Despondent Practitioners? Feel you need to add the SPARK back into your Early Years Educators...?


Collectively, as leaders we could agree that our yard stick for success would be for every member of our team to feel that spark and calling which led them to care for children. To feel excited each day to put into place fresh activities, eager to see the responses and engagement from the children in their care. Keen to discuss and reflect together on their successes and raring to extend on their and the children’s achievements – sharing with parents and excited to show off their projects through displays and parent engagement. Confident, happy and thirsty to continue their own CPD.

Not every day feels like this.

Before long, it can sometimes seem that there are rarely days like this…

Where does it start to go wrong?

It goes without saying that (mostly) the higher up the leadership ladder, the less time spent with the little folk. The gauge of what we cascade is left in the team on the shop floor. It can seem that the less inspired the team are must mean the less inspiring we are. What a crushing thought...

In study and preparation for leadership, there are theories and methods we learn about and approaches we can tap into to – Bowlby, transactional theory, Japanese ways to streamline productivity… but in our nurturing world of Early Years, such CEO-driven approaches don’t always seem to fit.

We feel the pressure and ultimately, try as we might, we know this can trickle through the team if we aren’t super careful – along with mounting pressures from the various homelives and socio-economic issues of today which each of our team members carry with them. We expect them to leave it at the door and keep smiles in place for the children – or operate an open door policy to sound out issues and really tease down to underlying issues – being the problem solving guru to not allow personal or team conflicts to affect productivity or motivation.

Leadership can be tough – Early Years leaders and Managers have so many plates to spin and hats to wear – Designated Senco, Safeguarding Lead, recruitment, supervision, moderation, hub and cluster liaison, parent liaison, professional dialogue, EYFS lead, transition meetings, changing landscapes – curriculum tweaks, policy changes, GDPR, FGM, PREVENT, OfSTED, EYPP, headcounts, financial pressures or liaison with the Local Authority! Yes… the list goes on.

And underpinning all of this, is a love for childcare, for sparking magic and ideas in little brains, and the wonderful role we play in the short time we spend in these little folks’ lives.

Starting to sound like an impossible task?

We aren’t super-human.

You. Are. Not. Super-Human.

I like the perspective of Debra Ancona “there is nothing wrong with being an “incomplete leader”. No-one has the full set of cards. We need to draw on the skills and abilities of others in our team.”

How about that? Being a leader doesn’t have to mean that you provide the whole package (and furthermore, you don’t need a wand).

Adaptions can’t happen overnight – sure, we would love an inspirational project or idea to really ‘gee up’ the team and get creative and motivational juices flowing again, but in reality, it takes lots of small steps, in the same direction, towards a SHARED goal.

Start simple and include the entire team.

A simple vision statement – in collaboration with the entire team, can go a long way into reminding us why we’re here and that we all want the same thing for our children and families.

Stick to one sentence and perhaps start with “I want our children to be…

Be sure to include something from everyone.

Leadership Thoughts gives us 5 tips to motivate our team:

Clear Goal Setting

Empowering People

Giving the right support

Communicate the vision

Show appreciation

So, what next? Well, you’ve begun to create the vision – keep it clear by including everyone, nobody hiding behind shy personas or strong characters.

How do you be sure to tailor the right support? Empower each and every team member? Play to their strengths! If it is permissible to be an ‘incomplete leader’, then use the strengths of the team to complete the mosaic.

Asking each and every one of your team what they enjoy the most, what their strengths are and (importantly) how they can benefit the team, is empowering – a personal invitation to step inside the machine and help evolve practice and collaboration.

Start with areas of the curriculum – or responsibilities for ideas. This could be as simple as setting up a group Pinterest board or collective research opportunity.

Based on your joint discussion, award ‘Champion’ roles to each and every member of your team. This doesn’t mean more responsibilities and tasks defined by someone else – rather complete ownership of an early learning area or provision which really enthuses them… and with everybody taking ownership of an aspect of early learning or provision, they can feel supported and respected in their area.

Pay close attention and be open to all interpretations – allow freedom to research and share ideas, create areas and collect resources. Ensure there is time to be updated and discuss and allow time in every team meeting for team members to discuss their progress and ideas.

Use this as a basis for discussion and reflection – a motivated and excited educator is a happy-to-contribute team member in discussions and meetings.

You are one step closer to a culture of reflective and supportive practitioners

For more tools on team and champion roles, do get in contact. NurturePlay has a range of audits and practical tools to implement, along with Team Meeting presentations for you to kick start discussions and projects.

early years team motivation

Further References:

Debra Ancona (Julian Grenier in Articles Leadership and Management on November 2, 2018); (5 tips to support your team)

#earlyyears #teach #management #leadership #motivate #employment #education #childcare #nursery #preschool

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