PLAY IT BY EAR: Beginning educational leaders walk with your team.
The word invokes an immediate response. We’ve all been a part of a team (that for one reason or another) has some issues with productivity, personality clashes or operations that are not running smoothly. As Educational Leaders we may look inward and have an overwhelming feeling of ‘how can I make this work better?’ and possibly feel resentment for colleagues and the work place if we aren’t seeing immediate improvements.
What can we do to prevent this from happening? How can our individual actions make for a better work environment and change the functionality of the team which coincidentally creates a better environment for the children in our care?
The Guide to the National Quality Framework (NQF) outlines the the key role of the Educational Leader (EL) to provide guidance, mentoring and support through building relationships with the team. The guide states that an Educational Leader should be willing to mentor and support staff, use communication and interpersonal skills as well as articulate goals, pedagogy and practices (ACECQA, 2018, pg. 306). In my experience as Educational Leader, I have found that applying similar strategies that we use to teach children work best. I know how that sounds...hear me out though.
Strategies such as role modelling can be an effective method when affecting change within your work environment. By demonstrating the strategies you wish to see reflected in your team and by ‘walking the walk’ (ACECQA, 2019 pg.19) can have a positive impact when delivered in a positive manner, just as it does with the children in our classrooms. Setting examples such as;
wearing your sun safe hat
setting up an outdoor learning experience
meaningfully engaging with children
packing away the shed (in a manner that doesn’t constitute an OH&S nightmare)
These simple actions can all assist in allowing your team to see the expectations and have standards set. Be the change you want to see in your workplace.
Knowing the personalities of your individual team members is also a key factor in being a successful mentor, and this takes time (Navarra, 2019). If we know how each team member prefers to have information delivered to them then we are able to communicate effectively on an individual level (Mosely, 2016). For instance does Leah prefer to have information delivered directly or have the sandwich approach? Be aware of the type of language you are using. Is it short, sharp and to the point or long-winded without clarity?
To ensure that you have delivered information and it has been interpreted and understood by your team, ask for them to repeat it back to you. Or ask them what they think about the information.
The Feedback Loop
Feedback is a great tool in gaining a shared understanding of the information you are delivering as well as gives the team a way to have their say in pedagogical practices. When the team are involved in decision making, share their insights (Semann, 2020) and have a say in big and little things, they are invested in the service because they feel more a part of it. Just as we use children’s strengths and interests in planning and programming our curriculum, we can use our team’s thoughts and strengths where possible in the operation of the service for better organisational performance (Slattery, 2020).
Walking with your team, but drive it!
So how does this inspire a team of early childhood educators to work cohesively and collaboratively toward a common goal? There has to be a drive to begin with. We can harness this through communication and valuing each team member as individuals which allows for reciprocal relationships to be formed and therefore develops more of a willingness to contribute and collaborate as a cohesive team.
Working as a team can take time to find the ‘rhythm’ to which the team works best at. It cannot be rushed. However, when clear expectations are set out and consistency is applied (Bucalo, 2020) and all team members are aware of these expectations then the team can walk to the same beat. This isn’t easy to master. It will ebb and flow. Take the time you need to invest in your team, walk with them and hopefully you will see the cohesion benefit children in education.
About Megan Dahl
Casual Trainer at Stone & Sprocket
Megan began as a trainee over twelve years ago and has moved from Diploma to Room Leader, then to Educational Leader over a period of six years.Working overseas in the Dublin, Ireland Early Education System which has given Megan a contextualised view of the Australian Early Childhood Education sector and afforded her the scope of the National Curriculum and it’s standing in the world.
Megan has utilised the last twelve years to hone her skills, paying particular attention to pedagogy and teaching strategies whilst guiding and facilitating training teams in their curriculum decisions and pedagogical teaching strategies.
With a passion for mentoring and assisting others to develop meaningful documentation and planning for children’s learning, Megan likes to use the whole child to help teachers plan experiences to further their development.
The Educational Leader Resource, ACECQA, 2019.
The Guide to the NQF, ACECQA, 2018.
The importance of understanding personality type in the workplace. Lauren Mosely, 2016. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/importance-understanding-personality-type-workplace-lauren-copeland
Understanding Personalities in the Workplace. K. Navarra. 2019 https://equimanagement.com/articles/understanding-personalities-in-the-workplace
Creating a thinking organisation. A. Semann. 2020 https://semannslattery.com/creating-a-thinking-organisation/
Finding your inner strength – using strengths at work. C.Slattery. 2020 https://semannslattery.com/finding-your-inner-strength-using-strengths-at-work/
Creating Rhythm in the Workplace. G. Bucalo. 2020 https://tier1performance.com/creating-rhythm-in-workplace/