The following is an article that I wrote and was published last fall in the California AEYC journal Connections.
A Field of Leaders
When we think of a leader, most of us think of the President, the Quarterback of our favorite NFL team, the CEO of a major company. But when you look closely at the definition of a leader – a person who directs or guides others, you see that any person who works in the field of early childhood care and education (ECCE) is in fact a leader because they guide children everyday. It does not matter if you are a lead teacher, a home care provider, a classroom assistant or the staff person preparing the meals, the work you do with children is leadership and as a field we need to begin to recognize and take the role seriously. Further, ECCE must go beyond simply being a field of leaders to becoming a field of effective leaders so our status can be advanced in the public eye. Here are some steps to get us started.
Effective leaders are intentional in what they do. In ECCE this means you are intentional in the work you do for and on behalf of children and families. You establish routines based on current research and best practice so the children you serve can develop to their full potential. You recognize how your work is supporting the individual development of each child in your care and how it will affect their future. You maintain a high level of professionalism at all times.
Effective leaders share what they know. In ECCE this means not just being effective with the children, but communicating with others about what you do. You talk with families each day about your approach and their child’s progress so you can work together to support their child’s development. You collaborate with ECCE colleagues to support each person’s professional growth. You showcase the field of ECCE in your community to advance public awareness. You share your expertise with your elected officials so they support policies and practices that positively affect young children and families.
Effective leaders take risks. In ECCE this means you get out of your comfort zone and take a step forward to becoming a more effective leader. Although you are scared, you commit to taking a class or entering a certification program to increase your professional knowledge. Although you are shy, you commit to talking to each child’s family everyday. Although you are busy, you invite colleagues to meet regularly to network and share ideas. Although it means more work, you contact a local business and ask them if they would host a Week of the Young Child exhibit. Although you have never done it before, you send your congressperson an email asking them to support a piece of important legislation.
As a field of leaders, the ECCE workforce must be intentional in our commitment to advancing our field, taking one small risk at a time until we have the status we deserve, wages that are worthy and all children and families have access to affordable, high quality, early childhood programs.