Five Things I Wish I Knew Before… by Emma Davis

20th June 2017

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I have been in the Early Years sector now for over ten years and have been a Manager for five and a half of those. I face many more challenges now than I did as a Preschool Assistant and this is in part due to the ever changing nature of Early Years. However, I have changed my approach over the years, impacting on the provision, practice and ethos of the setting.

What did I wish I knew before my first day as a Manager and Leader?

  • Qualifications:
    I had just started my Foundation degree when I became a Manager and doubted whether I would be able to do both given the pressure and time commitments. Much time was spent stressing over my studies but I wish someone had reassured me that it would be worth it. Following my Foundation degree, I went on to achieve a BA Hons and Early Years Teacher Status at the University of Worcester.
    I wish I knew then how much confidence I would gain through my studies which have followed through into my role with children. This confidence in my own abilities and knowledge allows me to contribute to professional discussions, engage in online debates and share good practice with colleagues. I really didn’t envisage that my academic qualifications would have had such an impact. Now I realise this, I am looking forward to returning to University this year to complete my Masters.
  • Don’t Take Things Personally!
    A Managers role can be pressured and stressful, in part due to the huge responsibility involved in caring for and nurturing our little charges. I wish I had known that although I would face challenges, not to take things to heart. Rather than mull over and worry about conversations, interactions, practice and provision which would stress me even more, I wish I could see have seen the benefits of taking things in my stride. It’s important to stand back from situations to allow us a clearer perspective in order to deal with the challenge faced. Talking things through with colleagues can help share the burden and offer reassurance that most problems faced are not the fault of the Manager.
  • Be brave!
    It took me a while to get into my stride as a Manager, having had no previous experience. I wish I had known to be brave and have more confidence in my knowledge and skills right from the start. Although I’m now not afraid to try new things and be creative with the Early Years curriculum, it has taken time for me to feel this way. Trust in the team allows a Manager to encourage others in a leadership role which can impact on the experiences of the children. Be brave by sharing responsibility – others are capable of taking charge of groups, areas of learning and activities. Try new things, take on challenges and share ideas and thoughts. Be brave!
  • Ofsted are not scary monsters!
    Having taken over an ‘Inadequate’ setting, I was under pressure to improve this grade within a very short time frame. This pressure had led me to think of Ofsted in a negative way, filling me with a sense of dread at the thought of the next inspection. If only I’d known then that inspections can be a positive experience, a chance to show off good provision and practice. My opinion that Ofsted were there to ‘catch me out’ has changed over the years. I wish there had been support for me in the beginning to guide my approach to Ofsted. Guidance in this aspect of management is necessary so new Managers can understand that they can have as much say in how the day runs as the inspector does. It’s your setting, you know it best so allow you and it to shine!
  • Be guided by the children
    When I initially became a Manager, the amount of admin was overwhelming and I often felt as if I was constantly treading water. I wish someone had told me to prioritise and take my lead from the children as I do now. Sometimes, it’s difficult to gain a clear perspective and we can become blinded by pressure and stress. In taking a step back, we can begin to clarify our thoughts and, in doing this, approaches to management can change. Reflection on provision and practice allowed me to make changes in order to better meet the needs of the children. Planning based on interests, a café style snack, free flow play and Forest School all contributed to my vision for the future.

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