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Acknowledging and Keeping the Best

Best Practices

1/25/2022 | Dr. Tamar Andrews

The pandemic has certainly made a mess of things.  The field of early childhood education has suffered perhaps as much as any other because we have remained open since the beginning, without vaccinations and without any precedents for how to operate through it. Teachers quit in record numbers and programs struggled to stay open. Yet, there were those superstars that showed up every day, welcomed children and families back into their classrooms, and followed the ever-changing protocols to the best of their ability. 


Relationships with these dedicated people require hard work to maintain and foster. Interestingly, these may not be your “best” teachers from a director’s traditional point of view. They may not have BA degrees and you may have even considered letting them go before the pandemic hit. However, they have consistently shown up to work, have helped you stay open, perhaps even profitable throughout one of the worst events in our lifetimes.  They got vaccinated even though they may not have wanted to. They were socially distanced so that they would not be the source of Covid in the center and are working every day. Beyond a thank you, they deserve to be recognized! 


Think of these teachers and employees as integral components of your program and treat them as such.  Spoil them even — provide raises or bonuses to acknowledge their longevity and commitment to your program, surprise them once in a while with treats, lunch, a gift card, or a paid day off — when someone continues to go above and beyond, respond in kind. 


Make sure to walk around and observe them doing the things they do best. Write these down and share with them that these will be going into their personnel files. Now is not the time to think about who to let go of. Now is the time to acknowledge and reward those that got you through the past two years and will make for a brighter future.


For those teachers that do not have the “it” factor, provide paid professional development or subsidies for college courses to help them get to the level of expertise and practice that you are looking for. Revisit your teacher expectations and make sure it is very well-articulated so that teachers know what you expect of them.


Finally, talk to your teachers. Ask about their families, celebrate milestones such as birthdays, graduations, etc with them. They cared enough to show up every day and support you. You have to reciprocate from a position of leadership. You have to show more than they do because you are the role model.


A study conducted several years back found that the reasons employees remain at the same place of employment was because they felt they had a sense of being in on things, appropriate and positive feedback, and a sense of ownership.  Be transparent, provide those compliments, and relinquish some control to your teachers. 


Child care centers often operate more like a family than a business. When the family is happy, YOU are happy. And Oh what a world it could be!

Dr. Tamar Andrews is a world-renowned parenting expert and professor of early childhood education. She is also the director of a large early childhood education center in Los Angeles, CA.

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