them become better, more skilled early educators. The more you help your staff see the value of the training, the more they’ll be motivated to get the most out of it!
Share key updates about what’s ahead for your program.
Training days can be an ideal time to update your team on upcoming events, changing policies and procedures, or anything else that will affect your team’s work or day-to-day schedules. Remember to save a few minutes for follow-up questions your staff may have too.
Divide your training into two or more sessions.
It’s best to break your training into separate sessions so your staff can properly absorb and process all the new information they’re learning. It can be very tiring to sit for long periods of time without a change in activity, so make sure to account for that in your agenda!
Depending on your state and licensing agency, you may have a list of trainings and workshops that your staff are required to take. However, you (and your teachers) may also want to go beyond the minimum requirements and learn about a broader range of early education topics.
If you’re looking for more training ideas, check out the following resources:
- NAEYC online group trainings
- Child Care Education Institute (CCEI) group trainings
- Early education webinars, such as ones offered by NAEYC and brightwheel
- Read an early education book (or excerpts from a book) and discuss as a group
- Invite other local experts, such as child psychologists or occupational therapists, to lead trainings at your center
Include team-building activities throughout the day.
Plan for some team-building activities on your agenda, especially after a long break (such as lunchtime) or in between training sessions. They’re a great way to help your team bond, refocus, and stay present throughout the day.
Here are some team-building activities you can try:
- Have your staff share their favorite ways to keep calm in stressful situations
- Ask your staff to line up in order of their birthdays—without talking!
- A quick round of Pictionary
- Balloon tower challenge—see how high of a tower your staff can build using only balloons and some tape
Make space for group discussions.
Help your staff absorb all the new information they’re getting by providing plenty of opportunities to ask questions and discuss what they’re learning. After your training sessions are complete, break your teachers into small groups and have them share 1-2 takeaways with each other. Depending on the size of your staff team, you can also have everyone come back together and share their questions and takeaways with the group as a whole.
Have each staff member set follow-up goals.
Ask your staff to silently reflect on 1-2 concrete ways they can apply what they’ve learned. Have them write their goals down so they don’t forget them and can easily refer back to them whenever needed.
Their goals can be big or small, but should ideally follow the SMART framework:
You can also have your staff pair up (or you can assign random pairs) so they can keep each other accountable to their follow-up goals in the next few months.
Announce your next professional development day.
Wrap up your training by sharing about your next professional development day. This will give your staff plenty of time to mark their calendars and also remind them that you’re committed to providing regular learning opportunities for them. If you need more ideas on training topics, ask your staff what they want to learn during a future professional development day!
Tip: With brightwheel, you can easily keep track of your staff’s certifications, continuing education, and professional development training, all within each staff member’s profile.
We know you have a lot on your plate as a director, and we’re so grateful for everything you do to support your staff members' growth and development. We wish you the best for your next staff training day!
Brightwheel is the complete solution for early education providers, enabling you to streamline your center’s operations and build a stand-out reputation. Brightwheel connects the most critical aspects of running your center—including sign in and out, parent communications, tuition billing, and licensing and compliance—in one easy-to-use tool, along with providing best-in-class customer support and coaching. Brightwheel is trusted by thousands of early education centers and millions of parents. Learn more at mybrightwheel.com.