During stressful times, staff members look to their leaders for support and encouragement. As the leader of a childcare center or preschool, you’re in a position to support some of the most valuable and essential workers of all: early educators. If your teachers feel safe, heard, and valued, then they will be able to bring their best selves to work.
Here are four ways in which you can offer your staff the support they need during this challenging time.
1. Keep staff health as a top priority
Nothing is more important than the health and safety of everyone in your facility, and that includes your teachers. Any essential worker should feel like their employer is looking out for their health during COVID-19.
Evaluate your sick leave policy and your center’s culture around taking sick time. Do staff members feel like they can be honest about their health symptoms, or do they worry that they will be penalized for staying home if they aren’t feeling well? Do you have adequate coverage from other staff members or substitute teachers in case someone needs to stay home? Now is not the time to pressure staff members to “power through” illness and run the risk of exposing your center to a potential COVID-19 outbreak.
Take the time to consider how your teachers are getting to work and the health risks that come with public transportation these days. If you have staff members who usually take public transit, are you able to help them find parking solutions, and perhaps even subsidize part of their parking fee? Can you help facilitate carpooling or encourage them to carpool together?
Many states and counties are currently requiring adults to wear face masks in public. Due to the high-contact nature of childcare, masks can help protect both your students and your staff. Depending on your own region’s conditions and advice from your health department, consider requiring your staff members to wear masks if you haven’t already.
The precautions you’re taking to safeguard your students from illness should apply to staff as well! In addition to screening for symptoms and washing hands frequently, encourage your teachers to take good care of themselves at home and get plenty of rest so they can stay well and be at their best.
A brightwheel update: Staff Health Checks are now available in the brightwheel app! With Staff Health Checks, administrators can proactively monitor the health and safety of their staff by logging staff temperatures at check-in or throughout the day.
2. Distance learning can help you support higher-risk staff
If you have staff who are unable or reluctant to return to the classroom because they are at higher risk of illness, distance learning can be a great way to keep them connected to your center and your families, as well as providing them with a way to continue working.
Many early education centers are experiencing demand for distance learning from families who are not comfortable returning just yet. While distance learning can never fully replace in-person early education, offering a virtual option can help you meet the needs of both your families and your teachers. Plus, it allows your center to continue collecting tuition from families who aren’t ready to return, and it gives them valuable educational resources in exchange for their tuition payments.
You can appoint a staff member who is unable to return in-person to lead your distance learning program. Work closely with this teacher to determine what technology you will need, how frequently online classes will be held, how you will take attendance, and other logistics.
With brightwheel, teachers can build lesson plans and easily share them with families at home. You can also add a Zoom link to your lesson if you’re planning on hosting a video call.
Here are some resources to help you and your staff succeed with distance learning:
- [Article] How to Start a Distance Learning Program for Early Education
- [Webinar] How to Provide a Successful Distance Learning Program (And Why It's More Important Than Ever)
3. Communicate openly and listen to staff feedback
In an environment where conditions and regulations are constantly changing, it’s never been more important to communicate well and proactively. No one wants to feel left in the dark, especially when health and safety are on the line. Making transparent communication a priority can help you boost morale for your childcare staff and increase retention!
Make sure to communicate as early as possible with your staff any time you’re making updates to your health and safety policies, schedule, room assignments, and job duties. It’s impossible to over communicate during COVID-19, so ask staff to confirm that they have read and understand any updates instead of making assumptions.
And don’t forget that communication works both ways! It’s especially important now to listen to the ideas and concerns of your teachers. If your center has struggled with creating a culture of transparency and positivity in the past, it’s not too late to work on improving. We’re entering a new back-to-school season, and now is the perfect time to grow!
To foster more open communication, you might consider hosting weekly staff meeting with a Q&A section at the end, if you don’t already. This can happen in person or via video call. Depending on the culture of your center, this could even include a fun end-of-week celebration like a happy hour or game night, which is also a great way to express gratitude for your staff. You might also invite staff to add ideas to a suggestion box or email them to a new email address that you set up specifically for staff suggestions. This can help staff feel heard, and it can be a source of many wonderful ideas!
A brightwheel update: Staff Messaging is here! Now, you can centralize all of your communications on brightwheel, easily send messages to all staff members or a classroom of staff, and have staff quickly respond directly through the app.
4. Don’t forget to celebrate success
During this stressful time, it’s easy to focus on the negative and overlook many of the good things your teachers are doing every day. That means that now is the time to seek out things that are going right and celebrate your staff members’ successes. Did a teacher navigate a tricky conversation with a parent? Help a child reach a developmental milestone? Go above and beyond to help her fellow teachers? Acknowledge hard work and show appreciation for a job well done.
To build a happier, more positive workplace, invite others to spread the appreciation as well. Consider starting a “shout-out board” where staff members can write kudos to their colleagues on postcards and hang them on the board, which allows your staff to lean into each other for community support. You could also invite parents to contribute their warm wishes and gratitude during a staff appreciation week. Whatever you choose to do, your job as a leader is to provide encouragement and hope to your staff to help them through this challenging time.