The Young Learners Early Learning Centre is an organization specialized in early childhood education. However, it is currently failing to attract children due to a variety of issues, and so, it is unable to perform its duties satisfactorily. Its current primary needs are increasing its occupancy rate and changing its philosophy from the teacher-led one to the child-centered one. This shift proposal presents the steps that will be taken to address the Young Learners Early Learning Centre’s issues and achieve its goal of increasing enrollment.
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The Centre’s philosophy will require changes, as it is currently oriented in a manner that reduces enrollment by addressing children insufficiently. The staff will be appraised and receive appropriate training to improve each employee’s competence. After these steps are complete, the Centre will conduct a recruitment and induction campaign to attract more children now that the environment has been improved for their benefit. The proposal expects that the steps suggested will be sufficient to increase occupancy to satisfactory degrees.
Change in the Center’s Philosophy
As mentioned above, the center should change its philosophy to increase the enrollment rate. Currently, the approach of the organization is teacher-centered, which may have several disadvantages. First, it may prevent children from taking the initiative in their learning (Cheng Pui Wah, 2006). Second, the teacher-centered approach may stop students from collaborating, which may affect their communication skills negatively. Finally, such a strategy may not be suitable for supporting self-exploration in learning areas (Cheng Pui Wah, 2006). Thus, the shift is necessary for ensuring that children can benefit from being at the center as much as possible.
The first step in making the shift in the curriculum approach will be developing the center’s philosophy statement. Gould and Matapo (2016) report that the philosophy of education should address the ideas, values, and beliefs that guide the organization’s practices. The Young Learners Early Learning Centre can make its curriculum child-centered by establishing several values that correspond to children’s needs. The philosophy of the organization will follow the Te Whāriki framework and the values used in other similar early childhood centers. For instance, the organization will focus on:
- Empowering children to learn;
- Responding to each child’s needs, interests, strengths, and abilities (Ministry of Education, 2017);
- Showing care, respect, empathy, and charity (Spiller, Pio, Erakovic, & Henare, 2011);
- Removing possible obstacles to learning (including physical, social, and conceptual ones);
- Acknowledging children’s diversity through an inclusive curriculum;
- Providing children with an opportunity to learn about the cultural heritage of New Zealand (Ritchie, 2016).
The philosophy of Te Whāriki that will be implemented within the center considers the significance of cultural perspectives, children’s learning needs, environmental opportunities, and parental involvement (Ministry of Education, 2017). Within this framework, children are viewed as competent and confident learners from an early age. To develop a child-centered philosophy for the organization, it is crucial to establish the sets of core, aspirational, and permission-to-play values (Lencioni, 2012). The first group will represent the Young Learners Early Learning Centre’s identity.
The core values of the center will be aligned with the philosophy of Te Whāriki and include the belief in all children’s potential and respect for all communities. The aspirational values are those that the organization desires to adopt (Lencioni, 2012). For the Young Learners Early Learning Centre, the set of these values will include implementing technologies into the learning process and contributing to the life of the diverse local community. Finally, the permission-to-play values will represent the behavioral standards within the learning center (Lencioni, 2012). They will include respect for others, inclusiveness, communication, and integrity.
The second step for increasing the enrollment of the center is defining the educators’ ethical responsibilities. They will include not forcing or inviting children to participate in emotionally or physically damaging practices, as well as dangerous or intimidating activities (Feeney, Freeman, & Pizzolongo, 2012). In addition, it is vital to state that teachers must avoid discrimination against students and coworkers in any form, and be aware of potential symptoms and risk factors of child neglect and abuse. The list of ethical responsibilities will be made clear for all teachers. Such an approach will ensure that the center’s activities are focused on children’s needs and aimed at protecting their interests and ensuring their safety.
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The third step for shifting towards children-based approach will be assessing the learning and play environments of the center. Gonzalez-Mena (2013) reports that environments should make children comfortable while offering engaging and exploratory learning experiences. It will be vital to install dividers, walls, and fences for children from the nursery to ensure that they do not leave the room, especially because the Young Learners Early Learning Centre is licensed for babies and toddlers. The decision to put up fences is supported by the study by Smith (2014). The author reports that children feel safer when fences surround their space (Smith, 2014).
For very young children, such as those not more than one year old, simple toys will be offered. Such an approach can help them to play in a relaxed manner and avoid exceeding sensory stimulation (Gonzalez-Mena, 2013). For older children, including toddlers, the center will offer more complex toys, such as stacking blocks.
It is necessary to mention that outdoor playgrounds for preschoolers will be established to ensure that young children are not deprived of their freedom to play. Wyver et al. (2010) report that currently, there is a significant concern that playgrounds are associated with risks for children. However, the authors show that restrictions on children’s play often result in more severe short- and long-term threats for them (Wyver et al., 2010).
The study by Hu, Li, Marco, and Chen (2015) also reveals that outdoor play is crucial for children’s physical, social, cognitive, and emotional development. Thus, preschoolers should have an ability to play outside under their teachers’ supervision, accessing physically challenging activities and equipment, interacting with each other, releasing stress, and developing friendships (Hu et al., 2015). By offering such activities to children, the center will not limit the their freedom to play while providing them with diverse environments for play.
Staff appraisal is significant for ensuring that the teachers are performing best to their abilities. Within the organization, it will be presented as a form of a discussion between the manager and employees. Appraisal can be considered a vital component of the performance management system, which is crucial for uplifting and positive leadership (Trosten-Bloom, Deines, & Carsten, 2014). As a manager, I suggest conducting appraisals at the end of each school year, in addition to mid-year follow-up meetings, during which the progress will be reviewed.
The purpose of staff appraisal within the Young Learners Early Learning Centre will be ensuring personal and professional growth of people working in the organization. One of the approaches to staff appraisal will be reflective practice, suggested by Freeman, Dalli, and Pickering (2016). I will ask educators to analyze their teaching strategies, children’s learning outcomes, and the necessity to improve or change the existing practices.
Staff appraisal will be performed from the perspective of self-review, too. Teachers will be asked to analyze their strengths and weaknesses related to their professional skills based on Mooney’s (2007) model that invites educators to evaluate their personality traits. Such an approach is significant because it will help to identify the staff’s cumulative capacities and analyze whether there is a need to implement training sessions to improve them.
It is necessary to mention that teachers’ performance in their classrooms will be evaluated more often than their other professional traits. Every month, I will attend educators’ classes and playgrounds to see how employees interact with children, what skills they have, and what capacities they may lack. The results of these observations will be discussed with teachers every three months during personal and team meetings in which all participants will have an opportunity to learn from each other’s experience.
As a part of the staff appraisal process, training sessions will be established to address the identified gaps in educators’ performance. During these sessions, teachers will have a chance to work with coaches specializing in early childhood education, collaborate, and share ideas on how the learning process can be improved. In addition, the center will provide employees with formal accreditation opportunities and qualification courses. These measures will ensure that the possible disadvantages in educators’ approaches to teaching are minimized and do not affect children’s development and learning process.
One of the strategies that will allow raising the enrollments in the center is increasing parental involvement, which can be a significant part of children’s learning process. Zhang (2015) reports that the participation of families in children’s education can enhance students’ academic competence and improve social skills. Parents should understand children’s learning experiences and, if possible, participate in activities and routines of early learning centers (Chan & Ritchie, 2016).
Notably, the attitudes towards parental involvement among families differ. While some parents are visible at early learning centers and are involved in curriculum decisions actively, others believe that it is unnecessary or even offensive to work alongside teachers (Chan & Ritchie, 2016). Usually, the latter case occurs in families coming from certain cultural backgrounds in which educators are seen as minority figures. It is vital to prevent such attitudes in the Young Learners Early Learning Centre and improve parental improvement using the following steps.
The first step will be to establish trust-based relationships between teachers and parents. The organization’s staff will assure parents that their children are in a safe and welcoming environment that is beneficial for them. Stark, Gordon-Burns, Purdue, Rarere-Briggs, and Turnock (2011) report that it is vital for teachers to address parents’ concerns and questions regarding the learning process and the organization.
This point is especially significant in diverse settings, such as the Young Learners Early Learning Centre that gathers children of many ethnicities. The organization’s staff will provide parents with appropriate information and support to avoid possible concerns and discrimination. Teachers will address the social, educational advantages of inclusion while talking to families, especially those coming from non-diverse communities.
The second step for improving parental participation will be using online sources, such as the organization’s website and Facebook page, to establish communication with parents. Teachers will share the information about upcoming events at the Young Learners Early Learning Centre, the center’s schedule, and activities in which all families can participate. Moreover, they will invite parents to join discussions and answer their questions.
The organization’s website will present an online calendar that parents can use to schedule their visits to the learning center. In addition, the center will share pictures from the events to help families to see the learning environment and the activities the center offers for children. This step will also help the organization to improve enrollment significantly, as families will be able to learn more about the Young Learners Early Learning Centre online before visiting it.
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The third step that will be taken is establishing family activities, such as Doors Open Days, for parents and children. Parents will be invited to visit classrooms in an informal setting and talk to the teachers without the pressure of a sit-down meeting. Such activities will be beneficial for young children, too, as they will have an opportunity to show their learning environment to their parents and siblings and feel their families’ support.
Besides the mentioned steps, three types of involvement dynamics will be applied to improve parental engagement. The first one is the teacher-driven one, which implies direct invitations from educators (Zhang, 2015). Teachers will ask parents about their expectations regarding their collaboration and the learning process. The open-door policy will be established to allow close family members to observe the activities in the Young Learners Early Learning Centre at any time. The second type of involvement is parent-driven; it considers the categories of aspiration, self-efficacy, and role construction (Zhang, 2015).
Parents will be asked about their personal values related to their children’s development, their beliefs regarding their ability to support their children, and their perceived responsibilities associated with the learning process. Based on families’ answers, the measures that can improve their participation will be developed. For instance, some parents may want to be more present in children’s lives, while others may want to provide them with more autonomy. Finally, the child-driven type of partaking will be based on children’s invitations. Children will be asked to invite their parents to participate in the center’s activities, such as plays and celebrations.
Recruitment and Induction
Effective approaches to recruitment are crucial for creating a team of professionals for the learning center and ensuring a safe and positive learning environment for young children. The recruitment process should be performed thoroughly and in relation to the learning center’s objectives and values. To ensure that the recruitment process is sufficient, the following solutions will be implemented:
- The first step will be developing an accurate job description. It will be vital to enlist the candidates’ future responsibilities, required skills, desired personality traits, and expected relevant experience (“Recruiting and hiring,” 2019). The more detailed and precise the job description is, the bigger the chance of hiring a suitable candidate will be.
- The second step will be developing a “success profile” (“Recruiting and hiring,” 2019). This profile will present an ideal model of the teacher the center would like to hire. The model will be based on the staff already working at the Young Learners Early Learning Centre, incorporating their best professional and personal qualities into one profile.
- The recruitment process will consist of two phases, including the pre-interview that can be completed over the phone, and the personal interview. The purpose of the pre-interview is to collect general information about the applicant, ask them questions about their curriculum vitae, and evaluate their professionalism (Carsen, 2014).
- The pre-interview process will address the following significant questions: Why the applicant is interested in the position at the Young Learners Early Learning Centre? What are the problems you experienced in your previous position(s)? Do you have any questions about the position at the Young Learners Early Learning Centre?
- Once the candidate passes the pre-interview, it is vital to develop the list of questions for the personal interview. The Young Learners Early Learning Centre strives to hire aspiring professionals that can support young children’s learning process and encourage them to explore the world around them. Thus, it will be crucial to ask applicants about their goals, conflict-management skills, strengths, and weaknesses.
- To ensure that the teacher complies with the goals of the learning center, it is suggested to evaluate their personal and professional identity. The first concept addresses the experiences, beliefs, and values educators have regarding the teaching profession (Sandilands, 2016). The second one is related to the combination of skills, knowledge, and expertise they have gained during their practice.
It is necessary to mention that the recruitment process can consist of a personal interview only. The possible challenge of such an approach is that it is time-consuming, as it requires learning all the information about the applicant during the meeting without the opportunity to analyze the person’s suitability beforehand. In addition, such a strategy will not allow me to develop the list of specific questions to the individual before the interview, which may result in a less productive meeting with the candidate.
During the recruitment process, I will pay attention to the compatibility of the candidates with the teachers already working at the center. Rodd (2013) notes that it is crucial for educators to be able to work collectively, delegate their tasks, if necessary, agree on timelines, and offer support to each other. My goal during the recruitment process will be to ensure collaborative leadership among novice and experienced teachers. Thus, it will be vital to build a team that is not prone to conflicts and can manage possible difficult situations effectively.
One of the important considerations that will be made is ensuring diversity in the workplace. As children of the Young Learners Early Learning Centre come from diverse populations, the organization should preserve diversity among employees, too. Such an approach will be beneficial for the learning center and will increase its teachers’ cumulative productivity. Grivastava and Kleiner (2015) report that workplace diversity can enhance creativity within the team, improve the workplace culture, and help the staff to generate valuable ideas.
Teachers’ qualification, along with the ratio of trained adults to children are some of the most significant factors contributing to the high quality of education (Duncan, 2006). Thus, it is vital to implement appropriate induction procedures for new employees. One of the first significant aspects of teacher induction will be to ensure that they are prepared for collaborative work with other educators.
Thus, I will ask more experienced employees to help the new ones in completing regular tasks, such as organizing a classroom or printing out learning materials. Rodd (2013) reports that teamwork can reduce stress and tension related to daily activities, providing the learning center’s staff with sources of support and motivation. Working in a team will help teachers to enhance their job commitment, have a welcoming environment, and foster their professional development. Therefore, the first phase of teacher induction will be connecting new educators with the rest of their coworkers.
The second step of induction will be to discuss the center’s values and vision with new educators. During the personal meeting, I will discuss the organization’s expectations about staff’s performance, express confidence in the team, and address the teachers’ possible questions about the job. It will also be crucial to provide new employees with clear guidelines and directions during this stage of induction (Rodd, 2013). The described strategy will ensure that the new teachers are committed to the Young Learners Early Learning Centre’s goals.
The third step of teacher induction will be site orientation and resource assistance. I will introduce new employees to the site of the center, show them the rooms for nursery and preschool teachers, and outline the sources that will be available for them to organize activities for children. The fourth step will be establishing regular meetings with novice teachers to ensure that they have an opportunity to voice their questions and concerns and receive full support. It is crucial to show new employees that they are in a welcoming environment that strives to support their professional and personal growth.
The final step of induction will be visiting novice teachers’ classrooms and providing feedback. The visits will be scheduled in advance, and the educators will receive the copies of evaluation records. I will review educators’ work, lesson plans, and other activities they organize to help them in setting reasonable goals and using their skills effectively. In addition, new employees will be encouraged to observe other teachers’ work and learn from them.
The proposal suggests that the center’s philosophy will be focused on children’s needs. I will develop the set of values aimed at ensuring children’s safety, empowering them to learn, and showing empathy and respect to them. Staff appraisal will be performed in the forms of reflective practice, regular classroom visits, and self-assessment. Parental involvement will be increased through personal communication and online resources. The processes of recruitment and induction will support collaboration between teachers and their adherence to the center’s values.
The proposal will increase the center’s enrollment to a value that is close to its overall capacity. Furthermore, the changes in the philosophy and the increase in educator competency will have a lasting effect on its popularity with children as parents. As such, the recruitment efforts conducted later on will not have to be as extensive as the initial procedure. The center’s improved reputation and the word of mouth spread by satisfied parents will ensure that it can sustainably enroll high amounts of students.
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