As an early childhood education director or admin, it’s no secret that you and your staff have had an ongoing number of challenges to overcome over the past few years. With continuously changing health and safety regulations, short-staffing, and so many other pain points, it’s easy for your staff to become overwhelmed. Here at brightwheel, we’re huge advocates of encouraging community care to reduce stress and burnout at your center.
What is community care?We know that self-care is an important element of staying motivated, happy, and fulfilled, but community care is just as important! When facing overwhelming challenges, such as the pandemic, we may need to go beyond self-care to support and be supported by our community. Community care can look like a variety of practices. It can mean facilitating and advocating for well-being within the community at your center. Community care can also be a way to manage your wellbeing by leaning into the wider community around you. At its core, community care is the practice of nurturing and caring for those in your community—including yourself!
5 ways to facilitate community care at your childcare center
1. Offer professional development opportunities about wellbeing
Professional development is an important part of retaining staff at your childcare center, but is even more powerful when coupled with wellbeing. Offering training opportunities about wellbeing shows that you prioritize your staff members’ wellness and careers, while also fostering a community of care.
These professional development sessions could look like:
- Inviting guest speakers to come talk about community care
- Watching our community care webinar with ECE coach Emma Tempest!
- Going to a local lecture about wellbeing
- Watching TED Talks or listening to podcasts together about mental health
- Providing a stipend or time off to learn about community care
- Tap into the expertise of the staff at your center—asking a staff member to be an expert will lift them up, and they can contribute their knowledge to the team.
2. Prioritize wellness and community care in your day-to-day
To make community care a part of your program’s culture, you need to practice it every day! The more openly you can speak to or practice community care, the more likely it is to become an integral part of your center.
Going for walks or grabbing coffee outside of your center when holding supervisory meetings is a great way to include a little bit of care in your day-to-day activities. Getting outside can act as a mental reset and help to refresh you and your staff!
Another way to prioritize your team’s wellness is by creating a safe space where staff can have a moment to step back and recognize the community around them. A staff room or lounge is a great place for staff to connect with each other. A kudos board where people can share their encouragement or appreciation can help to foster a community of care. A communal library where your community can contribute their favorite wellness resources also reminds staff that they can lean into their community.
Implementing a staff buddy system can also help build community. It makes it easier for staff members to ask questions, advocate for their own wellness, and build relationships with other staff members.
3. Demonstrate care for your staff through staff appreciation activities
Hosting staff appreciation activities and expressing gratitude for your staff ensures you show how much you care for your staff, not only professionally, but also personally. It gives staff members a chance to be at your center without the stressors and responsibility of work, fostering a stronger sense of community and helping to build close relationships.
Some activities to show appreciation and build community include:
- Hosting a staff potluck or picnic
- Giving out gift cards to their favorite coffee shops
- Creating a kudos board for educators
- Saying thank you in person or through written notes
For more staff appreciation ideas, check out our 50 Creative Ways to Appreciate Early Educators post!
4. Plan frequent community care days or events
While it's important to encourage community care in the day-to-day activities at your center, it’s also important to set aside time to care for your community. Intentionally prioritizing community care can help make regularly practicing it a little easier.
Volunteering is a great way to care for your community. Research shows that volunteering not only helps the wider community you’re choosing to serve, but also your own mental health! Visiting your local soup kitchen, community centers, nursing homes, or animal shelters creates a wide ripple effect that impacts your community.
Organizing a team walk or yoga class tells your staff that you care about their physical and mental health. Scheduling these classes or walks also keeps your community accountable for taking the time to practice both self-care and community care!
Having a community care learning club can also be helpful for your staff team. Some resources we’d recommend include:
[Podcast] That Early Childhood Nerd Podcast Episode Ft. Carol Garboden Murray
[Book] Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
[Podcast] Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
- [Netflix Special] Brené Brown: The Call to Courage
5. Facilitate open dialogue about staff wellness
In order for staff to lean into one another to reduce burnout and stress, your community should be able to openly talk about wellness at work. You can facilitate open dialogue about wellness by having a mental health policy or wellness day policy for your staff. Setting these policies guarantees that your staff feels supported by their workplace.
Another way to open up a productive conversation about wellness is by having wellness check-ins, where you periodically meet with each staff member to talk about how they’re doing, if they’ve set work/life balance boundaries, and anything else they want to discuss. This is a separate conversation from their work or supervisory meetings and instead should focus on wellness and health.
How brightwheel can help
Brightwheel can be an effective tool to help you reduce stress and burnout from repetitive tasks, which, in turn, helps you to increase retention and overall staff happiness at your center.
Brightwheel can help you easily manage time-consuming tasks like daily reports, communicating with families, and creating and organizing lesson plans. We’ve heard that with brightwheel, teachers save around 20 hours a month on busywork and are able to spend more time helping their students develop new skills.
Brightwheel also helps teachers easily share what students are learning through photos and videos. As a result, staff get more recognition from parents for their hard work and teaching expertise!
If you’re interested in learning more about how brightwheel can save you time and make staff happier, schedule a demo with us today!