High-quality child care produces a stimulating, secure and loving atmosphere for the little one.

Focusing on children's wellbeing and ecological exposures in child care centers is Essential for several reasons: Since they display exploratory behaviors that put them in direct contact with contaminated surfaces, they're more likely to be vulnerable to some contaminants found. They're also less developed immunologically, physiologically, and neurologically and are more prone to the negative effects of toxins and chemicals. Children spend a whole lot of time in child care settings. Many babies and young children spend as many as 50 hours each week, in child care.

Nationally, 13 million children, or 65 percent of U.S. kids, spend some part of the afternoon in child care and at California alone, roughly 1.1 million children five decades or younger attend child care. In this exact same condition, many adults might also be subjected as roughly 146,000 employees work 40 hours or more a week child care centers. Child care environments include substances which may be harmful for kids. Recent studies suggest that lots of child care environments might contain pesticides, allergens, volatile organic compounds from cleaning agents and sanitizers, and other contaminants which may be toxic to children's wellbeing.

Nevertheless, little is understood about what environmental and chemical exposures they might be getting in these configurations. To fill this gap, we quantified. Outcomes of the study were reported on the California Air Resources Board. Our findings help inform policies to lower accidents to children, encourage training and workshops to educate child care providers about methods to lower children's environmental exposures (ex. Using integrated pest management to decrease pesticide usage ), and search for future research.

Washing Your Baby’s Clothes
Washing Your Baby’s Clothes
Washing Your Baby’s Clothes – How to do it Rightly
Washing Dishes
Washing Dishes
Cleaning up after oneself is an important life skill
Make a Bed
Make a Bed
It might be a dying art, but learning how to make a bed is a valuable skill.
Sweep a Floor
Sweep a Floor
Give a kid a broom, and you are likely to see dirt flipping everywhere except in a pile.
Mop a Floor
Mop a Floor
Be sure to give them instructions on how to mop different floor types you may have in your home.

Overcoming Teacher Burnout In Early Childhood

Episode 153 – Burnout is a common challenge for early childhood educators and a lot of teachers are leaving the field entirely because they are overworked and underpaid in the...

The post Overcoming Teacher Burnout In Early Childhood appeared first on HiMama Blog - Resources for Daycare Centers.


Episode 153 – Burnout is a common challenge for early childhood educators and a lot of teachers are leaving the field entirely because they are overworked and underpaid in the...

The post Overcoming Teacher Burnout In Early Childhood appeared first on HiMama Blog - Resources for Daycare Centers.

Episode 153 – Burnout is a common challenge for early childhood educators and a lot of teachers are leaving the field entirely because they are overworked and underpaid in the profession. In this episode, we talk to Ellen Drolette, author of the book Overcoming Teacher Burnout in Early Childhood, about different ways to prioritize making time for self-care and establishing balance as a child care provider. She shares tips on managing workflow, shifting mindsets and creating an environment that sets you up for success and overcome burnout.

Resources:

  • Overcoming Teacher Burnout In Early Childhood
  • Positive Spin LLC

Episode Transcript

Ellen DROLETTE:

We are trying to find strategies to overcome burnout. Because we believe that when you show up and do your best work it’s best for children and families. And that’s the number one goal.

Ron SPREEUWENBERG:

Ellen, welcome to the Preschool Podcast!

DROLETTE:

Well, thank you for having me!

SPREEUWENBERG:

It’s so great to have you on the show today, Ellen. We’ve got our on our show today Ellen Drolette. She is the author of a book titled Overcoming Teacher Burnout in Early Childhood: Strategies for Change, which is what we’re going to talk about today. She has many years of experience also working within her own childcare program. So lots of experience and knowledge to bring to the conversation today. Let’s look sort of learning a little bit about you, Ellen. What’s your story?

DROLETTE:

So I started doing family childcare 25 years ago. And I started mainly because I had two children under the age of two and I could not find quality care. So I said, “Well, that looks easy. I think I’m going to do it.” And I found out I loved it and I had a passion for it, but it was not easy. And I was going into childcare with literally no experience in early education at all. I really didn’t know anything about brain science about child development.

And so I really had to start from the bottom and work my way up. And I got my education sort of on-the-job and through just taking lots of professional development. I got my degree in Human Services with a focus on early childhood and slowly just became more and more passionate about the work I do.

But as many people in this field know, it comes at a price. And that price is sometimes burnout. And so I’ve learned a lot along the way myself about what I needed to do to take care of myself. But I also was a mentor to a lot of other providers and learned that they had stories to tell and they had strategies that needed to be shared. And so that’s really kind of where the story began, in terms of talking about burnout.

SPREEUWENBERG:

And so you experienced it yourself, and I’m sure a lot of our listeners have also experienced burnout for themselves. But maybe some of our listeners have not. Can you start with the basics of, why are early-childhood educators getting burnt out?

DROLETTE:

Well, there’s a lot of reasons why. One of them is that right now [early-childhood education and childcare] is not really respected as a profession. And that’s something that the entire nation is having conversations about, is power to the profession. And that’s happening all over. And so we’re trying to create a profession for this work that we do. And I talk about it as a profession anyways because I think that’s really important, but it’s not recognized as a profession. So the respect level is not as high as many would like it to be. So that’s the first thing.

The other thing is that nationally in the U.S. the hourly rate is $12, somewhere around $12.70 – that might be a little high, that might be Vermont – but it’s somewhere around $12, nationally, per hour for a person that has a bachelor’s degree in early-childhood. And then for someone who is working another job that has a bachelor’s degree, it’s somewhere around $20 or $22 an hour. So there’s a very large discrepancy. That leads to burnout only because we’re working so many hours and not being able to make ends meet, so that creates some tension.

The other piece that plays into it is compassion fatigue. We’re people-pleasers; we’re trying to do a lot for a lot of other people, but we’re not great at self-care. So that plays into burnout. So there’s so many pressures that play into the work that we do and it causes burnout. Burnout can happen in any position but I think it’s pretty prevalent in early-childhood [education].

SPREEUWENBERG:

Yeah, makes sense. And the certainly the financial component we all know about. And like you said, it translates into stress. If you’re thinking about, “How are we going to pay our bills? Do we have enough money for the month, for the week?” That creates a lot of stress. And the “compassion fatigue”, it’s an interesting phrase but I never really thought about that. But it makes sense – if you’re always thinking about others and thinking about supporting and helping others but oftentimes we have to also think about how we can support ourselves first. So often times perhaps not doing that.

DROLETTE:

We do become… when I interviewed one of the people for my book – she works in a trauma-informed classroom, and one of the challenges was that they would try to balance out the classroom. But sometimes you don’t really know if children are coming into the classroom and they’ve experienced trauma. So then you could end up with a balance that’s not exactly what you thought it was going to be.

And so you are creating this trauma-informed classroom so that you can have everyone sort of in the safe space. But what you’re putting out for that is so high in energy and you go home that night to your family and then you don’t have what you need to take care of your own family, let alone yourself. And that’s a huge challenge.

SPREEUWENBERG:

Yeah, totally, because you can’t forget that a lot of the educators out there are working with young children all day. And then, like you said, they go home to their own families and they have to have the energy to be playing with their own children and providing them love and care at the end of the day.

DROLETTE:

Absolutely, and then by 8:30PM they’re exhausted or falling asleep with their child as they’re putting them to bed. And so it comes down to this question: I used to do a lot of CDA observation – Child Development Associate credential observations – and one of the questions on the old interview was, “Knowing that caregiver fatigue and morale are low, what do you do to take care of yourself?”

And I was always sort of taken aback by the responses that I got. Some of the responses would be, “Well, I take a shower.” And I kind of looked at them, like, “Well, that’s just basic hygiene. Taking a shower is not self-care. That’s not self-care, that is just what we need to do.” So thinking about self-care on a deeper level, what are we doing to really, deeply take care of our soul and our spirit?

And that sounds a little mushy when you say it, but I’ve talked to a lot of people who say, “Oh, I love to take walks in nature it’s my favorite thing to do. I do it with the children all the time.” And so they do it with the children daily but then they’ve lost touch with going out into nature and sitting in the woods by themselves and just kind of having that quiet moment without children around them. And that’s really important, not to lose sight of the things that really fill us with joy.

SPREEUWENBERG:

And so what are some of these strategies? So you mentioned getting out in nature as one of them. What are other things that we can do to help relieve some of the stress that a lot of early-childhood educators out there will be feeling with this stressful job?

DROLETTE:

Well, I think that there’s a lot of strategies. But one of the main things I like to talk about a lot is, we talk about play with children and we never really talk about play as it relates to ourselves that the adult caregiver. And it’s really important and it’s going to look different for every person, about what my play plan is as opposed to what yours, Ron. I like to go see live music. I like to be out by the lake and drink good coffee in my very favorite mug. And I like to go for walks in the woods. Not everybody likes to do that. Some people like to go skiing; some people like to go shopping; they like to go out for a really nice dinner or out with friends dancing. So it’s going to look different for everyone.

And I think that what many of us are guilty of is we say we don’t have time – “There’s not enough time for that.” And so it’s figuring out, where are the places that are sucking our time up? And is it social media? Is it paperwork that we don’t really need to be doing at that moment in time? But really thinking about, like, what is the most important balance? I think that that goes a long way.

For me it’s about that reminder. So when I’m working with groups where I’m doing trainings about overcoming burnout we actually make a pictorial play plan where it’s pictures of hiking, going to a football game, rooting on your favorite team, hiking up a mountain, picking wildflowers, whatever that might be. And we make a collage of what that looks like.

And what it is, is that people… I go home and I make them for people and I send them in an email and they’re able to put them on their background on their computer, print them out, put them on the wall. But it’s a reminder to them that “these are the things that make me happy. These are the things that fill my cup.” And when you’re able to do that it makes kind of that other work that you have to do when you’re in that sort of burnout place of being able to kind of go a little bit further.

SPREEUWENBERG:

And what do you do, though, if you’re in the situation that you described where you put in a full day work, you’re already pretty exhausted, you go home, you’ve got to feed your kids dinner, you’re spending that short amount of quality time you have with them before they go to bed at 8:30PM and then you’re falling asleep with your toddler on top of you at 8:30PM.  How do you find time to do these things?

DROLETTE:

So I think that it’s really important to, again, look at the “time sucks” – how are you really spending your time? – and then making that time on the weekends, on a Friday night with your children. Self-care can look like… maybe it’s not taking an hour out of an evening, right? Maybe it’s drinking the water that you’re supposed to drink throughout the day. You’ll feel a whole lot better when you’re not dehydrated. Maybe it’s taking five minutes at the end of the day to just go for a walk with your child around the neighborhood before you go inside and go through the nightly routine. So it’s figuring out what little things will make a big difference in the way that you are able to sort of hand over day-to-day pieces of work that you do.

The other thing that… I recently have taken some training and appreciative inquiries and I came across the book The Joy of Appreciative Living by Jackie Kelm. And we were lucky enough to have her on a coaching call, and one of the things that was really exciting was that she asked us about something [along the lines of] what’s really getting us down, what’s bothering us?

And for me it was, I was having a difficult time on Mondays. And as silly as that sounds in my mind the kids were showing up overtired. They didn’t take naps all weekend. I was thinking that parents were just jamming all kinds of activities in and, my goodness, what were they doing? But Monday would show up and everybody was overtired and miserable and basically the day was just terrible.

And so when Jackie was asking me about this she asked me to rate the day. And I said, I’ll put about a 2; it’s really pretty bad. So then she asked me about, what are those emotions that I wanted to feel during that day? And I said, “I want to feel grounded; I want to feel balanced.” And she said, “Okay, so when do you start thinking about Monday?” So I start thinking about it Saturday night and I’m already, by Monday morning, my cup is empty. I have made it the worst day starting Saturday night because I’m dreading it so much.

So what I started doing was doing this visualization and started really thinking about those words and those emotions. “What do I want to feel?” And when difficult behavior arises, visualizing, “How am I going handle that difficult behavior? I’m going to get down on their level and I’m going to really hear them and I’m going to really have some empathy and be calm and grounded,” and exactly what I had practiced.

And lo-and-behold I did this throughout the weekend. I said, “I’m going to be grounded, I’m going to be calm, I’m going to be balanced.” Lo-and-behold Monday came and the day had turned around. And really what I what I realized was that it wasn’t the children, it wasn’t the families, it was me. I was already creating this in my mind before it even happened. I was already at a deficit before the day I even got there. And I had already created sort of these negative feelings before it even happened.

So doing those visualizations and self-talk kind of got me to this place of realizing that it was really about me and my attitude and what I had to make shift about. So I think that one of the things that I’ve learned through appreciative inquiry is, like, really looking at, “What are the things we’re doing right? What are the things that are working well?” Then working from there – “What can we do more of? What do we want more of?”

SPREEUWENBERG:

Yeah, it’s interesting because it’s certainly a theme that comes up a lot in the Podcast in terms of, often times it starts with you, right, and your own thoughts internally before we can even think about what are the best strategies for working with the children that we service every day. And this is a really good, personal example of that, starting to think about Monday morning on Saturday night already. Sure you’re exhausted by the time it’s Monday afternoon.

DROLETTE:

One of the other things that, when working with mentors – or mentees – as a mentor, one of the things that was always also a common theme was sort of this squishy boundary. We have policies and rules but the idea of enforcing them made people uncomfortable. And so parents being late or not paying became common. And I would say to them, “Well, you have these policies in place. Why do you have the policy?” “Well, so parents will pay me.” “But they’re not paying you!”

So really doing some talk around, like, why you have policies and then using words, helping people find words to be able to talk to families about why they have the policies and why those are in place and really helping them step out of that comfort zone to a place where they can feel like they have a voice.

SPREEUWENBERG:

Yeah, it’s a very interesting theme. And it kind of goes back to your compassion fatigue point, right? Parents… and a big part is, I’m sure, just the communication, right? If you can communicate in the way that we want to provide quality care and education for all the children in the center, including your own, and the only way we can do that is if we have the fees to provide these services, right? And we can’t sell ourselves short. You’re not able to run a childcare program without the parents paying their fees.

DROLETTE:

Right. And really, I mean, the strategies in terms of overcoming burnout, really it all comes back to quality care. We are trying to find strategies to overcome burnout because we believe that when you show up and do your best work it’s best for children and families. And that’s the number one goal. So we want teachers showing up at their best, ready for the day, ready to bring joy active engagement and connection to all of their relationships that they have with great and families. And if they’re feeling burned down and fatigued and tired and not wanting to be there that’s a real problem.

SPREEUWENBERG:

Yeah, and certainly often times our conversation on the Podcast come down to your staff, your employees and their own motivation and engagement in their roles. And so we’ve talked a little bit about what you can do as yourself. But maybe we can also touch on that briefly – if you’re an administrator or a director of a childcare program what can you do to help support your team?

DROLETTE:

So there are some little things that you can do that are not hugely costly to kind of keep your team motivated. And one of those things: I had interviewed someone named Trish for my book, and one of the things that she does every other week is she invests – and I think it is an investment – she has somebody come in and do chair massages for her staff. And when I say it’s an investment, it’s one of those things that she’s doing for staff wellness. And not everybody can afford to do that but it’s something that he really believes in.

But something that’s not costly that can be done is having jars where you can put positive things that you’ve seen people doing throughout the day, really nice things, a nice interaction that you saw, and putting them into jars and maybe when someone’s having a bad day they can go in and read those. That’s just a really neat way to lift people up when there are things that you can’t do. We can’t raise our hourly rates overnight of what we’re paying people and we can’t give them all of the benefits that corporations can give. But there are small things we can do. Maybe it’s meeting out for dinner one night, and it’s not the childcare paying but it’s just meeting for dinner and all enjoying each other’s company.

So I think it’s just those really small things that we can do. And I think it’s really, as administrators, sometimes I think it’s easy to forget what direct service feels like. So if you’re not a direct service administrator going into the classrooms and sitting in there and really experiencing what is happening I think it makes a huge difference for both the person in the classroom and the administrator to walk in the shoes that that person is walking in. I think it allows them to really see what’s happening up close, and that’s important.

SPREEUWENBERG:

Yes, some good tips there. And certainly all the small points of recognition play a huge role in motivating staff. And we talked about the financial piece but that’s always going to be a struggle in this sector, at least it is right now. But yeah, there’s low-cost things you could do, like you mentioned.

DROLETTE:

Right, absolutely. I worked part time. I have a [substitute] that comes two days a week, which allows me to be able to do things like write a book and go to meetings and do paperwork. And that has been actually one of my strategies, in terms of being able to stay in the field. I don’t know that I would have been able to stay in the field if I didn’t have her. And I’ve been lucky enough to have the same substitute for 20 years.

But what it allowed me to do was when my children were young I could go on field trips; I could go to doctors appointments. And yes, it’s money out of my weekly pocket that I’m not taking home. But for me to be able to stay within this profession for 25 years has been worth it. It’s been worth every penny. And even if a family childcare program can invest in a few hours a week or a few hours a month to be able to take time I think that’s really important.

If I didn’t have a sub I would be working in direct service 50 hours a week. and that’s a lot, not counting the time of paperwork and shopping and cleaning and doing all of those other pieces that have to get done. So I think that it’s really important that we look at the time we’re spending within the program as well.

SPREEUWENBERG:

Yeah, and it’s funny, it brought a thought to my mind just in terms of, like, it’s the same as any other problem in life that you want to resolve, [for] which Step One is awareness, right? Being aware that you are at risk of burning out and you can’t do this for 25 years because if you do  you’re literally going to die of fatigue and stress. So you have to be proactive and do things like your example of getting someone to step in for you for a couple of days in order to keep going and have that energy that you’re going to need.

DROLETTE:

Right, and a lot of times I do have critics that say to me, as a family childcare programmer, when I first started my program I took two weeks of vacation. That wasn’t enough. I needed still time to do professional development and I was oftentimes taking one of those vacations and going away to a conference. And so over time I decided to increase my vacation time and increase professional development. And that was also as the state was demanding more in terms of professional development.

And so it was a choice I’d made as a small business that I was going to take more vacation time but it was also about preservation. And so like any small business people have choices about where they go. And families have to make it work. One fit might not be the right fit for everyone. But I think it’s understanding what we need to take care of ourselves.

SPREEUWENBERG:

And it all goes back to that circle that we talked about, though, right? Because you’re not going to be able to take care of the children in your service effectively unless you’re taking care of yourself first. And this is also a big debate in the business world: How much vacation do you give people? How much time off? How much flexibility? And I think we’re quickly coming to the conclusion that employees – and certainly business owners, even more – need to take time off or else they will get burnt out. And at the end of the day it’s the children in the childcare programs that are going to suffer if staff and educators are burnt out.

DROLETTE:

Right. And one of the things that also I wanted to touch on that I think is really, really important – and there’s such a stigma with it – is that there is burnout and then there’s  mental health challenges. And I think that it’s really important that we recognize when there’s burnout but then it’s beyond what we’re capably able to handle day-to-day and knowing that it’s okay to reach out for help and ask for help from a mental health professional. There should not be a stigma with that.

But I really think it’s important because it’s so prevalent. Depression and anxiety is so prevalent among young children and adults. And I think it’s really important that educators, early educators not be afraid to reach out for help and not have the lack of insurance be a barrier if you’re really feeling like you need to reach out for help in that area. As we look at wellness, I mean, it’s a whole spectrum of things – it’s physical wellness, it’s mental wellness. And we have to really make sure that we’re taking care of that.

SPREEUWENBERG:

Yeah, for sure. And for the administrators and directors out there as well to be supportive of that, I think the stat that came up in one of our previous podcasts was one in five people are suffering from this. So if you have five or more staff there’s almost a certainty that at least one person on your team is suffering from this. And so you want to make sure that they feel like they can say something and get the support they need.

Ellen, we’re quickly, quickly, quickly running out of time – unfortunately, because this is a great topic that I’m just realizing the more and more we talk about it the more and more we should talk about this on the Podcast, and amongst each other and our peers, too, I think.

DROLETTE:

100%, it is such an important topic.

SPREEUWENBERG:

Well, Ellen, before we close things up, where can we go to find more information about this important subject of stress and burnout in early-childhood, including your book? Where can we get access to that?

DROLETTE:

Well, my book is available on https://www.redleafpress.org, it’s available there. You can contact me, I have a business called https://www.positivespinllc.com. That is our website and I’m available through there. And that’s how you can get in touch with me.

SPREEUWENBERG:

Very cool. Again, Ellen is the author of a book titled Overcoming Teacher Burnout in Early Childhood: Strategies for Change. You can get it on Redleaf Press. Ellen, thank you so much for joining us on the Podcast. It’s been wonderful talking to you and learning more about this very important subject of burnout in early-childhood.

DROLETTE:

Thank you, Ron. It’s been an honour.

The post Overcoming Teacher Burnout In Early Childhood appeared first on HiMama Blog - Resources for Daycare Centers.


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