Modern leadership demands are demanding change in all aspects of life. Early childhood education institutions being the pool of all job market resources can definitely not be ignored. It is common to say the children are the leaders of tomorrow and therefore there must be deliberate efforts of how they are not only brought up but directed. This paper will look into all aspects of early childhood including the importance of the parents and the community’s contribution to the early childhood education. The parent is not only responsible for bringing up but also for directing the path that his child will take in the future. Once the child is out of his parents’ hands he most probably goes to school or daycare. The environment in which a child grows determines how they develop. The child is exposed to different types of leadership and so this leadership must be professionally qualified to deal with the child and look into their formal or informal education needs.
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There is also the component of community. A child is not only educated by the parents or the daycare attendants, or early childhood educators but also the society. It is therefore important that the society is educated on the importance of childhood education and its responsibility as a community. These factors in the curriculum are meant to ensure a healthy growth for the child in the society.
Emily Kelly a 26-year-old mother really needed a daycare for her 3-year-old son so that she could work a part-time job in a restaurant. A friend of hers advised her of a daycare near the restaurant. Emily thought it was such a good idea since she would be picking her son not so far from her working place. “Life couldn’t be and more convenient she thought to herself” Without further investigations she enrolled her son the following day which was the same day that she was beginning to work. Though she didn’t at the first sight like the location of the center due to its nearness to a very busy section of the town, she went ahead and enrolled her child. While waiting to be served, she noticed that there was too much noise coming from the inside of a large room where the children were left to play by themselves without supervision. She also noticed that the toddlers were very many and were being served by few young girls. It was very easy to tell that there was a problem of understaffing, what amazed her most was the number of mothers streaming into the day care to leave their children.
The mothers would come drop their children and not register anywhere, so long as the child was within the compound of the daycare assuming that someone would come and stay with the children. By the time an old man in her late 60s came to serve Emily, there were children all over the place and what made it worse was the way he shouted at the younger girls who were apparently her workers to come and usher the children into the big and already chaotic room. After a few questions from Mr. Carl who seemed like the director of the center, Emily left her son seated on some old bench with an assurance from old man that someone would attend to him later.
Social-economic changes have impacted negatively to the traditional ways of rearing children particularly because women who were traditionally left with the responsibility of taking care of the children have now to leave homes very early and return very late for the sake of earning daily living either as a boost to the husband or as a sole breadwinner. Divorce rates are increasing to unprecedented levels and this is having primary effect particularly on the children. As a result of this, mushrooming business of daycares and kindergartens has been on the rise and because desperate measures call for desperate actions, the daycares centers can only be encouraged. However it is important to note that despite the situation the society has found itself in, early childhood education is also becoming increasingly important and though the centers have come up spontaneously, deliberate action should be taken to ensure that they give the children not only the care but also meets the educational needs of a child.
Among the strands and goals that the curriculum looks into are the well-being of the children. This strand is concerned with the health, emotional development and security concerns of the child. Then there is the second strand of belonging where the child feels connection to the members of the family and society in general, they are assured of a place in the society, they are comfortable with the routine of the society they live in, and they know the limits and boundaries of their behavior. There is also the third strand of the Te Whariki childhood curriculum which is contribution. This goal is responsible for ensuring equitability, where all the children are given opportunities to learn despite their gender, religion, age, ethnicity and social-economic background.
The fourth strand or goal is communication whereby the children are provided with an environment that will help them develop both verbal and non-verbal communication styles, they experience stories and symbols of their own culture and also of others surrounding them as they discover different ways of being creative and expressing themselves. The last strand included in this curriculum is exploration where the child’s play is recognized as a meaningful learning experience that helps them create body confidence. At this stage the children also learn strategies for active exploration and thinking and reasoning while at the same time developing working theory for making sense of the natural, social, physical and material world. (Ministry of Education 2006)
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In 2006 a worker of John Maxwell the author of the 21 irrefutable laws of leadership said that it does not matter what you learn, what you know or who you know but everything is based on leadership and no wonder the Chinese proverb if you want prosperity for 100 years grow leaders. Everything rises and falls on leadership (John Maxwell) and no matter what systems and strategies any country come up with for early childhood education without carefully considering its leadership and management, all the findings of researches and studies will be put to waste. Before looking at the concepts that come strongly in the experience given, it is important to note a few things as to why early childhood education leadership needs to be looked at in our contemporary world now more than ever. It is important to note at this juncture that traditional ways of leadership have long been outdated by the rapid change taking place in the world. Sharon Lynn and Lynda Hallmark are first concerned with the traditional methods of leadership that are no longer growing in the world today mainly because there is an emergence of new leadership theories that are well adaptable to early care and education.
The other aspect they look into is the fact that the new leadership in the today’s world is exotic to the traditional ways and lastly is the increasing need to cultivate the new leadership skills into the field of our young ones. Some of the traditional ways of looking at leadership that is being faced out is first the idea of male dominating in leadership where a one-man show is exhibited in the corporate world. In today’s world that has changed and there is multiple, shared and joint leadership that includes the views of the women and recognizes their leadership skills. the whole idea of competition has been faced out and has been replaced by the collaboration not only in the inside of the company so that it can have a margin over the others but there has been partnerships and collaboration between companies for the purposes of achieving certain shared goals. All these changes have to be considered the while looking to early childhood education leadership.
Looking into the situation given in the experience just before the introduction of the paper, it is clearly noticeable that there need various leadership styles to be incorporated if the said daycare is to meet the needs of early childhood education. First there must be community leaders whose main aim is concern for vision and quality leadership in early care and education and an understanding of local communities’ reality. This kind of leadership is responsible for educating, informing and acting as a link among families and available resources, public and private sectors of the community. If this was employed in the experience given, the daycare management would be better informed of the importance of a daycare, how it should be run and managed and would therefore look for resources from both the private and public sector and improve the situation at the center since it was clear from the described scenario that there was very little understanding of what a child needs for his early education. Unfortunately this was not only on the side of the leadership of the daycare but also on the side of the parents who despite the prevailing conditions continued to leave their children oblivious of the dangers to their children’s holistic health involved. (Waniganayake, Morda and Kapsalakis 2000)
There was also need for pedagogical type of leadership which is concerned with linking research and practice. From the running of the daycare in the experience given, it is clear that there was no link between the two. Pedagogical leaders are responsible for passing information to the parents and the public. They are also responsible for reflecting and interpreting the reality on the ground and communicating the same to the responsible authority. When it comes to leadership and management, clearly the experience given is lacking and a manager is responsible for the daily running of the school. Managers work is to organize and communicate well with not only the parents but also all the stakeholders of early childhood care and education. It is clear that there is also need for collaborative leadership since from the experience there does not seem to be any collaboration between the director and her staff. The ordering around shows that there is no respect between the management and the subordinates and this is dangerous since it is common sense that people respect what they have been involved in formulating and therefore subordinates are not just there to take orders but also to participate in the order-making. Something else to consider while dealing with childhood leaders is to come up with ways of engaging others in the role of decision making, However low in the rank somebody might be, their contributions and perspective should be put into consideration. This will not only promote ownership but will improve on the general performance especially in the early childhood education that really is a business of whole community Traditionally, women leaders’ voices have been muted by the domination of males in leadership positions. Hall (1996) stated that women favor powers rather than power over someone and therefore women should also be encouraged to act more precisely in their sphere of influence and justify their choices. (Kagan and Hallmark 2001)
In order for there to be success in the set goals and objectives, the vision of the all should be considered since it is those visions that aspires contributors to be not only actively involved but supportive. Visions can however not be reached if there are no strategies put in place. In early childhood education, support from all stakeholders is required. It is therefore necessary to be strategic enough and involve every one of them. Early childhood education starts at home and therefore parents are key. To be able to effectively be involved in the strategy-making of early childhood education, parents need to be educated on how to take care of their child right from birth. They should also be responsible for not only instilling culture onto their child but also be a good role model on the same for any success to be involved. It is important that normally a child is with his parents for a very long time and therefore a lot should be invested in parents as part of the strategy for mission accomplishment.
Since there must be formal education for the children, teachers and school leaders must also be developed in order to ensure that the chain of early childhood education is not broken. Ultimately, all other members of the community should also be educated and sensitized to the importance of early childhood education. There is also the aspect of having an organizational culture inculcated in our schools. These are the unique combinations of values and assumption beliefs that build as people work together over a long time.
Organizational culture is important because it allows space for everyone to feel not only respect but appreciation. In addition, organizational culture is not meant only for the benefit of the workers but also for the representation of the organization. The way the school is structured, its management, its leadership attitudes towards outsiders, its respect to the culture of the society, its relationship with all the stakeholders, and ultimately its commitment to the mission of early childhood education is what makes an organization either be accepted or rejected in any given community. People make judgment over the organization just by its representation to the people and not only that but the product; the kind of children it produces. Though not generalizing there is always a stereotyping of the students. There are schools that are known to produce students with generally high levels of discipline, there are others who are known to produce pupils who are committed to academic success and so forth and so forth. Children will always become what their environments have trained them to be. Organizational culture can also serve as a marketing tool for an organization. It is obvious that early childhood education institutions that produce better disciplined and academically successful children will have more demands than others. Communication is another aspect to consider while dealing with a school leadership. During her 20 minutes stay at school, Emily in the experience given was totally ignored and no apology was given when she was finally being served. Schools management should be concerned with their clientele otherwise they will not only lose business but respect. (Hatherly 2000)
Communication skills are very vital as they are the window to the inside of the institution. Moreover, bad communications skills are source of tension amongst the staff of any given organization. Part of the staff training should be on guidelines to effective and clear communications, communications systems and policies of the program. Communications skills are acquired and learned and there should be deliberate actions towards the same. Since communications are done through many forms, all of them including, writing, talking, body and sign language should be given ample training time of course according to the preference of the staff. Depending on the issue at hand, various communications methods should be used suitably. Use of language in communication should also be taken into consideration. It is not professional for staff to practice snobbism either amongst themselves, or towards either the management or the subordinates. (Carter 2001).
As discussed earlier, leadership is moving from traditional one-man show leadership to collaborative. This has brought about the need for team building in organizations. The teams’ main aims are to bring people together so that every team player is geared to the same goal. Teams are also built for confronting conflicts, creating room for consensus, enhancing performance and last but not least separation and closure. There has been also the problem of staff turnover whose main cause is remuneration. Institutions should look into possible incentives that can keep the staff members for long this will enhance the strength of team building. It is common knowledge that for any person to feel part and parcel of any organizations his contributions should be heard and considered. This is why it is important bring people together so that their views can be heard. During this time there could be conflicting ideas and it is at this time that staff members confront the conflict and solve them amicably. It is also at the same time that room for consensus is created whereby staff members come to a place of compromise and agree on a single goal. At the same time in team buildings activities various talents come out and this goes a long way in enhancing performance.
The last thing that a time normally does is debriefing, where the team comes together after a completion of a task either successfully or otherwise and they acknowledge everyone’s contribution towards the task that was bestowed on them. Separation and closure are important not only for acknowledging purposes but for release purposes. It is during separation or closure that a team member is set free to either remain or leave the team. In case of a separation that is breaking the team before completion of the task, team members have to be involved so that they can adjust accordingly. For example if a member of the team has to go before time, the team members should be informed so that they can cover for him or they can reduce their reliance on him Incase he was a strong player. Reliability and responsibility are key in teamwork. No matter how thoughtful, sensitive you are in a team and are considered to have terrific ideas, if you can’t be relied upon to do something no matter how small like calling up a parent or keeping time, you are truly not a team player. A team player is someone who closes all the loopholes that can make fault is found in her team. (Scrivens 2001)
The traditional way of running early childhood education especially the myth that leadership does not work in early childhood education is has made it difficult to find well-developed early childhood leadership members of staff. Very few of them have either diplomas or degrees of the same and this makes them feel ill-prepared for the job. As a result early education remains an area that is highly in need of qualified leaders. Studies done have shown that qualified staff members are accredited with creating organizational climate which in turn create a good atmosphere including job satisfaction. As a result, such an environment translates into good child education results as compared to other types of leadership while the leaders involved have no formal training on the job. Formal training is not only important for leaders but also for subordinates and no matter at what stage this education is acquired the results can only become better.
My own opinion especially on the Christian perspective would be that a child is not complete if his/her spirit man is not taken care of. Te Whariki childhood curriculum has a provision for spiritual development and these in my view are issues of religion. Christians get their direction from the bible which is very clear on child development. In proverbs the bible directs the parents or generally leaders to teach the children God’s way when he is young and the child will never depart from those ways. In Genesis the bible states clearly that Abraham was promised to be a father of nations because God trusted him that he would direct his children in God’s ways. Finally about Christian’s perspective of childhood education and care, in proverbs, the bible instructs the leaders to instill discipline in children while they are young.
As discussed above, childhood is an integral part of human development. It is during childhood that values and virtues are implanted in human’s heart and mind and that what you train a child to become is what they end up becoming. Children’s minds are like computers if you put in garbage you are sure to get garbage but if you put in values and good and quality education then you not only secure a future but a responsible life. As we again said everything rises and falls on leadership and no matter what you know plan and decide to do if your leadership skills are not sufficient one is bound to fail. It is important therefore that leadership in schools is looked into in terms of staff development, team building, communications skills, acquiring of not only leadership but also managerial skills etc. it is also important to note here that early childhood education is not only a concern of the school staff but also an issue of homes and the society in general. There therefore should be community leadership that is concerned with ensuring that there is quality education and also acting as a link between research and practice. There should also be pedagogical leadership that will concern itself with educating the members of the public including parents the importance of early childhood education. Finally but not least, if the school is based on Christian perspective, leaders should be involved in directing, instructing their children in the ways they should go. Discipline issues should also not be downplayed. The future of early childhood education looks promising especially with the renewed emphasis on pre-school and early childhood programs. (Kagan and Hallmark 2001)
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