How early do childhood education administrators develop their own management style?
Early childhood education administrators use respectful, effective strategies to navigate issues and solve problems, but the strategies chosen need to fit the situation and administrator.
July 20, 2016 - Author: Kittie Butcher, Michigan State University Extension, and Janet Pletcher, Lansing Community College
There are many management manuals that give advice about how to manage a business and the staff members of that business. Early childhood education administrators and directors are tasked with managing a business, but it is a highly personalized business. With our core value of respect for families, children and staff, we need to find ways to manage our programs while engaging in considerate interactions with all people. Holly Elissa Bruno, a lawyer and early childhood education consultant, suggests that finding the right management style comes down to three personal characteristics.
The first personal characteristic is a person’s temperament. A simple definition for temperament is the combination of mental, physical and emotional traits of a person. As early childhood educators, we study temperament in terms of young children and we know that our temperament, or natural predisposition, is something we are born with. Examining our own traits can give us a deeper understanding of ourselves and how others see us. We can also learn to modify some of our traits by teaching ourselves how to move beyond our initial reflexive reactions and practice being thoughtful or “mindful” about our responses to people and situations.
The second characteristic that affects our management style is our ability to reason and use abstract concepts. We use our cognitive skills to predict outcomes, imagine alternatives, evaluate situations and, in general, solve problems. Management and supervisory skills are intricately tied to preventing problematic situations from occurring and resolving difficulties we cannot prevent. Like modifying our temperament, we can study a variety of problem-solving/decision-making strategies to improve our problem-solving skills.
Finally, our emotional intelligence quotient or EQ is a factor. Bruno discusses EQ in her book, “Leading on Purpose: Emotionally Intelligent Early Childhood Administration.” She describes it as the ability to understand our own emotions and other’s emotions. She goes on to describe how one can learn to better understand emotions and boost their EQ by using these steps:
- Perceive emotions accurately (yours and others).
- Appraise and express emotions.
- Understand emotion and emotional knowledge.
- Regulate emotions to promote growth and solve problems.
Many early childhood educators have training and experience in studying, interpreting and helping young children understand their own emotions. We know that being mindful, listening carefully, labeling emotions and putting emotions into words can help children to regulate their emotional life and solve problems. Our interpretation of Bruno’s work is that we can use these skills to help ourselves and other adults negotiate the world of emotions and, at the same time, improve our EQ.
Emotional circumstances for early childhood education administrators
In most early childhood education facilities, emotions run high every day. Children, family members, staff and even visitors come into our environments in a high state of emotional activity on a regular basis. Early childhood education administrators must use respectful, effective strategies to navigate the issues and solve problems, not create more problems. However, the strategies chosen need to fit the situation and the administrator. At first, it may seem that each situation is unique and requires a different process for reaching a solution. However, with experience, we begin to see a pattern of decision-making and supervision behaviors emerging, and that will be your own unique management and supervision style. Being thoughtful about how we make decisions and how we behave toward other people in our programs will make the tasks much easier in the end.
For more information on management and supervisory skills in early childhood education, see:
- Using Our Brain to Stay Cool under Pressure, Holly Elissa Bruno, Young Children
- Occupational Outlook Handbook, Preschool and Childcare Center Directors, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor
- Voices - Insights from the Field, YouTube video, Holly Elissa Bruno