The work environment for early childhood care and learning providers is active, busy, and scheduled! Between caring for children, planning curriculum, and managing the classroom, we can forget to make time to connect with our colleagues. Yet, strong teaching teams that are built upon open communication and respectful professional relationships benefit not only educators, but children and families as well!
The Importance of Strong Relationships
Relationships are a key component of our work. Our first priority is to nurture strong relationships with the children in our care – but it’s also important to build connections with our peers. These connections can create a network of professional support that enhances our work and our wellbeing.
Respectful, supportive peer relationships become the foundation for a community-oriented work environment by:
Creating cohesion. Children and their families benefit from the sense of stability and cohesion that is formed when educators regularly connect with one another. Open communication among staff members means that everyone is on the same page, providing consistent information to families.
Supporting wellness and productivity. Educators thrive when they feel supported and safe at their place of work. The most welcoming professional environments celebrate diverse perspectives and encourage open, respectful communication.
Inspiring creativity and collaboration. Strong professional relationships encourage us to ask questions, propose ideas, and try new approaches. There is a willingness to collaborate and to be inspired to try new things based on what fellow educators are doing in the classroom.
Providing opportunities for reflection. When team members trust each other, they can feel comfortable seeking peer input on difficult classroom situations. Whether the issue is a child’s challenging behavior, a rocky relationship with a parent, or a change to your classroom’s schedule, the perspective of a colleague can be very helpful.
Fitting Connections into Busy Schedules
Because schedules are often busy, it can be tricky to find time to connect with co-workers. Following are some ideas for connecting with peers that can fit easily into your day.
Meet up for coffee or lunch. Typically, we get a few brief breaks throughout the day to have a snack, coffee, or lunch. This can offer built-in opportunities to ask a colleague to sit down over a cup of coffee to chat about how things are going in your classroom.
Start a collaborative bulletin board. If there is common space available, a bulletin board can be a central hub that team members can use to post quick notes to one another. Event reminders, schedule updates, positive news, and notes of encouragement are all great ways to help everyone stay in the loop.
Visit different classrooms. Whenever you have a few extra moments, take a moment to peek into different classrooms to see what other educators are doing. You might find inspiration for a fun new art activity or a new way to set up your classroom furniture.
If you’re looking for additional peer relationship-building ideas, you might enjoy the following resources: