We know that every child is unique and it goes without saying that every person and staff member is unique too! If you nurture you and your team, then the people who will benefit most are the children! With staff development, workload and wellbeing high on the agenda (mainly thanks to the Early Years Alliances ‘Minds Matter’), we all know it makes sense to build ’emotional resilience’ skills in yourself and in your staff team. Continued Professional and Personal Development (CPPD) is key. In adding the ‘personal’ we acknowledge a close emotional attachment to our work and frame it with the respect that it deserves.
Research tells us that it’s our interactions that make a difference. That relationship and connection that you have with a child is one that cannot be transferred to others. Your responses, deep respect and insatiable thirst to make a difference to a child is unique and none of those need to be noted, captured on a device or quantified for data gathering. If those interactions are central, then our part in them needs to be truly authentic. Stock phrases, thinking about when your next break is and not really knowing where a child is ‘at’ means that you are the puzzle with the missing piece, the toy without the battery or the block without the space. Children sense that and we cannot afford for children to think that ineffectual relationships are the norm. So, how can we find the piece or the battery? Well we need ‘space’ to develop personally.
I think it’s important to say we are all leaders, no matter what role you are in. Leaders of our own practice and excellent role models for others and children around us. Therefore, in any capacity, don’t just assume that you or your team ‘know’ everything. Take the time to find out, reflect on your day and really think about what you can take from any experience or challenge, you have the power to change the way you react to a situation should it come up again. Questioning rather than accepting is something we need to instil in children, yet if we are not practicing those critical thinking skills ourselves then what sort of role model are we being? Having the confidence to question why you do things is a skill. If you are managing staff, then you certainly want to create a culture of questioning and feedback otherwise your team won’t move on. If you are at the beginning of your career don’t push those questions away. Organise your thoughts and look for opportunities for feedback. You will grow in confidence and the responses will leave you with more questions than answers! This is essential to how we grow and develop professionally and personally and if you don’t ask you don’t get! Opportunities to reflect together as a team are at the core of everyone’s wellbeing. Provide an opportunity to do this at the end of the day. It’s part of the transition from work to home. Taking your ‘thoughts’ about work home with you can be hard, it’s also not healthy, find ways not to do this, I believe you owe it to yourself to be ‘you’.
At the heart of you as a practitioner is the heart of you as a person. Do you remember when you were told ‘your school days are the best days of your life’ and you didn’t believe them? Well, as you get older you realise that ‘you have only one life and it’s up to you to make the most of it’. We’ve all been dealt with different cards, experiences and influences. We have a duty to recognise these and choose how we use this information. Again, question and ask for support. We can rebuild. Deepening foundations, to make a house that is sturdier, bigger ready to buffer the elements, are you papering the cracks or digging out to secure?
What are you interested in? Now if somebody was to ask me that question I’d say ‘Early Years’ and I do spend lots of my time thinking, reading, listening, networking and questioning all things early years, but I’m a massive foodie and I love cooking, preparing, sourcing and feeding my family. This is my ‘down’ time and it makes me feel connected once more, but don’t tell anyone I cook whilst listening to Early Years TV, TED talks and podcasts!
At the end of the day when it really is time for you, I try and listen to some ‘guided meditation. I find the app ‘Insight Timer’ really good for this, but sometimes just listening to your natural environment is all you need to do. The birds, cars, trains, wind, rain all busy doing something whilst you are stopping. If you don’t stop, you can’t start again and we need to start each day afresh. Sharing the techniques, you use to think about you, gives you a greater sense of wellbeing. If we don’t share what we know where would we be as a race? Sharing really is caring!
For lots of reasons our job is not easy, it’s demanding and challenging yet rewarding and worthwhile. Investing in children is the most important thing we can do for humanity and as adults we need to get this right. Getting it right for us means we can get it right for children. So, develop as a person as well as a practitioner, find your puzzle piece, put your batteries in, it’s time to really think about your best resource, YOU!
Alison is ‘Orange Caterpillar’ and provides Independent Early Years Advice, Training and Support. She is a consultant, based in Sussex and offers her services primarily to providers based there, though she does travel further afield. Alison is also an Early Years Teacher mentor, safeguarding trainer, SSTEW scale ‘gold standard’ observer and provides coaching on leadership in Early Years. Alison is a staunch advocate of personal and professional learning and development speaking to teams both large and small.
Follow Alison on Twitter @allyfeatherbe or keep inspired by her blogs on her Facebook page Alison Featherbe Learning and Development.