The late Patrick Whitaker, a lecturer of whom I was very fond, wrote about leadership:
‘One useful definition of leadership is behaviour that enables and assists others to achieve planned goals. This suggests leadership is as much to do with making helpful suggestions as with making strategic directives; it might be as much about listening to other people’s ideas as about expounding your own and as much about gentleness as about toughness.’ And he goes on to mention the notion of leadership ‘emerging appropriately, as and when necessary’.
If time has ever proven the truth of this, it is the months since March 2020. Educators and other staff in settings all over the country have stepped up and emerged as gentle leaders, who supported children and their families in times that were uncertain, scary and unknown. You will have read examples of this leadership on our Early Childhood Ireland website and in some of our Scéalta blogs. Look at Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and you see examples of educators going above and beyond to stay connected with families during closures, to keep settings open (when permitted) to support key personnel in front-line jobs, who were creative in managing pods, who looked at how they could develop their outdoor areas to maximise fun and learning outdoors and ensuring a healthier environment at the same time. They ensured that children and families were central to any decisions made and advocated for the needs of children who required their settings, because home may not have been the best environment to be in at that time. They also supported their colleagues when support was needed. In short, they ensured that children’s well-being was as good as possible, they supported a strong sense of identity and belonging, they gave opportunities for children to explore and think and by gosh they communicated….and this was virtual for so much of the time. True pedagogical leadership in action!
We have heard of many examples. If you are a parent, you will have experienced instances of this leadership. But there are many we have not heard of. This is because those women and men have gone quietly about doing the job of supporting children’s well-being and learning in their own way, without fanfare. The people who we in Early Childhood Ireland have featured were approached by us, because we heard about the work they were doing. Early childhood people are like that: they do their work in an unassuming way, not looking for credit or praise, because that is not why they are doing the job, they do not see their own work as special, they just see it as the right way to do things.
And that is why we want to recognise these educators and leaders! They deserve to be praised and a light shone on the gentle way they lead.
This year, more than ever, it is important that leaderful educators are seen and are appreciated. Their colleagues, the children and their families do appreciate them and their commitment, but after the turmoil of the past 18 months or so it is important that their work is seen on a bigger stage. So, we are asking if you work with someone like this, if your child attends a setting where the educators (not necessarily the manager) lead out in a caring, innovative, empathetic way that you tell us about them. Maybe you work on your own and you are that person…TELL US! Even if you nominated them before…nominate them again. Share their story and help them be seen. Because, if we didn’t have these wonderful pedagogical leaders, our sector would not be the vibrant, committed and essential support to families that it is.
To find out more and to nominate yourself or someone else click here.
Reference: Managing Change in Schools; Whitaker P (1993; p73) Open University Press