Previously, Niyati Prabhu has written for us about a local research project she led which connected parents, educators, schools and children in order to improve her service’s school readiness programs. In the next three weeks, Niyati is sharing a range of educator-wellbeing strategies employed at Cherry Bridge Station, Lane Cove, where she is the nominated supervisor.
As early childhood and OSHC educators address the changing demands of our profession, there’s an emerging focus on our individual responsibility for wellbeing.
Stress inducers such as long hours, low pay, poor working conditions, lack of professional support, and uncertain funding policies continue to result in high staff turnover in many services.
I see my role as a nominated supervisor as being vital in advocating support for early childhood staff and articulating their needs publicly.
Our program works on the principal that the wellbeing of an educator has a direct effect on the wellbeing of the child.
Attraction and retention
One of the questions I often ask candidates during job interviews is to share a reflection on the one thing they liked most about their previous workplace, and the one thing they liked least.
Their answers give me an insight into the candidates and what they are looking for in our workplace, but they also challenge me to look at strategies I can implement to retain my current staff.
Staff survey brings change
At Cherry Bridge Station we run an anonymous staff satisfaction survey toward the end of every year.
The educators take this opportunity to share things that are going well for them and concerns that need to be addressed.
Last November, following the results of the annual staff satisfaction survey, we implemented a mindfulness yoga session for educators and children on a weekly basis.
A forty minute session every Thursday allows the educators to understand the principles of Mindfulness and implement them into their learning environments.
Russ Harris, a pioneer of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy describes mindfulness from a psychological perspective as paying attention with flexibility, openness and curiosity. From his perspective, mindfulness is an awareness process and not a thinking process.
For example, mindfulness involves bringing awareness or paying attention to your experience in this moment as opposed to being caught up in your thoughts.
The educators have reported positive outcomes after taking these classes.
Joanne in the 4-5s room
[It] provides me the time to take a pause. I look forward to this class, because … for once I have the opportunity to close my eyes, listen to the music in the background and slowly bring my focus to my breathing techniques. I can then see myself applying these techniques in children’s everyday learning. I can ask children to stop and close their eyes when I feel I need to calm them down. I particularly find that children are much calmer in the outdoor area, right after our mindfulness session.
Sheree, 0-2s room
The mindfulness class in our room and age group is very different … the educators along with children are doing yoga and mindfulness activities simultaneously. Unlike the older group, where the educators can close their eyes and children are also following the instructions, we are helping children feel different textures, follow rhythmic movements and try different yoga postures.
I also feel that we are able to transition better to the next activity after our yoga class. The educators feel refreshed and the pace at which we do activities after the class progressively slows down. I have begun to use rhythmic movements like patting, wriggling, slow dancing with babies to aide smoother transitions. In a way, it’s the first step to building mindfulness awareness
Our program works on the principal that the wellbeing of an educator has a direct effect on the wellbeing of the child. It is something we consciously plan for and invest in.
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.
The 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.
The wellbeing of an educator directly impacts the wellbeing of a child. This statement rings true when we consider how professional practices in childcare fluctuate between child-centered 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
CELA Wellbeing Toolkit
Meet the author
Niyati Prabhu belongs to a family of educators who firmly believe that 'a child miseducated is a child lost.' When she switched careers from psychology to early childhood, "It felt like it was always meant to be, like I had come back home". Niyati joined the Cherry Bridge Station Lane Cove team in November 2015 and took up the role of a nominated supervisor and educational leader in January 2016. Her work was recognised across the provider's network at the annual award ceremony later that year. In the past two years, she has enjoyed building pedagogical relationships with the educators, mentoring and supporting them to develop their skills and practices. Part of advocating our profession is providing information about the national quality framework and for this I believe it is very important to engage the educators, families and children in research, to explore new ideas and approaches that will enhance the educational program.