Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Partnerships in Full Day Kindergarten: Valuing the Challenges and Change

Going into this school year will be our fifth year together as partners in Full Day Kindergarten. It is hard to believe that 5 years have passed and how much we have learned from one another and together over that time!

In our partnership we have faced many challenges and had many hard conversations when our beliefs differed. We haven’t always seen eye to eye in the way that we approach teaching. However, we have always made a conscious effort and have worked very hard to create a positive and supportive partnership that has allowed us to grow professionally as a team.

Relationships continuously need dedication, time and hard work. As the year begins, it is important to reflect on how valuable our relationships are not only with the children we are meeting but also with the colleagues and partners we are working with everyday.

In this blog there are reflective tips and strategies that we hope will support educators in becoming an effective, collaborative team. We hope to expand on the thinking below in blogs that go more in-depth on components of partnership. It is a challenging piece of the puzzle in Full Day Kindergarten.

Get to know each other: When beginning a new partnership take the time to get to know each other. What are some of their beliefs, strengths, goals and values? By building a strong foundation it can help in understanding one another’s perspectives when communicating.

Everyone wants to be seen and heard: Mirror back to the person so that they feel that they are being seen and heard. For example, one educator says that they are feeling frustrated not knowing how to support a child who is an emergent writer. You may mirror by repeating what was said and replying “I hear you are saying that you’re needing support when writing with children.” Then you could add your thoughts or ask a question to clarify, “can you tell me specifically when you’re getting stuck?” or “tell me more about what was happening that made you feel that way, maybe I could help you or we could figure it out together.”

Follow through: Trust and respect is lost when there is no follow through with commitments made. If you are going to take responsibility in taking leadership in something, for example bringing materials for a provocation the next day, make sure you are following through with that commitment. When there is a strong consistency in following through, unexpected days that didn’t go as planned will bring more compassion and support in others knowing that its not your character. 

Talk, talk, talk: When there are changes being made to the classroom environment, something happening differently during the day be sure to communicate about it. Always remembering that decisions should be made as a team, it feels very overwhelming to walk into a shared space that has been rearranged without consenting or collaborating together. 

Shared Communication: It is also important to ensure that all educators know what is happening in the classroom, share messages from parents or read in mailbags. What system will you use to ensure everyone is on the same page? Using a communication log on a clipboard can be helpful. As we know, once the day begins we can easily forget to mention things to our partners or forget what was said during conversations with parents. Being on the same page in terms of communication allows for mutual respect, trust and eases anxiety by knowing what is expected and how to handle it. 

Language is important: Be conscious of the language that you use and how it represents you as a team. Be mindful that your ego could play a part in your language as you may be used to being the only educator in a classroom. (i.e. It’s not my classroom its our classroom).  Remind yourself that it’s about the children in the room. How the educators speak and treat each other will be seen and heard by the students. In turn, the students will model that language and behaviour themselves and through their relationships with peers.

Honour each partner’s life: Everyone is able to contribute in different ways at different points in their lives. If you know there is limited time to communicate then be sure that you are both organized, on time and structured, so that the time you do have together is effective and efficient. For example, if you have 20 minutes at the end of the day make a plan to bring documentation that will support student learning in mathematics so that your conversations is focused and supported.

Criticism: Diane Sawyer says that “a criticism is just a really bad way of making a request…so why not just make the request”. Think about what it is that you’re trying to “request”. For example, when supporting a challenging behavior as a team instead of criticizing a strategy, instead make the request “I think we need to talk about strategies that will best support _____”. I

Everyone makes mistakes: Be positive in making sure your partner feels supported. Maya Angelou states that “When you know better, do better”. Saying these words can be freeing and give someone the energy to try again and work hard. As Oprah once mentioned on her show when discussing Maya’s quote “A person should not be judged for a mistake, but for the person they are trying to be”. Be patient with each other as new learning arises.

You can choose courage, or comfort: Brene Brown states that "you can choose courage or you can choose comfort, but you cannot have both". In any relationship you are often faced with moments when you have a clear choice...courage or comfort. You can choose to be comfortable and avoid conflict or something that is bothering you. can choose to be courageous and have a conversation about something that is bothering you or something that you don't believe in. Being courageous and taking risks is a really uncomfortable feeling...but it truly is the only way to experience growth and to move forward in relationships.

Take responsibility for your own self: If you want to move forward, you have to make it happen for your self. Be responsible for the energy you bring to the classroom or school. If you make the choice to surround yourself with negative people, then a part of you is willing to tolerate it, which will result with you feeling and being negative.  Maybe you are feeling that something is limiting you (i.e. environment, partner, schedule) that you cannot control. Although so things are out of our control, we are still able to choose we are going to handle it. You can choose to speak negatively, which most often results in little change... or you can choose to have courageous conversations and be vulnerable to support change. Ultimately, you are in control of your actions and reactions in situations which impacts your growth as an educator.

Utilize each other’s strengths: By being a more well-rounded individual, it will ultimately support the children, which is the reason we are all here. Be vulnerable in asking for help when you want to learn more, especially when your partner may have strengths in areas that you are growing in. Whether it is behaviour, child development, early literacy or math, be open to learning from other's strengths.

Be mindful of your ego: Be conscious of your thoughts. Eckart’s definition of ego is; any identification with a form (e.g., titles, social status or material things). If you notice that you’re feeling defensive, it tends to be the ego. Be aware of what you are feeling and work hard to change those thoughts into the understanding of the other person in order to be helpful.

Be mindful of your differences: What is important to one person may not be valued or as important to another. Be mindful of what you value and what your partner values as well. For example, if you know that organization is important to your partner, make the conscious effort to support that. This builds respect and will often be reciprocated to what your needs are as well. If you notice your partner making the effort, be sure that it is being recognized.

Professional Resources: Books and articles can be a good resource in supporting conversations or disagreements within the classroom. An underlying rule that Tracy and I have is that if we disagree on something and are sharing our thoughts, we support what we are challenging by using research to support our arguments. Articles and books can neutralize the conversation by taking away the feeling of being targeted. It also can help explain things in a different way that your partner may understand when listening to your perspective.

Value the Challenges: No matter how many years together or how well you work as a team you will hit bumps in the road. Some bumps may be more challenging than others. When these moments do arise, and there is a feeling of discomfort choose to say to yourself “What is this trying to teach me?” rather then fleeing the situation. Once you get over the bumps, know that what ever is learned has now made you grow and become stronger.

Laugh: Humour can play a major role in stressful moments. Whether it’s turning on some music and dancing or telling each other something funny, make time for it! By hitting pause and shifting your state of mind, you will often feel recharged! It can also reduce some of those pressures and stressors that can occur throughout the day. Remember to HAVE FUN and work hard on maintaining a supportive partnership.

-Cheryl Emrich


  1. These are all great strategies! I know I enjoyed volunteering in your classroom a number of years ago, Tracy! Now that I'm a supply DECE with the Board, I am hoping I get that chance again! You were always positive and supportive and I think that's the key to a great working relationship! You two always have great ideas on here! Thanks for sharing!

  2. That is so great to hear Catherine! Thanks for following and connecting on the blog. Hopefully we see you soon. Hope your year is off to a great start!

  3. It has been months since he cleared out his Phoenix kindergarten and my kid is as of now still asking to head off to class, and telling stories of things that he's done with his kindergarten instructor. He always asks to see her.