In my first post I promised to share my adventures as I worked in early childhood services and topical issues and research. I'm afraid I've been a bit slow in doing so. My plan for 2017 is to write regularly, here's my first of many.
The Big Steps Campaign is gaining momentum. Sometimes it's comments made in ignorance that fuel the fires for change. Comments such as those from Senator David Leyonhjelm about educators being glorified babysitters. Comments that galvanise people to articulate their beliefs and advocate for our profession. Comments that get people outraged and off the fence. Well done Senator, thank you for your words.
Interestingly families have been sharing their outrage, appreciating the role educators play in their child's life. Reading the comments on the Big Steps Facebook page one can't help but feel the message about the importance of early childhood education and care is being heard. Commonly seen and reported as a workforce initiative, ECEC is so much more than that.
Many families rely on regular care for their children so they can go to work. That's a given; the reality for many for families, while long hours in an early childhood service is a reality for their children. When I see families arrive at a service for the first time, I watch their nervousness. Is this place going to be okay for my child? Will they be safe and well cared for? Will they be happy? Will they make friends?
Liaison with families and community is a key aspect of the National Quality Standard. Quality Area 6 Collaborative relationships with families and communities focusses on how early childhood services interact with their stakeholders; the children who attend, their families and the community they operate within. These are critical relationships to develop and maintain.
I'm currently working with a community preschool run by a parent board. It takes me back to my beginnings. That time of busy parenthood when I found time to attend evening meetings, bake for cake stalls (my children might say it was the only time I baked!) and learn those very valuable skills one learns on committees. One of the most important skills is managing relationships.
Relationships can make or break any workplace. Relationships in early childhood services are particularly important. Relationships between educators; between educators and the service management team; between educators and families; and most importantly those warm, responsive relationships children deserve. The well-being of educators has a direct effect on the well-being of children, it's that important.
When adults in a service are in conflict, the tension is noticeable to families and children. Conflict can arise from poor communication and past hurts that have not been acknowledged. Often educators are afraid to raise issues because they are worried about the impact that might have on their livelihood. It's so important for service management to notice when this is happening and support educators to be heard.
Cultures within services can change quickly when educators can share their points of view safely. Developing an effective team environment takes time, there's no time like now to start.