By Mary Muhs
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You wear many hats every day. You wear the hat of a leader, director, manager, accountant, human resource professional, counselor, advocate, chef, housekeeper, cheerleader, model, repairperson, salesperson and many others. You are also an educator of educators. Yet, while all these roles can pose their own unique challenges, incorporating professional development opportunities into an early childhood program is often one of the biggest challenges. Because each educator in your program is unique and brings to the table their own education, experience, morals, values and expectations, you have your work cut out for you. How can you help each one of the educators in your program meet requirements, challenge themselves, and ultimately fulfill their own potential?
So Little Time
Within the early childhood education field, there are a myriad of requirements differing from state to state and program to program. State legislation places basic requirements on initial education and experience, while Quality Rating and Improvement Systems, developed in each state, provide requirements for educator credentials along with required annual training or continuing education requirements. While credential requirements and continuing education support a higher level of program quality, these requirements may place a burden on administrators, who must ensure their educators complete requirements on time. Additionally, each educator is an individual. Just as we look to children’s individual development, we must also see our educators as needing unique and individualized support and training, in order to become their very best. No two educators are the same and continuing education needs to be deep and wide in topic, level and applicability.
So how does an administrator provide all of this continuing education while still operating a highly successful early childhood education program?
An Educator-to-Educator Model
In 2014, public school teachers developed Teach to Lead®, in order to show that teachers are valued in their expertise and experience, and can develop education policy and practice to improve children’s learning. Now, through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Education, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development and Teach Plus, Teach to Lead® is supported by 174 diverse organizations from across the education spectrum, including the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the Council for Professional Recognition and many state organizations (Teach to Lead, 2019). Ultimately, the goal is to incorporate educators’ expertise, education, experience and drive to educate and support one another in policy and practice. Could this idea become a means to supporting early childhood education programs by implementing comprehensive educator-led professional development?
Educators providing training or professional development to others in early childhood education is not a new concept. Many states already offer comprehensive training and trainer approval processes for continuing education or coaching and mentoring systems for quality improvement. Instead of relying on all professional development to be delivered by the administration or outside resources, developing an internal process for educators to teach their peers may provide much more than a time-saving solution for administrators. It may also provide empowerment, validation and leadership opportunities for those educators looking to share their experiences with their peers. An educator-to-educator professional development model can create:
No One Right Way
You may already be working or familiar with systems that follow the educator-to-educator understanding, such as professional learning communities, mentorship or coaching, peer coaching and training. Each opportunity offers collaboration, a focus on continual quality improvement and a focus on children learning.
Making It Work
Since many educators do not have experience with group facilitation, coaching, mentoring or training, it may be necessary to start by talking about a few best practices when it comes to working with other adults. Consider these practices to make the most of your educator-to-educator professional development model (Margolis, 2009).
Early childhood education administrators have many choices to make every day, and many hats to wear. Designing opportunities to include your program’s educators in professional development may give you more time to wear other hats or perhaps share a hat or two with them, as well.
Margolis, J. (2009). How teachers lead teachers. Educational Leadership. 66(5). Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/feb09/vol66/num05/How-Teachers-Lead-Teachers.aspx
Superville, D. (2015). School districts turn to teachers to lead. Education Week. 34(18), pp. 15-16. Retrieved from https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/01/21/school-districts-turn-to-teachers-to-lead.html
Teach to Lead. (2019). About Teach to Lead. Retrieved from http://teachtolead.org/
Mary Muhs has been in the early childhood education field for over 30 years. She is the department chair for early childhood dducation with Rasmussen College. Muhs earned a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education Administration from National Louis University and is a Doctoral Candidate in Early Childhood Education with Walden University. Her experience extends from working with infants through preschool, center leadership and administration, training, mentoring and coaching adult educators in the field. In 2018, Muhs was selected as an Exchange Leader for Exchange Magazine and was a featured subject matter expert in the Exchange Press Turn Key Video Series, “The Heart of Infant and Toddler Care.” Muhs is also the published author of “Family Engagement in Early Childhood Programs Quick Guide” with Redleaf Press. She is a strong advocate for high quality education programs for both adults and children.