Professionalism in Head Start
When working with new hires, it is important to ingrain a sense of professionalism. One thing my boss once told me was, “You can be friendly to everyone, but not friends.”
Start at the top. Managerial staff should be well trained and fit for their job. Continuous training is needed to keep up with new regulations and best practices. By keeping everyone in the loop, starting from the top, you will set a high standard for the rest of the staff to follow. Meetings should be run systematically.
Train new hires about your unwritten culture. A mentor, such as a colleague in a similar position, is probably the most helpful resource.
- Is there a written or unwritten dress code about what is acceptable?
- What’s the chain of command in terms of complaints?
- Who is in charge of purchases?
All these nitty gritty items have a system, and it is important for staff to learn how to make things work fluidly. Head Start is a culture unto itself. Meeting with peers who are doing the same work, whether from the same agency or a different one, will enable staff to do their job better.
Treat your staff as professionals. Don’t micromanage. Allow relevant staff to make pertinent decisions on their own. Encourage it. From the teacher who decides where the bulletin should be placed, as well as which supplies would be most helpful, to the cleaner who asks for a new detergent, or the education coordinator who would like to invest in a new training, all these decisions add a feeling of responsibility, trust, and professionalism.
Compliment and critique like a professional. Is your performance appraisal doing the job? If not, fix it. Instead of letting loose when a staff member botches up, deal with the problem in a dignified manner. Pull the staff member aside, find out what happened, and explain how it should be handled in the future. Encourage staff to work out problems on their own, without resorting to gossiping or backstabbing. Compliments should be specific and personal.
A weekly memo to staff explains nuances, and helps staff keep learning at all times. It’s an investment to the future of your agency.