In everything that we do relationships are the key. Whether it be working with families, other educators, or children, we need to be thinking about relationships and how to to build meaningful relationships. Instead we tend to spend a lot of time thinking about compliance – how we can tick those boxes – but we forget that by building strong relationships a lot of those boxes have already been ticked.
As an example of the power of relationships in early childhood services I’m going to look at some of the quality areas and demonstrate how putting relationships at the foundation of our services can help support compliance, while also helping to meet the needs of our stakeholders.
If you look at quality area 1 and forget about programs, observations and documentation – everything that we tend to focus on for quality area 1 – and take it back to relationships with children, instantly we can start to see opportunities for improvements in programming and documentation. This is achieved through understanding the needs of each individual child, the interests of each individual child, and how we as educators connect with each individual child. In turn we reflect more on our program to ensure every child is visible within planning decisions that we make, because we have strong relationships with each child and we care if they have been noticed. We also realise that each child learns in their own way and we start to see this in our observations, and plan for this in a program.
In quality area 4 we start to think about how every member of our team matters and what steps we take to get to know their strengths, interests and passions. By creating a sense of belonging for all staff we create an environment of collaboration and support. We recognise that every employee has different learning styles, different abilities, and different approaches, and we value these differences. When asking for input on service decisions we provide a range of opportunities for this to happen as not everybody will speak up at a staff meeting or feels comfortable submitting written responses. Through considering how we give staff members a voice, and how our approaches impact their feelings and needs, we start to strengthen our relationships with our team which in turn strengthens their ability to work to the best of their ability.
In quality area 6 we tend to focus on our needs around families, and how we can tick boxes through tokenistic surveys and forms that almost never get completed. Yet if we focus on relationships and the needs of our families, we can find ways to allow families to have a voice through a range of different opportunities. Making our surveys easy to understand, by using simple relevant questions, can get helpful honest feedback that can support our continuous improvement processes. By considering our displays, and the abilities of our families to engage with them dependent on time constraints or linguistic barriers, we see how we can share information in a more meaningful way. The more families feel like they matter to the service the more they are likely to engage with the service instead of feeling like they are a tool to help meet compliance.
Not only can thinking about relationships help with compliance, it can also help minimise the amount of unnecessary work a service puts into trying to tick boxes. By focusing on relationships services can find meaningful and beneficial ways to embed compliance in their practices, while also giving opportunities for all stakeholders to be truly heard and feel a sense of belonging.
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