Melody McGuire: Being a Purpose-Driven Provider

April 27, 2022

“I found myself during circle time in an early childhood classroom,” Melody says. That was 20 years ago, and she’d just spent a year volunteering with Hands On Atlanta, a nonprofit group that addresses pressing community problems. Melody was going into her second year in college and wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her life. Then a workforce development counselor suggested she substitute in an early childhood setting. On her first day at work, she had a thrilling surprise as she joined the children sitting in their morning circle. “The teacher encouraged the children to get up and dance, and I was hooked. I thought I could play while I was getting paid,” Melody recalls.

And the prospect led her to start studying ECE in college and devote herself to the field. Since then, Melody has filled a wide range of roles in her profession. She’s been a quality advisor for child care programs in Indiana. She’s worked as an independent consultant who helped centers throughout Indiana with program development and accreditation. One of her clients was Auntie Mame’s, an Indianapolis center that valued her services so much that they asked her to stay on as their executive director. At the time, Melody wanted to cut down on travel because her mom wasn’t well, so she took Auntie Mame’s up on their offer and enrolled her two young children in the program. Melody remained there for over two years before COVID struck and she needed to switch gears like many people in her profession.

“Auntie Mame’s was in a hot spot during the pandemic and had to shut its doors,” Melody recalls. That was a downer, but Melody kept her upbeat outlook on life and found a way to keep contributing to her field. “At the time, I was writing stories for children, and I met a woman who was hosting a professional development group on the Clubhouse social app. I joined the group to meet other children’s authors and wound up hosting a room on ECE. This first discussion took place on New Year’s Day 2021. And two weeks later, I started my own group, Early Childhood Educators Circle Time, on the Clubhouse app.”

It’s open to all members of the early childhood community, and is the largest ECE group on the Clubhouse app. The 6,400 people who tune in each month include center directors, family child care home providers, program administrators, authors, child and family specialists, classroom teachers, social workers, community activists and parents. “The conversations attract everyone from folks with PhDs to rising teachers who’ve just earned their Child Development Associate® (CDA) Credential™,” Melody explains.

And they love having a space to network, share concerns, trade experiences in ECE and discuss trends in the field. “We chat about everything from problems talking to parents to marketing programs, from behavioral issues to the value of earning a CDA,” Melody explains. “I’ve encouraged people to get their CDA because it’s the basis of a career in ECE, and I’ve inspired a lot of interest in the credential. One person in the group had run a family child care home for eight years and had confidence in her skills but was afraid of taking classes. Now she’s going for her CDA. There’s also a PD Specialist who’s now thinking about becoming a CDA instructor,” Melody says.

These folks and many others have shared their hopes and dreams, tragedies and triumphs, Melody says. “There was a woman in California who opened a family child care home so she could stay home and care for the child she was expecting. Sadly, her daughter was stillborn, but she kept her facility going. Another mom’s son was murdered, and she opened a child care center in his honor,” Melody says. “There are so many inspiring stories that come up.”

And they come from people who hail from all backgrounds and countries worldwide. “We recently had a listener from Pakistan,” Melody says. “We’ve had dignitaries and celebrities. We had a preschool teacher who is also musician. He has written a book of songs for young children. And recently, he played the ukulele on our Circle Time platform and shared one of his songs.”

Like him, Melody is also an entertainer, and she shows her talents in a podcast she calls Bedtime Soul Stories for kids. During the podcasts, she reads books aloud to help children gain character skills and learn new words, besides having fun. And she’s connected with both parents and their kids. She’s such a beguiling reader, they call her the “baby whisperer” and even compare her to Mr. Rodgers, as Melody explains. And like Mr. Rodgers, Melody has important life lessons to share.

She passes them on to the thousands she reaches through Circle Time. And one of the subjects Melody stresses is the importance of having a sense of purpose, she explains. She’s even put together a book called The Purpose Driven Provider. “It’s an anthology that includes my story and that of six innovative women in the ECE field. We talk about how the commitment to our calling has helped us cultivate the potential of the children and families in our care.”

That’s what it takes to stay in ECE, as Melody points out. “Many people come into the early childhood profession for the wrong reasons. And I was one of them at the start. I thought it would be an easy job with weekends and summers off. But these pluses weren’t the reason I stayed. The reason was because I found meaning in my work despite some of the roadblocks I’ve encountered.”

They include the challenges she’s faced in completing her education, a topic she often brings up in Circle Time. “It took me 12 years to complete a four-year degree in ECE, what with working, getting promotions and having two kids. When I finally did it, it taught me to never give up on your dreams. Just keep going when you find something you love,” Melody says. So, she recently resumed her consulting work as centers open up again. She’s still committed to helping teachers develop, get accredited and provide the quality services children deserve.

But her current focus is Circle Time, as she explains. “It allows me to build a sense of community that serves the common good. So, my plan is to keep it going and expand. I recently did an international symposium on how to meet children’s needs during the current pandemic and beyond,” she says. And she wants to play a role in helping her community move ahead with purpose and passion. “My plan is to have Circle Time become an association where educators can talk about their challenges, concerns and hopes. I want it to be a space where we all come together to honor the values of equity and diversity in the ECE field.”

And whether she’s talking about teachers or young learners, Melody circles back to an important life lesson she’s picked up during her wide-ranging career. No matter what our age, education or background, “we all want to be heard,” Melody says. “And the time I spent working with children has helped me better understand the adults I now reach online. We’re just like children. We just have a little more experience of the world.” And the experiences she’s had have left her with an enduring goal. “If I can help one teacher, one parent or one child, my life is worthwhile,” she says. And this keen sense of commitment, as she points out, is what it takes to be a purpose-driven provider.


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