As early childhood professionals, we must constantly set new goals for our child care programs and try to stay ahead of new trends within our field. We need to strive to mentally absorb the all best knowledge and resources available to positively influence the children throughout their care with us and in their long-term development. For instance, the field of education research, which continues to provide new insight on the growth and development of young children, provides us with findings that at times can impact how we adjust our personal approach as providers when caring for and teaching children. We may consider these research findings in the early education field as inspiration to update our goals as child care providers so the daily, monotonous routine doesn’t get the best of us.
Being a child care provider is no easy task, as we can at times create a plateau in our practice, enthusiasm, and willingness to try new things. Providers can become comfortable with the usual daily routines and the predictability of what happens day-to-day, which then leads to an almost inevitable, yet mechanical approach in our work.
As a result, planning daily activities, including special occasions and holidays, can unintentionally get pushed aside side in favor of doing what has now become automatic. Just stop to think, what is this “autopilot” mindset doing to the child care program, the children, and even the teachers?
Think of your daily actions, for example, if a specific activity or approach was a good idea once, it doesn’t mean it will necessarily be a good idea for every group of children year after year. Consider this when you get an entire new group or new individual children and how this change brings forth a new dynamic, a new set of individual differences, temperaments, energy levels, and interests.
Observant and child-directed teaching demands that we take the aforementioned factors into consideration when planning learning experiences and providing materials for children. Otherwise, the long-term educational plan will not meet the children’s needs and teachers will begin to see troublesome consequences as inattention, misbehavior, and stagnating skill development.
The most important question is, how do we prevent our routine-like actions as educators from negatively affecting children in our programs?
A good place to start is by reading the NAEYC Code of Ethical Conduct and the CDA’s Essentials for Working with Young Children, both of which serve as reminders on the responsibilities we have as educators towards young children, to our co-workers, employers, families, and to the community.
Next, it can be beneficial to set some short and long-term goals. After these have been planned, appropriate and meaningful activities can be scheduled and carried out.
Here are some ideas:
- Observe the classroom to determine each child’s skill levels and interests
- Search online for new ideas, including tutorials on seasonal and holiday projects
- Network with other teachers to brainstorm on indoor and outdoor children activities
- Read the latest educational print and online media to stay on top of current trends and news
On the other hand, long-term goals can help assess and improve the overall quality of our programs with time, so it’s important to think of ideas to fulfill those goals. It may take you out of your comfort zone, but as the saying goes, “If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough.”
Here are some ideas:
- Think about taking ECE classes, earning a credential, certification, or degree to continue your professional development
- Conduct a self-study of your own practice and teaching environment, or ask a co-worker to observe you. Hopefully, this was done as part of the CDA® process, but it’s a good idea to repeat it periodically to make sure your early childhood practices are still on the best track.
- Ask families for their feedback on your program once a year, as their input will provide you with valuable insight.
Finally, share your goals with someone else. Choose someone who will cheer you on, motivate you, and hold you accountable to make things happen for your child care program. Maybe you and a co-worker can help each other in this regard, so you’ll both reach goals you can be proud of! Remember that being a child care provider has an essential role in shaping the lives and minds of our nation’s youngest children, and putting the right time and effort to update our approach as early educators can have a long lasting, yet positive impact in their lives.