If you run a childcare or preschool business, you know better than anyone how important your teaching staff is for the success of your program. However, many directors have a hard time finding teachers who have many years of experience and credentials. So, what’s the best way to ensure that your center has the best, most qualified staff?
If you know how to help less experienced teachers grow, you’ll expand your hiring possibilities so you don’t need to hold out for someone with the perfect qualifications. Teachers who are younger or just starting out in their careers can develop into true early education experts with the right amount of training and support!
Here are three practical ways you can build a qualified, engaged staff team by supporting the career development and growth of the teachers at your childcare center or preschool.
1. Provide professional development opportunities
Every state has different requirements for childcare staff training, such as a certain number of in-service training hours every year. (If you’re unsure what your state regulations are, check with your licensing agency.) While it’s obviously important to meet these requirements, more training is never a bad idea, especially for teachers who are just starting out. These guidelines are the minimum, and there are many training resources that could benefit your staff that go beyond what’s required.
For example, if you have teachers at your center who are working toward their Childhood Development Associate (CDA) certification or need additional Continuing Education Unit (CEU) hours, consider implementing CDA Gold Standard trainings at your program. These trainings are certified by the CDA and will help your staff accumulate the hours they need for their credentials. You can find a list of CDA Gold Standard trainings here—note that many are also available online and nation-wide.
One popular CDA Gold Standard training program that many childcare providers have had success with is the Childcare Education Institute (CCEI), which offers both staff and director trainings. The CCEI offers multiple subscription options, including an annual subscription for centers that allows up to 50 users. You can learn more about CCEI staff trainings here.
Depending on what’s financially feasible for your center, you can also help to cover the cost of trainings that will benefit your teachers. While some programs may be able to offer professional development opportunities free of charge to their staff, others might pay for a percentage of training costs every year or up to a certain amount for their teachers. Choose the option that makes the most sense for your center—your teachers will appreciate any help and support you’re able to give!
There are a number of free training resources available for childcare professionals as well. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) offers webinars on a breadth of topics, from coping with stress to education equity. Brightwheel is also proud to offer free weekly webinars that help early educators do their best work, covering topics like navigating COVID-19, building trust with families, and minimizing burnout. Although these trainings aren’t specifically designed to fulfill state or credential requirements, they’re great tools for expanding your staff’s skill set and knowledge of early education best practices.
To learn about brightwheel’s upcoming webinars and to see our entire library of on-demand trainings, check out our webinars page!
As you offer your teachers more professional development opportunities, you can also place your staff into “training pairs” that check in with each other about what they’re learning. Designate time in their schedules for them to meet and discuss how to implement their new skills in their day-to-day work. You could even help to pay for coffee or snack runs for their check-ins! Not only do training pairs encourage collaboration and accountability within your team, but they also help to make the learning process more fun.
2. Understand your teachers’ career goals and help them get there
If you want to develop the most competent and engaged staff, it’s incredibly important to understand each of your teacher’s career goals and find ways you can work together to achieve them. In fact, a LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report found that 94% of employees would stay with their workplace longer if they felt like it invested in their career. As a director, you have a lot of wisdom and experience that your staff could benefit from, and they’ll value the opportunity to learn directly from you.
Here are some questions that will help you get the conversation started:
How do you hope to grow in your career? What can we focus on in the next few months?
It’s likely that the teachers in your program have a wide range of career aspirations. Some may want to build life-long careers in early education, while others may be interested in exploring other fields. Some of your teachers might even need help coming up with their career goals to begin with. Wherever they are in this process, find out what they care about the most in their work and help them articulate those ideas into specific, achievable goals.
How can I best support you in your career development?
Once you have a better sense of your teachers’ career goals, find ways to help them accomplish their next steps. For example, if an assistant teacher wants to become a lead teacher, could you set up a few observation days where they shadow the current lead teachers in your program? Or, if you have a staff member who eventually wants to transition to another profession, could you help them sharpen some transferable skills—such as communication or organization—in the next few months? The more you’re able to help your teachers in tangible ways, the more they’ll feel confident in the growth opportunities available at your center.
Are there any obstacles that are getting in the way of your career development right now? How can we work together to solve them?
One of the best ways you can support your staff is to be a problem-solving partner. Find out if your teachers are hitting any roadblocks that are preventing them from moving forward in their career growth. As the director of your program, you can help in very practical ways, such as by offering feedback on a lesson plan or by solving a scheduling issue that allows them to accumulate their needed CDA hours more quickly. Or, your staff may just need someone else to bounce ideas off of in order to find the right solution. Either way, checking in about the challenges they’re facing will go a long way in making your teachers feel supported.
You can also use your ongoing staff evaluations as opportunities to check in on your teachers’ progress with their growth goals. By using this time to discuss their professional development, and not just their work performance, you’ll reinforce your commitment to helping them become the best early educator they can be.
3. Establish a teacher mentor program at your center
You don’t need to be the only person at your center focused on helping your teachers grow in their careers. In fact, your staff can serve as amazing resources for each other! Establishing a culture where your staff mentor each other has many benefits. Not only do your teachers get to learn from each other’s strengths, but they’ll also have more opportunities to connect with one another and help each other improve, ultimately building a strong, collaborative team culture within your center.
To start a teacher mentoring program at your childcare center or preschool, have each staff member do a simple self-assessment using the following questions:
- As a teacher, what are some of my greatest strengths? What do I enjoy doing the most in the classroom?
- As a teacher, what are the areas I want to grow in the most? What do I find the most challenging about my job?
Once your teachers have a firm understanding of their own strengths and areas for improvement, you can pair them with someone else who is skilled at what they’d like to grow in. Encourage mentors to observe one another in the classroom, check in with each other often, and offer constructive feedback and encouragement whenever helpful. As your teachers learn from each other, switch up the pairs so they can continue to grow in different ways!
At brightwheel, we acknowledge that childcare and preschool directors have a lot on their plates. Supporting your teachers’ growth and development is a big investment, and we appreciate the time and resources you pour into helping them grow. Thank you for everything you do for your staff, students, and families!
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 www.mybrightwheel.com.