The Child Care Business Podcast

Season 2, Episode 2: Tips for Leading Your Child Care Center's Team with Carla Ward

February 16, 2022 Procare Solutions Season 2 Episode 2
The Child Care Business Podcast
Season 2, Episode 2: Tips for Leading Your Child Care Center's Team with Carla Ward
Show Notes Transcript

Carla Ward is an early childhood educator who founded Early Learning Foundations in 2008. She is a certified Wonder-based educator with a background in behavior management and she believes learning goes beyond the classroom. She also hosts her own podcast, “The Everything ECE Podcast.”

 She was born in South Africa and now lives in Ontario, Canada, and has been fascinated by the way people learn for as long as she can remember.

In this podcast, Carla discusses how to lead a team … everything from leading staff meetings to supporting your team.

In this podcast, she discusses: 

  • Why staff meetings should be held once a month, and not more frequently (and the perfect food to serve during them!)
  • The importance of asking staff for their input
  • The benefits of closing your center for an entire day, twice a year, for professional development
  • Doing a yearly survey to learn the professional goals of your staff 
  • How a book study is beneficial (one book every three months)
  • Why supervisors need to carve out time for themselves
  • And more!

You can connect with Carla by visiting her website: www.elfoundations.com
And she's active on social media!
Instagram:  www.instagram.com/elfoundations
Facebook: www.facebook.com/elfoundations/

Additional Resources:
To get more insights on ways to succeed in your child care business, head over to our Resource Center at https://www.procaresoftware.com/resource-center/.

Contact Us:
Have an idea for a podcast or want to be a guest? Email us at ltwoodbury@procaresoftware.com. 

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the childcare business podcast brought to you by pro care solutions. This podcast is all about giving childcare, preschool, daycare after school and other education professionals, a fun and upbeat way to learn about strategies and inspiration you can use to thrive. You'll hear from a variety of childcare thought leaders, including educators, owners, and industry experts on ways to innovate, to meet the needs of the children you serve from practical tips for managing operations, to uplifting stories, transformation, and triumph. This podcast will be chalk full in insights. You can use to fully realize the potential of your childcare business. Let's jump in,

Speaker 2:

Welcome to the childcare business podcast. Uh, really excited to have you today and excited to , uh , spend some time with our guest . Um, really quick. Wanna introduce everybody to Carla ward. Uh , Carla is an early childhood educator who founded early learning foundations in 2008. Uh, she certified wonder based educator and we'll get into what that means , uh, with a background in behavior management and she be believes and goes beyond the classroom. She also hosts her own podcast. For those of you that wanna plug into that, it's called the everything ECE podcast. Uh, gonna talk with Carl A. Little bit about her upbringing. She was born in South Africa. She now lives in Ontario, Canada , uh , where it is currently negative 12 degrees. We were just talking before we started recording , uh, and she has been fascinated by the way people learn for as long as she can remember. Um, so today we're hoping to spend some time discussing with Carla , uh, you know, what it means to lead a team in our industry, including how to, you know, dive into effectively leading staff meetings, how to support your team, and then also how to invest in professional development. Uh, so Carla, welcome to the podcast.

Speaker 3:

Thank you so much for having me. I'm really excited to be here today.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah. We're excited to have you too. So I do like reading your bio and just doing a little bit of research before we, we jumped into the recording. Talk to me about what that actually means to be a wonder based educator. Is there an actual definition to that, or is it a definition that you kind of put on that?

Speaker 3:

No. So I'm actually certified as a wonder based teacher. It's a program that Sally Hoy of fairy dust teaching , uh , started and founded. So went through the training and became a certified wonder based teacher. And basically to me , me , what that means is I'm certified in play for myself. I'm a reinspired teacher. I love the re philosophy, but for me, it basically means taking children's interests and building on their curiosity and instilling and promoting that wonder. So basically I stay out of the way I let children play. And it also means that I'm feeding my own wonder. So I live by the foundation of what does it mean to wonder , um, it essentially is building authentic play or it's done through authentic play. It doesn't matter if you are residue inspired with wooden materials or plastic materials, which is why I was so drawn to the philosophy because you didn't feel like you were doing anything wrong because it's about building authentic relationships, which is something I'm a huge promoter of. Um, so yeah, so that's what it means to me to be a wonder based teacher.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. It's , it's amazing to me that we, like, we have to, like, there's a natural training around like allowing young children to play because I mean, at its core, you know, we've had episodes even on our podcast talking about the importance of that, you know, especially in those early years , zero to five, zero to eight, the development of a child's brain is so tied to like, like you said, wonder exploration, play. Like, what is the, like, what is the, the opposite of that? So like wonder based education is like, you know, obviously being an expert or at least being an advocate of play. But I guess the opposite of that if we were to put, you know, the other hat on is it's just more of a, a rule based environment for young children, or how would you describe that

Speaker 3:

Worksheets? That's how I would describe it. The opposite of wonder based is worksheets. And it's kind of like sometimes I almost sound like a hypocrite because I own a tutoring company. I own a tutoring company that teaches from kindergarten to grade 10, but so much of it is still instilling that sense of wonder, because trust me, by the time they a grade 10, those kids have no interest in learning what you have to teach, unless you promote, this is why we're doing it. Well, what do you wonder? What do you think about this? So, so much of that wonder can be instilled without drills, without worksheets and bringing that play and that hands on learning can still be done.

Speaker 2:

That's amazing. So is, is another word for wonder curiosity, do those go hand in hand , like being curious

Speaker 3:

100% ? Yeah .

Speaker 2:

So when you went through that class, anything that stands out, this is me just being curious that when you look back at the class, in terms of a takeaway , a tangible take of how do you teach with that methodology? Anything come to your mind as, as a takeaway ?

Speaker 3:

Definitely it's honoring the child.

Speaker 2:

Okay .

Speaker 3:

It's honoring the child. And I would say the part two to that is honoring yourself as an educator. So it's believing in yourself as a professional. I think E's get the short end of the stick. And I mean, if the pandemic has shown us anything, it's just how valuable early childhood educators are. And the course that I went through. So it started with the wonder league and then you move into the wonder based certification program is how do you honor the child? How do your perspectives, your perceived notions , um, affect you as an educator and how does that present in the classroom? So if you were raised in a very, very strict household, how much of that transfers into your classroom and are you honoring the children?

Speaker 2:

Got it. I was gonna ask you that, in fact, you , that was a perfect dovetail too . I know growing up in South Africa, I wanted to ask about, you know, what that looked like culturally, what your childhood, you know, looked like, you know, personally, and I was curious. Yeah. Like, is your interest in, you know, wonder based education, curiosity based education, is that , um, because you had the opposite as a child or it's how you experienced your childhood. So maybe that's, that's multiple questions. One, talk to me about what it looked like to be a child growing up in South Africa and then two, how did that tie in for you into kind of your interest in wonder based education?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, so the , in South Africa, I guess the best way is more so to do a comparison between how I lived later on when we moved to Canada versus how I lived in South Africa. And I would say like, I grew up in a house with loving family, but I was surrounded by 10 foot walls. Everybody in South Africa is, has walls. It's a safety measure and it's a way to keep you protected inside your home. And I'll never forget when we moved to Canada and we had no walls, our neighbors came right over this woman called the welcome wagon lady, brought us like walked right up to our front door, rang our doorbell. Like it was totally surreal. And then I remember riding my bike around the block and it's the first time in my entire life. At age of 11, I had been out of my parents' eyesight or an adult eyesight and my sister and I went around the block and came back and just the look of like fear and happiness in my parents' faces. Like for me, that will always be in my head. Um, but I think in terms of how it relates to wonder both my parents are just very , um, interest based . So if I had an interest in something, so I once told my dad, I wanted to be an architect, he had me draw my bedroom to scale and rearrange my bedroom with all the pieces of paper, with an two scale drawings. My parents always took our interests and just promoted them. Um, but I think I became a wonder based educator from the other extreme because I actually didn't get it in my school systems. I was got it. Yeah. So whether it was south African or Canadian, it was very, very structured. And I mean, I teach high school, I teach all the way to grade 10 and I teach the maths and it turns on I'm really good at it, but I sucked at it when I was actually in school . My grades were brutal in school and it started to getting me wondering why, like, why is it possible that I can actually do the math? What changed? And it was the adults that were in the school system with me. Um, and also I didn't get to know them either. We never formed that relationship. And that is always what I bring it back to was what kind of relationship did you have with your teachers? Um, so, so many factors that contributed to how I got to where I am.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. That's um, you , you , you weave that story perfectly the move from of Africa to Canada and being able to kind of experience a , a different dynamic too. Like both like, like culturally, but then in the classroom, it sounds like that obviously played a big role in, in kind of, as you progressed your career, did you like going through school, Carla, did you know that you wanted to be an educator or did you have a different vision, like as you were going through high school? I don't know if there was post high school education for you. What did that look like? And then how , what did , how did your path lead you to ECE?

Speaker 3:

So in the eighth grade I wanted to be an environmental lawyer or a reflexologist.

Speaker 2:

Okay .

Speaker 3:

Not sure how, yeah . Uh , two definite extremes . Um, but then in grade nine I started volunteering my church and I started teaching Sunday school. And I will accredit a lot of my love of early childhood from being given the opportunity at 13 years old, to work in my church with these little ones. And I taught Sunday school every Sunday from grade nine to grade 12. And I knew like within the first year, like, this is one I wanna do. I wanna make a difference in these children's lives.

Speaker 2:

Amazing. So, so for people who are looking for their passion, like, I'm curious when you , you hear somebody tell, like I knew like, based on my experience, like ninth to through 12th grade, like, was that for you like that very first Sunday school class that you taught? Was it feeling that you had from being in that environment? Was it the feedback from students? Was it a combination? How would you describe, like, I just knew that this is what I wanted to do.

Speaker 3:

It becomes something in your heart, like, and I always say it's the same with being an entrepreneur. Like, it's something that you feel in your heart, but it's something that carries with you even when you're not in that environment. So sitting in a school classroom, I'm planning out my Sunday school regimen and thinking about how I'm gonna do teaching on Sunday or when I was teaching in the classroom, I was thinking about my tutoring sessions and what I was gonna be doing there. Um, and then when I was in the school system, I was missing childcare. So I taught in the high school for a while and I just missed working with the little ones, like kindergarten are my people, like they're the funniest kids and children just bring this energy of pure joy. Like, there's just, there's something about working with kids who are honest, sometimes brutally honest. Yeah. But it is that feeling of being around people who are so sincere, who what they mean and mean what they say that just makes you feel whole, So, yeah , it's just, yeah. I just love working with children and for me, it's my calling for sure.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. That's a , that's a great description. I mean, you know, I think I've seen , um, even recently great quotes around, you know, what the world needs, I'm gonna get this probably wrong, but the , the intent is hopefully gonna be right. Which is, you know, find what you really love and are passionate about and do that. Cuz that's essentially what the world needs. You know, I, it's funny my son's up a sophomore in college right now. And so watching him kind of try to figure, figure out like, you know , what am I gonna major in? And what does that look like after I get done with school and you know, a lot of times, you know, kids don't grow up thinking like I wanna sit in a cubicle my whole life in front of a computer. And so the whole idea of like, you know, find what that passion is and turn that into a career. I think there's, you know, a lot of merit to that. I think it's a lot of what you're saying. Be, and wonder, be curious and follow those things that bring life outta you, cuz that's gonna be probably ultimately what you're the best at too .

Speaker 3:

Oh, without a doubt, your passion will take you where you need to go. You're gonna make some missteps 100%. Like for me , um, allowing other people's fears, definitely redirected me along my path. Sometimes. Like I knew that I wanted to work for myself. Um , I wanted to either own a childcare center or run a tutoring company or just, I wanted to, when I wanted to , I wanted to be a business woman . And what happened was I left teaching at 22 and my mother was so worried about me not making a full-time income. I ended up going back to teaching. And then when I was there, I was like, I , well , I wanna do more. Like I wanna teach other people. And I mean, even now with my grade tens that I work with, they're choosing their university courses or their high school courses. That'll get them on track. And I'm like, what do you want? They're like, well , I think I'm gonna go to get a business degree. Great. Why? And they can't answer that question. And again, it's sparking that curiosity. Why do you wanna do this? Is it because you think it's the right path because that's not passion. Right. And I mean, if ECS have anything, we are definitely passionate about our field.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. That's a great, that's a great attribute. You're right. Most ECE professionals are definitely passionate. I think that's a great question to always ask why, you know, I, even with my team , like in our environment, working with, you know, potential customers and individuals who own and operate childcare centers, you know, when they're reaching out to us, looking for help, you know, asking that question all the time, like why like what's the pain? What are you trying to solve? Why are you trying to solve it? Cause until you know that it's hard to go help somebody it's hard to help them, you know what they're trying to , to go solve. So 2008 then walk me through what was going on in your life. Cuz that's when you started your company. Right? So yes . Uh , early learning foundations, the , the acronym is El . Yeah . Right. Um, walk me through what was going on in your life, how you started it and then maybe what the early days looked like, what, what were you providing as a service? And then let's kind of, we'll kind of take that forward to modern day and what you're doing now.

Speaker 3:

Yeah . So once again, it all comes back to relationships. I had been teaching kindergarten for five years at this point in a childcare center. Absolutely loved it. But Ontario where I live had introduced a full day kindergarten and I was starting to get worried about what my job was gonna look like because, because we were in childcare, we had students going half day with us and then half day to the public school system. So we were worried that our numbers were going to dip. So I had already started looking for other employment part-time if I could. And a parent whose child had already graduated from kindergarten said, can you help my son with his reading in grade one? And I was like, sure. So it started with two and then two became five. And now we have over 60 kids that we see on a regular basis. Um, and I landed on up for four years of my life working a 40 hour job at teaching kindergarten and teaching 40 hours tutoring a week. And it's not sustainable. Turns out it is really not healthy to work that much.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. 80 hours a week, the human, the human , uh, I don't know if it's psyche or even just everything physically, emotionally isn't set up to , um, have double the work like that 80 hours. So did you have to decide then did it come down to, I gotta , I gotta pick a path and, and be all in.

Speaker 3:

Yes. And what was starting to happen was at some point in those four years, I had left teaching at the one school and then was off while doing just tutoring and it was great and I loved it. And then a friend called and said, can you come teach my high schoolers about early childhood development? And I went in for a day and it was a high school program that had childcare in it and turns out the teacher wasn't coming back. So they're like, well, do you want it? So I was like, sure. So then I landed up there for two years and then I left because I was working again. I was back at my eight hour or weeks left and then a supervisor position came in and as an ECE, you're kind of taught like, that's kind of the next path, right. You work in the childcare business, you become a supervisor. Um, so how could I turn that down? And so then I did supervisor for 40 hours a week and tutoring 40 hours a week. Um, and

Speaker 2:

You see a pattern here . I see a pattern. Yeah .

Speaker 3:

It might be what we call a little bit of a workaholic. Yeah. Um, and then I ended up working at a private school , um, teaching kindergarten, cuz again, like I said, those are my that's my passion, but this school was working with children with brain injuries and it was incredible. And what was starting to happen though, was my tutoring business was growing and my tutoring team was growing and I was getting called in to do professional development for ECE and then still trying to work and I'm 110 percenter and something had to give, so I've walked away from the classroom , um, over the last four years and I miss it, but I don't miss it at the same time cuz it's kind of nice to drink my coffee in the morning without rushing out the door for 12 hours. So

Speaker 2:

Yeah, there's not the bell ringing that you're, you know, running in, spilling your coffee, trying to make it to first period or whatever that

Speaker 3:

Exactly. And then not touching it again till it's ice cold.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. Yeah. So it , so then in addition to like the tutoring, cuz I know you guys do individual tutoring and spend a lot of time with individual students, but as it relates maybe specifically to ECE and our industry, and it sounds like you're, you're also focusing on like working with owners and directors around staff development and, and that's kind of, I think what we wanna talk a little bit about today. So, so talk to me about that role. Like for individual like childcare owners who are looking to work with you, can you talk a little bit about the types of services you provide? Do you specialize in certain aspects of professional development? Um, and then let's go from there.

Speaker 3:

Yeah. So , um, I run professional development courses, so I'm launching a course in a couple of weeks , um, regarding staff meetings. So it's something that people can take online, but then I also go into centers. So it's getting an idea of observing the team and understanding the team dynamics because so much of how a center's enrollment looks often has to do with the team dynamics because when a team works together and you have a lower turnover, which is hard to really talk about it during a pandemic, because it's a bit unpredictable right now. But generally when you have a strong team, everything else kind of fits really well because everybody's contributing to the business. So it's getting that team feedback and getting team input because your staff are the ones that are in the classroom and they're the ones communicating with parents. Yes. They're stopping by your door and saying hi to you, but really it needs to be a collaborative effort to move the business further and get more enrollment.

Speaker 2:

So how do you do that? Like when you talk with owners about, I mean maybe just looking at like a case study, a hypothetical case study, if an owner, you know, calls you another center and you just says, Carla, we're just struggling with , um, I don't culture or, you know, I have got a lot of turnover. Like what does that look like from your perspective? How do you analyze it? And then how do you help an owner build that dynamic, that team dynamic. Are there some common practices that apply to everyone or is every situation different?

Speaker 3:

There's a couple of things that I've noticed a pattern of ego communication and relationships. Hmm . So the ego, this one comes from me, working with people who have egos, like from like, as a staff for me, I always wanna make sure it's not an us versus them. It's not admin versus staff. You are still a team. So it's making sure that the admin are checking their ego at the door and not commanding things of their staff. Yes. You can't all always ask you. Can't always say to your staff, can you do this? Because sometimes something needs to be done. But it's also about the approach which comes down to your communication and it comes down to your relationship. And that doesn't mean being friends with your staff. I mean, it's great if you're all friendly, but how you communicate with your staff, but also how you respect people's time, time wasting is a huge one for me and a lot of supervisors. And this was a common mistake when I first started out, a lot of supervisors don't realize how much time they're wasting during their day during their staff meetings. They're not utilizing everybody's skills and time. So those are kind of the three, I would say, blanket ones. And then everything else comes down to your area. Why did your last staff leave? Because sometimes it has nothing to do with you the center or even the person, like sometimes there's outstanding reasons why somebody moves. So I would say those three are the blanket ones and then everything else is individual.

Speaker 2:

Everything else falls within within those. So, so if I'm, so if I'm a childcare owner or we have owners and directors that are listening and they would say like ego, like I don't think I have an ego, Carla . I don't think that's part of it. Is there any like, like, is there any really quick self-assessment tips that you can give like our audience, like, Hey, if you wanna do a self-assessment to see if your ego is maybe a factor in some of the things going on in your center, do this test. Is there anything that comes to mind, something practical?

Speaker 3:

Yes. Ask your staff for feedback about you as to supervisor and then watch how you respond. And some of it will hurt your feelings. Absolutely. Some of it will be, but your response should be okay. I hear you. Is that a you problem or is that a me problem? Like, is that something that you and I need to work through together or is that something that's affecting our team and that's how you as a supervisor grow, but also how you as a team become much, much stronger.

Speaker 2:

Good answer. Good answer. Yeah. That's a great, probably a great tool tip for anybody in a leadership or coaching or mentoring, you know, role is like being open to feedback and it's not gonna feel good, but how you react that and lean into that to grow from it is probably , um, you know, it's a , it's a attribute of humility, right? Like to be able to receive that and grow from it and get better and not get defensive and not get . Absolutely. Yeah . Yeah . What about, what about like, so the other two, you said communication and relationships like , um, any pro practical tips , just like within the four walls of a center around effective ways to communicate that you have seen. And maybe if anything comes to mind, like the opposite of that, like, Hey, if you're communicating in this way, try to adjust that because that doesn't seem to be the most effective way in our industry. Anything come to mind on those areas?

Speaker 3:

Yeah. So for one predictability in a childcare center, everybody has different shifts. So you cannot assume that by telling the 7:00 AM staff that the 9:00 AM staff are gonna get the same message because it's busy. Like we are wor we are there for the children and messages. Don't always get relayed by mouth. So it's setting up systems where everybody knows where to go for information. So for example, if a new child was starting in your preschool room, it doesn't matter if you have a kindergarten toddler in infant program, everybody in the center should know that a new you starting today. One because it welcomes the family. Everybody knows to look out for them and to greet them. So I always had a communication book in my staff room every day it was dated and it would say so and so in preschool is out sick today. Um, so-and-so is covering , um , Mrs. Ward in preschool one. And , um, the ward family is starting in kindergarten. And that way everybody in the center knows what's going on in every program because they might have a sibling and a parent just forgot to say that little Johnny's , um , brother is also going to be out sick . Everybody should know if a staff is out sick. And the thing is, is that it's been, once everybody crosses that threshold, the day is started and it is go, go, go, go, go. But it is respectful to let your staff know when their team member is out sick. And it's respectful to your supply teacher to, to be welcomed into your center. They're part of your team for that day. So those communication tips work great in terms of communication for staff meeting. Um , I always used to have a sheet in the staff room where staff could put , um, topics that they wanna discuss. This served me for two benefits. One, it gave me topics for the staff meeting that I could help support my team with, but it also kept out my interruptions in this , in my office because everybody still felt heard cuz they know it would be addressed.

Speaker 2:

Love that love that I love , love the idea of like including the team in the topics that are gonna be, you know, I think it's easy to fall into a cadence of assuming, you know, as a leader, what needs to be addressed in a meeting, but actually getting that feedback is, is a great idea. What about you? You mentioned the third piece of , um, you , you know, of staff and culture and those being relationships and you said something that was interesting to me that I want you to elaborate on. If you can, is, you know, it's okay. If you're friends with your staff, it's great to be friendly, but there's a difference between friendly and being friends. If you were to say, Hey, if you're a childcare owner, if you're a director, the goal of your relationships with your staff should be, how would you finish that sentence? It's not, if I heard you, right? It's not, you're not there to be friends, but your goal is to be, how would you describe that? If you're talking to an owner,

Speaker 3:

Your goal would be to have a respectful relationship. Um, I certainly, I was very young when I started a supervisor and some of my staff were older or the same age as me and some of them were younger. So , um, I actually just did a podcast episode on , this is something that we often, that often happens. ECE is we use gossip as a form of bonding and it can be very, very dangerous to a center. And that's where people start to fuzz the lines between friendly versus friends. Like sure. It's one thing to gossip with your friends. I mean, it's not healthy, but we all do it, but doing it in a center with your team, your staff is it's gonna ruin your business. So that is a big one for me. Like when we're looking at that, but also , um, keeping your personal life separate from your professional life, because you are a supervisor you wanna be treated professionally, you've worked so hard to get where you are. Um, and you want, the respect is the professional that you are so that when a situation come staff know that they can trust you because you've got this.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, great answers. I think you're right. Like anytime there's gossip, I mean, this is obviously ECE and you know, pro care , you know, we're connected to ECE, even though we're in a technology, you know, industry per se , um, you know, gossip happens in every office environment and, and I think what tends to happen is people that engage in that, even though you think you're building rapport that person's even subconsciously is like, well, if they're willing to talk about other people, when they're not around, then they're probably also willing to talk about me when I'm not around. And, and they're you think you're building trust, but really you're eroding it because there's questions around like, Hey, what's this person gonna be saying when , when I'm not present. So I think that's a , that's a good call out just to be transparent and be careful with the conversations you're having. What about, so like talking about staff and continuing to talk about like the culture inside of a , uh , a center, I know you, you are gonna do a course on this soon about team meetings and how to lead effective team meetings. And so, you know, some of the questions that come to mind for me, cause I think every center is different. Is, is there a general rule? How often I should have staff meetings if I, if I own or operate a center, is there a standard rule? And then can you talk a little bit in your opinion about like what is right way to structure those? Like what's the balance between content and conversation, how much I'm talking as a leader versus inviting contributions. Um, so how often, and then talk to me about the ideal model, if you have one.

Speaker 3:

Perfect. So for me personally, I do not see any reason for a staff meeting to be more than once a month, unless there is some kind of emergency, I have worked in a place where it was every week. It was every Tuesday and it was the biggest waste of our time and nothing irritates me more than time wasting. Um, so you kind of wanna do again, check in that ego, but also just doing like a quick little self check in your head. Is can this be an email? I mean, we've all seen that meme that says I survived a staff meeting that could have been an email. And it's such a big piece because your staff want to leave the meeting, learning something or feeling inspired or being informed. And if you cannot provide one or all three of those things, then your meeting is pointless.

Speaker 2:

So say those, say those three again, I don't wanna interrupt your train of thought, but just so there's some practical takeaways. Yes . You , one of three things should happen in your staff meetings,

Speaker 3:

Learning something or feeling inspired or being informed. There needs to be, again, it comes back to the why, why are you having the staff meeting? Are you having the staff meeting? Because you've decided because something new is being implemented at the center, you are want to teach something new or you haven't connected as a team because everybody's on different shifts so that why really needs to be present. But then also it's your job as the supervisor to be organized, winging it. And we've all done it. I've definitely done it. But winging your staff meeting, cuz you look at your calendar, go, oh shoot, I've gotta make up a meeting agenda because we have a meeting in five minutes is not gonna fly. So that's where your staff topics that the staff had contributed come in handy. You wanna go through it and see what it affects the whole team? What affects the individual and what can be answered in an email, the individual ones you wanna address individually, but the staff, once you wanna plan, like what are you bringing to that? How are you going to address the problem? Concern or suggestion and food always have food at a staff meeting. It doesn't matter if it is a 15 minute meeting, a half an hour meeting or a one hour meeting and no meeting should be longer than an hour.

Speaker 2:

All right . So I gotta double click on that one. Like is there a perfect staff meeting food? Is it like, Hey, bring in the candy dish, is it you have a veggie plate? Is it smores board have different options? Like we , so what's the perfect staff meeting food.

Speaker 3:

I actually have an answer for this because while I'm building my courses, I've actually like worked out what the perfect foods are. So for a 15 minute meeting, a nice little fruit tray, even like those little disposable stacks that you put in kids, recess, lunches , um, those are perfect because it's a quick 15 minute touch base, 30 minutes . You want something a little bit more, you want some coffee, you want fruit vegetables. And then if it's an hour meeting, I used to full out cater my staff meetings. So I used to have Canone pasta, lasagna , which is a pasta , um, at my staff meetings because people just connect over food. Yeah . And so it's a wonderful way to get people to invest and contribute to your meeting.

Speaker 2:

And then worst case, if nothing else, they had a good meal. If , if the content didn't end up delivering, for any reason, they had food, they were happy. They got to, you know, share around food. Okay. I like that.

Speaker 3:

Exactly. And also as ECE, half the time, we never have time to eat anyways. So most of the time, by the time we get to the staff meeting, we're starving.

Speaker 2:

So true. It's like missed lunch again because I, you know, had to work right through lunch. So always have some food. That's a good like pro tip right there. Um, no more than once a month. If I heard you, right. Isn't in a perfect cadence, you know, monthly and then just make sure you're prepared. Cuz your staff will see that if you show up unprepared, like you said, going back to an earlier point, you made like wasting time and having people feel like this was a waste, I didn't get anything from it. And you as an owner or director, weren't prepared that that contributes to a lack of culture and people feeling like your , their time's not valued.

Speaker 3:

And that's just it. When people don't feel that their time is valued or if the meeting runs later, people are gonna zip up. They're gonna stop contributing because they're clock watching and they don't wanna say anything. That's gonna make the meeting go any longer than it is. Whereas if people have received the meeting gender ahead of time , um, they know that there's going to be food and they know that the meeting is going to start on time. You are already building a respectful, safe environment where people are ready to jump in and contribute to things that are gonna happen during the meeting.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. And I would imagine really important to your point. Like for those, you know, owners that do allow staff to provide topics or questions that they wanna cover in the staff meeting, make sure that you actually spend time addressing those things. So that staff don't feel like, Hey, this is a fruitless exercise to give you feedback. If you're not gonna actually take it into account. So carve out time to address the things that people have been asking to talk about.

Speaker 3:

Absolutely. And also , um , I always put on my agenda, any suggestions for enrollment and it is amazing how staff have so much to contribute. I mean, we're all on social media. They've wa they're all following other ECE and other centers and they're watching what they're doing. So there's so much value in asking staff for input of, well, how do we promote, like we did a fall fair ones and it came from a staff suggestion and it was fantastic. And it was a great way to build community with the families as well.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. Great. Yeah. Some of your best ideas are gonna come from the people that work with you and for you in the classrooms or around the parents or around the kids , um, give them that outlet and, and that kind of ties into as well, like the whole, you know , of professional development, which was kind of the last thing I, you know, wanted to talk a little bit about with you because professional development, I think that is a hunger that most people have is to continue to learn and get better. And it's easy to sometimes forsake that in the busyness of what's happening in centers. But when you talk about, or think about professional development and you're talking with schools, like, are there some key things to focus on in terms of professional development? How do you approach it? How often are you trying to get your staff to continue to move forward ? Um, and maybe just some tips and tricks around that topic?

Speaker 3:

Yeah. So there's kind of three ways that I look at professional development, but the number one way a or the number one thought process is to go back to that wonder is how are you instilling a love of learning and a sense of wonder in your staff? Because if a staff has no interest in learning professional development is just another chore. It's another thing that they have to try and do on their already busy day. So if a center can afford it, I always recommend if they can close two days a year where it is a whole day of professional development. So it's during a work day , um, and run a professional development workshop that way, not everybody a can afford it, depending on the demographics of your area, families cannot , um, afford to have a center close . They don't have family in the area that can take care of their kids. So you really have to kind of weigh the pros and cons when considering closing for a day, that's where the communication comes in. Plenty of notice if you're gonna close and then picking your topics, but also number two is getting to know what your staff want to learn. So I always put out a survey at the beginning of the year and ask my staff , what are your professional goals? Because a staff that wants to be , um , learn about risky play, and then I've got one another staff that wants to learn about reg . They might coincide, or maybe I've got another other staff that wants to learn American sign language. Well, I'm not gonna send all three of them to the same program. So it's knowing what your staff's goals are and where they wanna go so that you can support them that way. By providing them with either a podcast, a YouTube video , um, literature that they can read so that they're getting their, their one are filled . And then another way that I always do with my team even now , um , when we're not in the classroom is a book study. So every quarter we choose a book and we have three months to read it because really who is time for reading nowadays. And so they have full three months. I give them some topics that might be talked about during the session, our book study session, so that they come prepared and we have a great time. We do it over a glass of wine, which is not always possible , um, in childcare, but , um, we've done right now. We're doing, you are a badass, we've done teach like a pirate and limitless mind. And so a broad range. And it's something that staff can do on their own time , um, at their own leisure , but there's no pressure and they're still learning cuz so much of it is just instilling that love of learning

Speaker 2:

Yeah. To continue growing and continuing develop. And I would think, you know, like the , the environment that we're in right now, and I don't know if you hear this with all the schools and clients you work with as well, but like staffing, it , it seems like a broken record, but literally every conversation it's the theme that keeps coming up around , uh , kids are coming back, families are coming back, but I'm having a real challenge, retaining staff and attracting staff. Um, is that something you're hearing and, and just like on this whole topic of professional development and culture and how you interact with staff and how you lead anything that you're sharing with your clients around, you know, that topic like how to retain your staff and how to go find and recruit talent that, that you can share.

Speaker 3:

So first of all, I think the supervisors really need to make sure that they carve out time for themselves because right now they are carrying so much weight on their shoulders because I mean their phones don't stop. Right. Somebody's sick. This person's sick. Like it's just, it's a mess right now. And in terms of professional development, think, keep it simple. I, I really do. Um, we're doing, you are a badass because we just, we don't have time to read something very deep right now and we need some personal development to bring ourselves back up. Um, so I think for childcare centers right now in terms of professional development is keep it short. So podcast episodes, you two videos , um, and just reminding everybody why we're in this field , um, because it's hard when you are dealing with mass and sanitation and just staff off sick short staff . It's so hard to remember why you're here, right ? Because where's the motivation, why should I get up at seven o'clock when I'm going to be stressed out all day and then exhausted at the end of it. So it's just, it really is about finding the wins, looking for the positive as best you can. Um, and you know, there's nothing wrong with investing in your staff and there's nothing wrong with going to Starbucks and buying everybody a coffee at the end of the day to say , thank you because like we can only take so much and the world needs early childhood educators and the sooner they figure it out, the better off everybody's gonna be.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. Hugely important to take care of yourself right now. I mean, this is kind of the theme that we keep hearing to Carla, which is , you know, owners are in the classroom right now, direct actors are in the classroom, everybody's carrying, you know, extra plates, juggling, extra balls, so to speak and, and constantly having to remind yourself, you know, why I'm doing this? I mean, it is some adversity we're gonna get better through it, but we gotta figure out a way to manage it and enjoy it best we can while we're here, because yeah, it , it feels like people are maxed out right now.

Speaker 3:

Oh. And , and I can't blame them.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. Yeah. There's a lot going on for sure. It's been a long couple of years, but hopefully , um, hopefully we're on the downhill, so to speak and, and people are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Are you, you know, just in terms of Carla connecting, like for our audience, you know, we're fans of bringing people onto our show that, you know , are contributing to the industry that are leading conversations that are helping owners, directors, teachers, families, for that matter. Um, and we always just try to share resources. So if our audience wanted to find out more from you, if they wanted to follow you on social media platforms, how, how would people behind you? And , um, can you share that so we can share it with the audience?

Speaker 3:

Absolutely. So my website is El foundations.com and there's actually a staff meeting freebie that I can give to your listeners. If they go to El foundations.com/mastering meetings, I've actually created a download of six ways to optimize your staff meetings. So it's a nice checklist that they can use and start implementing for time efficient staff meetings

Speaker 2:

Love it. Everybody loves freebies like every , all the time when we go to conferences, everybody loves to come by the table and get the free swag . So , um, there's free digital content on your website, obviously, lots of conversation around professional development, staffing, staff meetings, and other services you provide. Um, fantastic. Is there anything just, you know, as we kind of tie up our, our time together , um, you know, I think we touched on a lot of the top that I was interested in talking with you about, but anything else that you would wanna share, no pressure , um, for the industry or that you'd like to share with people about what you guys are doing up there?

Speaker 3:

You know what , um , well, definitely I wanna mention my Instagram cuz that is where I spend most of my social time is at El foundations and I'm always happy to connect with people , quick questions, any way I can support , um, please reach out because especially during this pandemic , um, everybody needs a friend and I'm happy to be that person that can help support you through this. Um, but no, generally it's just about remembering that we are all in this together and working together as a team is so key. Um, and being a supervisor can be a very lonely island. So your team really is important,

Speaker 2:

Super important, maybe more so than ever. Um, I think it's well said, Carla. And so, you know, Carla ward from , um , early learning foundations, thank you so much for being part of our show. And we look forward to you tracking along with you in the , in the months and years to come

Speaker 3:

Well, thank you so much for having me on

Speaker 2:

You bet. Have a good day.

Speaker 1:

Thank you for listening to this episode of the childcare business podcast, to get more insights on ways to succeed in your childcare business, make sure to hit subscribe in your podcast app. So you never miss an episode. And if you want even more childcare tips , tricks and strategies, head over to our resource center@procaresoftware.com until next time .