You spend your days working hard to support others, meeting the needs of staff, children, and families. You chose this work and find joy and meaning in the results of your efforts. As much as you look forward to going to work (most days!), it can be a very challenging job. So, let’s take time out to think about your professional self: where do you find support and how are your needs met?
You know the airplane rule—secure your oxygen mask before helping those around you. If you can’t breathe, you won’t be able to continue supporting others. One way to find that professional oxygen is by connecting with other directors. Scheduling time to nurture relationships with your peers allows you to share the load, hear new ideas and solutions, and renew your inspiration and courage. As you share laughter, you open your brain to learning, reduce stress, and see your problems in perspective.
Since 2000, the Arkansas Children’s Program Administrator Certificate and Credential (ACPAC) has brought together directors from diverse programs for specialized professional development. In addition to the 129 clock hours of seminar time and the individual projects, participants are eligible to join the ACPAC Google group that makes connections as close as their keyboards.
Jill Gunderman participated in ACPAC while an assistant director. She discusses community, leadership, and connections below.
“The community built during the ACPAC experience is different from joining a professional organization (which is also important!). Through intentionally crafted learning experiences, participants connect with each other around the content in each two-day seminar. I got to share my ideas and thoughts and hear others’ ideas and thoughts, all surrounding the passion that we share. I developed relationships with colleagues through this experience that I still enjoy today. Even though ideologically I may disagree with fellow participants, there was true respect for the community that was built. The community building occurred within the context of learning and examining best practices in leadership for young children.
“The ACPAC experience allowed me to consider who I was as a leader. I explored my communication style, my philosophy, and my abilities, enabling me to define my individual leader style.
“A big takeaway from the ACPAC experience for me, was the realization that I am not alone in this work. Leadership can be a little lonely, even in large organizations. But through the support of my fellow participants, some who had been doing this longer than I and others who had different life experiences that brought them to this place in their careers, I learned that although we may face different challenges, we face many more similarities. Having the opportunity to learn from them and having the opportunity to articulate my thoughts helped shape me into the leader I am today.”
To sustain a vital professional life, you need the professional oxygen that comes from the relationships you find in a network of directors. We encourage you to decide to join or create director networking opportunities in your area.
Let Us Hear From You: Post a comment and share with your colleagues.
- How could SECA enhance your networking and sharing opportunities on a broader, regional scale? We sponsor a Directors Seminar at the annual conference each year that is designed to promote networking and sharing but we reach only a small number of SECA members who are in attendance at the conference. What ideas and suggestions do you have about how we might increase support for you through other strategies….technology, sharing forums, dedicated website resources?
- Have you developed local opportunities for networking and support? Tell us about them and share your ideas with your colleagues throughout the South.
- What do you see as the biggest challenges facing administrators of early childhood programs today?
Diana Courson, Associate Director for Arkansas State University Childhood Services, worked with Geania Dickey to design the ACPAC curriculum in 2000 and continues to serve as a seminar facilitator.
Jill Gunderman, Program Coordinator for Arkansas State University Childhood Services, ACPAC participant.
For another model of Directors’ networking, check out the August 2016 blog post, Director to Director: Supporting Each Other, by Laura Newman.