Induction of new staff
There are many ways managers can create a positive workplace environment. One of our strategies involves an effective induction and orientation procedure for newly-hired educators.
New staff are given a period of three to four weeks to understand the dynamics of their room. The Educational Leader mentors and supports them during this time so they grow to understand the philosophy of the centre, and can assimilate the philosophy in their daily practice.
We also believe quality relationships with families contribute to the wellbeing of educators.
Our family orientation brings parents and guardians into the learning space before their child starts formal care, building strong partnerships with parents. We roster extra staff at these times so that the child’s educator and their family can have uninterrupted meetings and get to know each other well.
Parent-educator meetings during orientation.
Benefits to staff and service
Educators who experience ongoing stress may eventually ‘burn out’, feel unmotivated, respond less to children, and ultimately leave the workplace.
Another strategy we employ is to bring in outside specialists to support staff in special interests and skill development.
For example, we recently placed a senior Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) therapist in a room to coach staff who needed support to understand the socio-emotional aspects of the behaviour of some children in the room. Following the coaching, we booked a series of workshops for educators to learn how to apply ABA therapy appropriately.
Strengths based model
We also know that educators will feel more fulfilled when they can apply their personal strengths in the workplace so we use a strengths based model that identifies and encourages educators to use their individual skills within the centre.
In practice, this means educators are provided with time out of their regular day to pursue their enthusiasm in particular areas with the children. One educator who loves dancing is our Munch and Move coordinator. One with a passion for the environment is our Sustainability coordinator. Another educator has been able to pursue her interest in intergenerational play by leading connections between residents in aged care and children in our centre.
The key strategy used here is to make small breaks available during the day for these interests so staff can regularly pursue their personal focus area to the benefit of the entire service.
Our Sustainability coordinator Angie discussing long term measures with Julie from ECEEN
When we created a short-term and long-term sustainability management plan, I was driven by the concept of teaching children at least three things that they can demonstrate and implement in their daily practices that relate to sustainability.
We started off with a sustainability roster and each child was rostered to turn off taps, turn off lights, and feed the worms on a daily basis. Soon children assimilated these practices into the existing practices of recycling/composting.
It is very heartening to see the results of this practice over a period of time. I can truly say that sustainable practices are embedded in our daily curriculum.
I plan to create a green team with five new members every week this year and invest 30 minutes each week, to incorporate lessons that foster environmental wellness in children.
I am happy to be chosen the sustainability coordinator and I am motivated to do my bit to drive the change and realise the outcomes that we have set in our Quality Improvement Plan.
Angelina, Sustainability coordinator
And from Cristen, Munch and Move Coordinator
I have always loved incorporating planned and spontaneous physical activities in my room as well as in the outdoor area where all the rooms combine after 2.30pm.
Leading group times has been recognised as my strength and I am happy to be given the responsibility of being the Munch and Move coordinator.
I find this a great opportunity to engage children in active play and I enjoy inventing new games to keep the group times fun and stimulating.
Staff appraisals contribute to wellbeing
We use half yearly and yearly staff appraisals to create performance plans and map out individual goals for each staff.
Each educator chooses on professional development session for themselves and our management team chooses the second session for them based on strengths that can be reinforced or new skills that are required.
All our educators are encouraged to expand their skills sets. For example, we are currently connected with the Deaf Society of NSW to learn the basics of Auslan sign language and how to apply it meaningfully in our everyday curriculum. We all find that learning new and relevant skills helps keep us individually motivated and helps the service build a community of learners and culture of lifelong learning.
The wellbeing of an educator directly affects the wellbeing of a child. This statement rings true when we consider how professional practices in childcare fluctuate between child-centred and didactic approaches (Stipek, 2004).
In the final article of three in this wellbeing series, I will bring together the wider range of theories behind our staff wellbeing practices so keep watching your inbox for Amplify emails!
Stipek, D. (2004). Teaching practices in kindergarten and first grade: Different strokes for different folks. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 19(4), 548–568