Leadership in Early Childhood (EC) is challenging and exciting. The roles and responsibilities of EC leaders are extensive, and they hold the key to creating quality programs for young children. EC leaders work within their services to lead staff, children and families in a number of modes; pedagogy, management, advocacy, community and conceptual leadership. As part of this report I conducted an interview with an EC leader, which was later reflected upon. Additionally I made a personal reflection in order to recognise the progression of my leadership skills and knowledge over semester two, 2012. For the full report click Leadership Research Report.
- Tell me a little bit about yourself? (years in the profession, qualifications, past teaching positions)
- In your current position what are your key leadership responsibilities?
- In your current position how do you address;
- Pedagogical leadership (guidance of staff, children and families)
- Administrative leadership (managing staff, portfolios, programming etc.)
- Community leadership (being visible in the community, relationships, promoting EC)
- Conceptual leadership (new ideas, taking on change, thinking outside the box)
- Advocacy leadership (supporting change, advocating for children and the profession)
- What do you feel are your leadership strengths? What do you feel you could improve on?
- How is the EYLF incorporated into your leadership responsibilities?
- What is your perspective on lifelong learning?
- Have you had the opportunity to be in a mentoring position? If so what did you learn from the experience/s?
- How do you deal with stress and time management?
- Describe your ideal class or program in regards to communication (between staff, children, families and the community)
- What has been your best Kodak moment in a leadership position?
- What has been the biggest challenge you have faced within a leadership position? What did you learn from the experience?
- What is your vision?
- How would you describe your ideal EC program? How do make your vision real in your classroom on a daily basis?
As a result of studying this unit, completing this task, working alongside quality early childhood leaders and my research into this field, I have greatly strengthened my skills and knowledge and I feel I am now a leader for early childhood education and care. Across the past 12 weeks I have travelled a journey. I started by dreading the idea of leadership positions and responsibilities and regarding leadership to be solely the role of the Director. Now I embrace the leadership attitudes, perspectives, skills and strategies that come with being a teacher in Early Childhood. I regard leadership to be the obligation of all teachers, to advocate for the best quality care and education that we can provide.
As previously stated, I have grown into a leader of early childhood by participating in this unit, conducting my own research and working with a number of truly inspirational teachers. When focusing on the interview, I conducted in accordance with this assessment piece, I have learned so much from Sandra Paige.
- The point that most prominent in my mind is the importance she places on building relationships with children and families. As she has demonstrated over the years, and explained to me in this interview, it is crucial to get to know the child and family in order to teach to their interests and needs. With a strong, trusting and genuine relationship, learning and teaching potential can be reached and outcomes for the teacher, child and family are limitless.
- Additionally Sandra has given me realistic view of teaching across her years, sharing with me her challenges and ‘Kodak moments’. She has taught me that you never stop learning, you need to continuously challenge yourself and it is so important to savour the memorable moments to give you strength and motivation for the future.
As I conducted this interview after the majority of this unit had occurred, the knowledge I gained from Sandra was built on from the foundation of knowledge I gained in Emma Morton’s lectures. Emma’s classes are always a time of sharing, growing and reflecting on our skills and knowledge as teachers, and once again at the end of this semester I can see the significant progression I have made.
The content I gained the most from this semester is;
- the faces of leadership,
- the roles and qualities of a leader,
- emotional intelligence, and
I know have the knowledge, skills and strategies to develop myself and others into quality leaders for young children. My emotional intelligence has grown exponentially from being completely unaware to being in control and aware of my emotions and the emotions of others. Not only has this helped me in my teaching, but also in my social and personal life. Also my understanding and appreciation of the mentoring process has grown. I now know that mentoring (when done well) is an invaluable experience for teachers, as both the experienced and novice teacher benefit from the process and gain new ideas, methods and concepts for teaching. As a consequence of Emma’s lectures my perspective has changed from, ‘I don’t want to be a leader’ to ‘You don’t have to be a director to be a leader’ to ‘I am a leader’. This transition has been invaluable to me, and I don’t know that I would have made it without Emma and her motivation and inspiration.
In addition to studying this unit I have undertaken research of my own. In particular I have explored different leadership styles, the notion of transformational leadership, the distributive leadership model and the need for national training and recognition for early childhood leaders. Due to my research I now consider myself to be a transformational leader who influences and inspired others, who is creative and visionary, who is creating change and encouraging others to participate and deliver the best outcomes for young children (Kagan, 2003; Marotz & Lawson, 2007).
As I do not see myself in a Director’s role in the future, yet still want to have input and responsibility as a leader, I strongly connect with the distributive leadership model. Having a whole team of teachers and parents working together with shared roles responsibilities, means that the excessive load is taken from the Director and the ‘team’ have power, input and ownership over the centre and it’s vision and goals. The profession requires national training and recognition for EC leaders (Aubrey, 2012). This would validate the roles of leaders, attract more people to the profession, lower the staff turnover, improve job satisfaction, quality teaching and outcomes for children. This recognition is vital for the profession to expand and flourish.
In my numerous jobs, I work with teachers and directors who are great role models. Although they have different occupation titles, they all inspire me in their strong leadership roles. As I see them work with children, build relationships with families and mentor staff, I am constantly reminded of why I work with children and I’m given a regular motivational boost. Additionally as I work with children and other teachers several times a week, I am able to practice and implement my newly found leadership skills and knowledge.
As a result of Sandra’s experience, expertise and transformational, active, consultative and participative leadership style the children in her care and her classroom amaze. Her classroom is smooth running, efficient and constantly busy. The environment is welcoming and enticing, yet comfortable and flexible. Children are always actively learning, exploring new things and extending themselves to new heights. Families are treated as good friends and co-teachers of the children, and daily Sandra continues to build stronger relationships with ‘her families’. Although there is always more to learn, Sandra is the best model of ‘best practice’ I have seen.
Due to Sandra’s leadership and teaching in the centre, she positively impacts and influences the staff, children and families of The Park. Sandra is an inspiring and motivating mentor and role model to all staff at The Park. In particular, the staff under her supervision are comfortable and confident in their roles and work as part of an effective team. The children in Sandra’s class are confident, happy and learning to the best of their ability while developing skills and knowledge for the future. The families of Sandra’s class are welcomed daily and are an integral part of the classroom and community. Families are comfortable and open when talking to Sandra about anything, as they have a lasting and genuine relationship.
EC leadership is a vital part of the EC field. Leaders act in a number of ways to keep the quality of their programs high and ensure children reach their potential. They work in advocacy, community relations, conceptual, administrative and pedagogical leadership roles. Due to the knowledge I have gained through the assessment task, the unit EDFD314, working in the field and my own research I have developed as a teacher, an advocate and as a leader for the EC profession. Leadership training and recognition is crucial for creating quality programs and outcomes for young children. It is the cornerstone for our successful progression into the future.