Searching for answers…

As people we are constantly searching for answers, solutions and strategies.

We want to know everything!

The knowledge is the power.

The unfair advantage against everyone else.

We google.

We join FB groups.

We ask on forums.

We go to conferences.

These are all great ideas.

But first… you need to take a step back…

because you may be getting answers.

But are you getting answers to all the WRONG questions?

The questions that give you the high look, the 10 thousand foot view of what is really happening in your center. A famous saying, “Who is the smart man? The one that can foresee the future.”

Now, we don’t have magic 8 balls or golden wands to magically wave three times… but we can ask the right questions to learn the following.

Where should my resources for Professional Development go next year?

  • How can you possibly know which trainers to bring in?
  • What topics they should speak about?
  • And what time of year it should be done?

The answer is, you need to reflect with your teachers.  

Where is their competency gap?

Now, you will have a mixed bag of skill sets.

That’s why taking the time to ask specific questions will ensure a better use of your resources for PD.

How can I best support my teachers?

I hear this question ALL day!

Before you answer this question, you need to think about a different one.

Where are my staff struggling right now?

Is it:

  • Classroom management
  • Parent relationships
  • Positive language with children
  • Dealing with sensory and impulsive behavior issues
  • Reggio inspired provocations
  • Lesson planning
  • Documentation
  • Observations
  • Getting along with their co teacher
  • Investing in their own learning
  • And so much more!

You have to be able to pinpoint where the area of struggle is.

And then – where do you want them to be?

Picture what that looks like by filling in the blanks.

“I’ll know my teachers have effective classroom management skills when I see ________ and __________ and I hear _____________.”

What do you need to see and hear? – this helps it become measurable.

You can use this sentence with any areas of struggle.

My point – don’t go in blind and do whatever other directors are doing.

A director called me up all stressed out.

“I need to plan a fun night for my teachers.”

I said, “That’s supposed to be fun, you sound super stressed out! Doesn’t sound too exciting to me.”

“Every month we do a fun night, but this month we also have a parent teacher conferences, and we have the father daughter dance night, and we have a staff meeting to discuss next unit’s curriculum…

I’m not sure teachers are going to be too excited to come to fun night, but we always do it every month, so I really shouldn’t skip on it..

Right?”

She was asking for some of kind insurance policy.

As if when I told her it was ok, then magically her teachers would be ok with it.  

NO!!!!

You need to know what your teachers need – you want to support them.

Well, look at the calendar – you just told me that 3 nights this month they have to come out in the evening.

I’m sure your fun night will be great, but is it what they NEED this month?

As you can see, asking the right questions is a game changer in really showing up as a leader.

  • If you truly care
  • Want to be of service
  • And create an environment that fosters the growth of teachers as leaders.

Then you need to take these steps back and truly reflect.

Let’s go one step further.

Maybe you take the time to reflect on YOUR OWN performance.

And what YOU could be doing better.

However, like I said before, if you want to create a collaborative culture then you need to give your teachers the skill set to reflect themselves.

How do you do that?

I’ve put together a resource for you “The Top 20 Questions for Teachers to Reflect On.”  download here

How to implement this?

  1. At your next full staff meeting, print out the question booklet and give a copy to every teacher.
  2. You will need about 60-90 minutes for this meeting.

The reason is, you want to give the time for teachers to answer the questions and then reflect together.

One question in the workbook is

At what point in this year did you feel most joyful and inspired about your work?

Sometimes as the director you think you know when everyone is happy.

You tell yourself,

“Oh this activity, or program was so great, everyone loved it last year, let’s do it again.”

  • Did you ask the teachers?
  • Did you find out their real feedback on how they felt about the event?

Asking these questions, gives you insight as to whether or not you should repeat something or decide if it needs some simple tweaking.

Another question:

Did you fly solo this year and try to figure it all out on your own?

You want a collaborative culture?

Then you need to really find out if your staff are collaborating with each other.

And one final example:

What​ ​did​ ​you​ ​do​ ​this​ ​year​ ​for​ ​yourself?​ ​

Did​ ​you​ ​take​ ​time​ ​to​ ​go​ ​on​ ​vacation?

Any​ ​hobbies?​ ​

What​ ​effect​ ​did​ ​you​ ​have​ ​on​ ​your​ ​practice?

Self-awareness is one the best gifts!

The reason I call it a gift is because when you know your needs, your triggers, your pitfalls you can truly become an educator of excellence.

As a director you may have surrounded yourself with an incredible community of people who can support you.

Who give you the gentle reminder when you are headed to burnout and need a break.

Most teachers don’t have this.

They aren’t aware enough to realize they need this community.

Or self-aware enough to realize when they need a mental health day.

Or a break.

Or just a good old manicure..

You are the LEADER – step up and show them ways they can do this.

Highlight the value and impact that it has on themselves, the children and the entire culture. Now go download your copy of the reflection workbook HERE, so you can use these questions with your staff and finish the year strong!  

Enjoy!

Chanie Wilschanski

Chanie Wilschanski is an early childhood leadership coach and CEO of DiscoverED Consulting. Her leadership program is designed to help early childhood directors build a school of excellence, a collaborative culture and create an environment that fosters the growth of teachers as leaders.

Her writing has appeared in the Huffington Post, Readers Digest, Medium, INC and Thrive Global.

She has also been interviewed on NBC news radio with Sara Lee Kessler.

In addition, she currently directs the Early Childhood Teacher Training program at the Beth Rivkah College in Brooklyn, NY – where she lives with her husband and 4 children.