Child-care workers play an important but under-appreciated role in society. They work long hours in physically demanding conditions and are paid an average of $11.32 per hour, according to the United States Department of Labor. They don't expect to get rich, but instead are motivated by a desire to help young children learn and to nurture their growth. A sincere appreciation of the importance of their work is at the foundation of motivating them.
Encouraging staff to gain education through professional development opportunities will increase job satisfaction. Consider hiring or contracting a specialist to conduct training sessions for employees on topics such as emerging literacy, theories of child development and parent relationships.
Forge partnerships with other schools and university labs, and take staff members to visit these schools. These visits are usually free and offer opportunities to gain new ideas and become inspired.
Take advantage of yearly seminars through the local National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) chapters. As staff members develop professional competencies, ask them to teach a seminar.
Nothing is more discouraging for a preschool teacher than inadequate resources. Write grants for materials, and shop thrift stores and yard sales. Contact art supply and hobby stores, as well as high school and university art programs. These groups are often willing to provide leftover art materials for free or a greatly reduced price. Ask parents to sew or build materials. Consider developing a lending program with other schools. Buy expensive items together and share them.
Poor relationships with parents can cause stress for child-care workers. Write a parent handbook that clearly outlines all school policies, so teachers aren't put in the awkward position of defending the rules. Encourage and provide time for frequent communication with parents, through daily verbal contact, e-mails, conferences and newsletters.
Look for opportunities to celebrate the great work your child-care workers are providing. Annual events such as a fun run, silent auction, preschool graduation or art festival foster a feeling of excitement. These events may also serve as fund-raising opportunities for the school.
Give child-care workers direct, specific praise when deserved, as well as encouraging, constructive feedback when necessary. Child-care workers often come from diverse backgrounds and may have very limited education or an advanced degree. Consider these different perspectives when communicating with employees.
Get in the Trenches
Don't be afraid to get your hands dirty. Offer to help in the classroom when a worker calls in sick, a child is ill, a class is especially unruly or a teacher just needs an extra hand. Nothing will make your employees more loyal than knowing you are willing to work with them.
Arrange your child-care workers' schedules, if possible, so they have at least two hours weekly for lesson planning and classroom prep. When directors encourage workers to develop meaningful lesson plans and then offer support in achieving those goals, workers are more likely to feel inspired and motivated. Close the school at least one day quarterly to allow teachers extended time for lesson preparation.
Julie Christensen is a food writer, caterer, and mom-chef. She's the creator of MarmaladeMom.org, dedicated to family fun and delicious food, and released a book titled "More Than Pot Roast: Fast, Fresh Slow Cooker Recipes."