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I’m Sorry- Leading by Example in EC Settings

Date: August 18, 2015 Author: hpelc Categories: Educators Blog

At our latest Handprints staff meeting, we started with a simple task on self-reflection. Despite advance warning about the task, it was probably a task our educators found the most difficult. Asking people what they thought they could do better was one thing, but we turned this into asking them what they were sorry for.

The concept, we are human, and we all make mistakes. Every day, the children we teach also make mistakes. Children, by nature in the under 5’s group, are only learning to regulate emotion, to distinguish need and want, and are experiencing the world with a heightened emotional base. What I wanted to get across to our educators was the concept of “I’m sorry” being a way for us to lead by example, and demonstrate our own responses when things don’t go to plan.

In the past, I have had other educators challenge me on the concept of I’m sorry. “If we apologise to children, aren’t we giving them all the power”. My response – I didn’t know teaching was about a power struggle. In fact, when I teach I see my role as to empower children in every way – from loving learning, to recognising and responding to their emotions, to being an active contributor to a social group. I see myself as a role model in emotions. I don’t see it as teacher vs child but as teacher and child together.

In fact, it is more than teacher and child together but teacher and family together. We work in partnership with families. Some days, there are things we do that a family may have concerns about or want to bring to our attention. Again, these are times where by nature an educator tends to feel defensive. Last night, I questioned our educators as to whether being provided feedback is actually a part of the concept of “wonder”. We, as a collective group at Handprints, are committed to reflection and questioning as a means of growth. So when a family asks us a question about our practice, shouldn’t that also be seen as an opportunity to grow and learn?

I found this particular aspect of our staff meeting the most interesting. The day before I listened to the conversations in the staff room of “what are you going to say sorry for; do you think this is ok?” The educators were also asked to celebrate an achievement. For some, the achievements came easily, for others, the apologies came easily. But everyone needed one of each.

Sitting down, our educators all looked nervous. But as we started, they instantly changed their perspectives. From an educator who apologised for not remaining as calm as they could while managing behaviour; to educators apologising to each other for feeling frustrated, to educators apologising for asking too many questions; it was an environment of forgiveness, growth and a commitment to moving forward. They also found themselves celebrating each other. When an educator mentioned she was proud of herself for starting a new area of study, everyone cheered. When an educator mentioned they were proud of how they has contributed to a program, everyone nodded and commented on how well that educator was doing.

As we reached the last person, one of our educators commented “I want to keep going”. This same educator had been very concerned about the activity. All of the Handprints educators felt a sense of relief and empowered to go into a new day with the tools to inspire each other’s growth. Isn’t that what a team is all about?

Saying sorry isn’t easy. Making mistakes doesn’t feel nice. But being forgiven and inspired forward is a much better feeling. I am proud of our educators. Yesterday, they stepped out of their comfort zones. The result, was a group of passionate individuals who came together, supported each other, forgave each other, celebrated each other and became a strong and united team.

Where to from here? I wonder how this will affect our teaching. I wonder if a simple activity like this will open the lines of feedback between the members in a team. I wonder if the children will hear these apologies in the classroom and be inspired themselves to take responsibility for their actions. I wonder how this will inspire Handprints in our culture of learning. I wonder!!