Management

How To Build Successful, Collaborative Childcare Teams

Julia Erman
July 24, 2020

Pop quiz! What is the only way to write 42 as the product of prime numbers? Not sure?  Don’t worry - you’re not alone. Many of the things we learned in grade school have been lost somewhere in the dusty backroads of our neural pathways.  One of the best lessons we can share with the next generation of students, however, is both simple and easy to remember: a huge part of success is being willing to do hard things. Even if you forget how to add fractions or can’t remember when to use that pesky apostrophe, this lesson will serve you well throughout your whole life. Today we will focus on the importance of making hard decisions to make teams in your center, even if staff disagree or are not pleased with the decisions made. 

As I was searching Pinterest the other day as I often do when I have a spare minute from my phone, I stumbled across this quote: “Do what is right, not what is easy”. This quote rang a bell with me because I have found it to be so true. If you want to be a leader who creates change, then you must take the uncharted path. Although Trailblazing takes the discipline to do hard work and make tough decisions, it can be extremely rewarding - especially during a crisis!

The first thing that comes to mind when considering tough decisions I have made in my career is choosing staff placements. In the childcare world teachers make our centers what they are. As much as a single good teacher has a positive impact, a strong teaching team can increase that impact tenfold. I don’t know about you, but I love walking into a classroom where the team of teachers are connected, they have flow, and they are all on the same page. This is the synergy that I try to stimulate when assigning teaching teams. 

Unfortunately, synergy can be a rare thing in both childcare and the business world in general. Often there are power struggles between teachers, especially if you have a co-lead situation. Teachers have been known to quit when not given the partner they preferred. The cattiness among teachers can approach the antics in the movie Mean Girls. When you have a staffing team of 50 plus women, it can feel like you’re living the high school drama of Mean Girls, with the added pressure of needing your staff to perform well to benefit both your business and the many children in your care. 

You may know what a good teaching team looks like, but how do we create such a team? A well run classroom doesn’t just fall into place, being intentional when placing staff together is key. Often the best team for an early childhood classroom are two people from different walks of life who naturally wouldn’t be friends if they bumped into eachother at the mall. By making intentional decisions that take into account the needs of both staff and children while avoiding both favouritism and authoritarianism you can make the hard decisions needed to create the best teams possible!


 4 things to consider for the creation of dynamite staff teams: 

  • Personalities: Always consider the personality types of your staff and pair accordingly. For example, if you place two teachers with great people skills together they may excel relationally but not be as organized or productive. I like to place complimentary characters, like one doer and one thinker together, that way they can benefit from each other’s strengths while helping each other work on areas for growth.  
  • Talents and Gifts: When making staff placements I also like to spread out the gift sets of my teachers. If one teacher is gifted in the Arts and the other in Math/Science they can make a great pair! You may even consider doing a personality test before making placements. At my center we gave the Meyers Briggs Personality Test to everyone at the time of hire, which helped us see what we had and who would work best with others. The DISC assessment is another popular choice which can help staff learn about themselves and their co-workers and gain an appreciation for different personality types. 
  • Group Fit: In the child care field not all classes and groups are created equal. Take into consideration the age group and needs of both the class and individual children when placing a staff member.  You might have a team member who is great with your school agers, but not so patient with the babies. Feel free to explain your decision making process with your staff and ask for their personal preferences when making placements this year, while making it clear that you reserve the right to make final decisions.
  • Future Growth: Any time you are making a decision as a leader, consider the individuals involved and their future growth within your center. Will their requested placement help or hinder their future growth? A great leader will always want to place their team members in a position where they can push themselves to grow, learn and move up the ladder if at all possible. A great way to do this is to place newer staff with leadership potential with a seasoned team leader. This is a great way to groom a new leader without creating a sense of competition between the two. 


Sandbox Tip:

Once you have chosen the teaching staff for each classroom make a note in the STAFFING PROFILE under the NOTES section. This way you can keep track of who led with whom each year. Just state “2019-2020 Karyn and Mandi”. You can also make notes about what went well and where there was room for improvement. When you continue doing this each year it will give you a great history of which personalities work well with which and even which personality combinations to avoid!


Final Notes:

When we as leaders are intentional about our decisions and consider the benefits to all stakeholders, we can develop vibrant child care communities which best support both our staff and the children in their care. Staff placement is a big deal, so take the time to sit back and really consider the aspects discussed above before making a move. Finally, remember to be open and willing to both give and take feedback from your staff, but don’t be afraid to make a decision if you know your team will not agree. If you choose to “Do what is right, not what is easy”, your staff will respect you in the long run and your clients will appreciate your center for the well-oiled machine it is!  

P.S. Since I know you were wondering, the only way to write 42 as the product of primes is as follows: 2x3x7. In fact every natural number has a unique prime factorization different from every other number. The things you didn’t know you didn’t know! :) 

(example taken from Grade 6 Curriculum in Ontario, Canada) 

Thanks for stopping by today. Feel free to check out more tips for running your center on The Best Child Care Blog


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