This month we sat down with Caren Renee Haynes, owner ...
Meredith Downing is the Curriculum Lead at Wonderschool, where she supports directors to build high-quality programs that help students grow and succeed.
No matter what stage you find yourself in in your career, it’s really important to have access to resources to support your professional growth. This is especially true for the field of early learning because it’s all too easy to get stuck in our own little bubbles. Your bubble might be a small in-home family child care program, or it might be a large center with several classrooms, but it’s still a bubble. Here are our recommendations for essential child care director resources.
You might not immediately think of licensing as a resource for you, but you should. Their role is to help ensure safe environments for young children. Their job is to stay up-to-date on the most recent rules and regulations that child care programs must follow and communicate those out to you. These rules can sometimes feel confusing or overwhelming, which is why your licensing office should be considered a resource. You should be able to ask them for help about how to put certain things into practice.
NAEYC (the National Association for the Education of Young Children) and NAFCC (the National Association of Family Child Care) are two of the largest professional organizations in the field of early learning. They both put on annual conferences, accredit high quality early learning programs, and publish helpful resources on best practices and new research. You can become a member of one or both (depending on the type of program you run), and gain access to some really valuable information to help you grow as a professional.
It might be out of your budget to attend their annual conferences every year, but if it’s possible, prioritize attending at least once. Both conferences are jam-packed with high quality sessions on every topic you can imagine. It’s an amazing way to re-energize and reinvigorate your love for all things early learning. NAEYC also has state chapters, which put on their own smaller-scale conferences. If flying to the national conference isn’t in your budget, driving to your state’s own conference might be. In terms of impactful child care director resources, these are at the top of the list.
Learning from your peers is a really powerful experience in any profession, and is why conferences happen in the first place. This kind of community learning shouldn’t be limited to once a year, or who can afford to attend a conference. Whether it’s to have a group to ask advice from, gripe with, or share wins, community is really important for everyone. With so many forms of social media, you can find online communities in so many different places– Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, just to name a few. You can also look to more local early learning organizations. Your local resource and referral agency, for example, might provide opportunities for the community to come together.
Resource and referral agencies function differently depending where you’re located, but they are typically great child care director resources, offering training, subsidy support, and licensing support. If your state has a quality improvement program for child care, it is usually through your resource and referral agency that you’ll be able to enroll. Quality improvement programs are ways to showcase the hard work of child care providers, creating a path to showcase growth and development as an early educator and care provider.
In the age of the internet, it’s so much easier to find and follow the early learning figures you admire. Whether it’s Janet Lansbury, Sally Haughey, Teacher Tom, the Conscious Kid, or Vanessa from Pre-K Pages, (to name just a very few!). There are so many wonderful (online) voices in ECE providing doses of wisdom and inspiration in your daily life. Following their blogs and reading their social media posts can help you to refine your own personal philosophy and stay connected to why you do what you do.
As a director it’s not just about the ECE stuff, it’s also about the business stuff, which, depending on your personality, might not be the fun stuff. At the end of the day though it doesn’t matter how high quality your program is if the business side of things isn’t sustainable. For many people we would rather bury our heads in the sand than think about the nitty gritty business decisions, but you’ll only be hurting yourself. Finding child care business professionals who can answer your questions, advise you, and help you set goals can help you resist the urge to ignore it. You might accomplish this by developing a good relationship with your tax prep person, and going to them with any questions you have. You might also rely on child care business expert, Tom Copeland, who runs a very helpful blog and Facebook page, and can often be found presenting on behalf of NAFCC.
There are a variety of tools available for purchase to help you run every aspect of your business. From marketing to wait list management, electronic billing, to parent communication, and lesson planning to assessment, there are tools available to help. It might take time to do the necessary research and product demos to determine the best fit, but it’s worth it. You want to make sure you’re getting what you need for your business.
At Wonderschool, we are committed not only to providing child care directors with the technology they need to run their business, but to also provide community, professional development opportunities, and a library of resources to strengthen your business. Being a small business owner is no small feat, and you deserve to have the tools and resources you need to make it run smoothly. Join Wonderschool today for access to our entire suite of tools.