The Unique Practitioner

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unique practitionerCan Development Matters hold the key again?

Looking again into Development Matters we can translate the four key themes for children into our work as leaders.

  • The Unique Practitioner
  • Positive Leadership
  • Enabling Environments
  • Outstanding Practice

New practitioners arrive in their new job keen and eager to impress. They are full of enthusiasm, hope and ideas. The four key themes from Development Matters can be used to support our practitioners to grow and develop into their role, demonstrating consistent outstanding practice.

The Unique Practitioner

Every practitioner is unique; they will have their own way of working influenced by their characteristics, experience and style. They may come to you as an unqualified apprentice who you can influence, shape and mould like a blank sheet. They may come to you from another setting, have lots of experience but do things differently to how you expect; they will need to learn your ways. Or it could be they have been with you for some time and do things exactly how you like things to be done.

Either way your practitioner’s actions, approach to tasks and how they process information will be unique to them. In order for you to harness their positivity and lead them to outstanding practice you need to understand them, what makes them tick, what are their beliefs, experience, what are their truths?

In order to gather this information you need to consider their employment history, qualification level, length and type of experience, their learning styles, their ambitions etc. One size does not fit all in leadership.

Positive Leadership

You are the person your practitioners look to for inspiration, guidance, praise, encouragement and support. It is up to you to make the most of their enthusiasm, build their confidence, help them gain the skills they need and challenge their thinking. Your style of leadership will impact greatly on the results you will see in your staff performance. We all need to know we are doing a good job, that we are valued and appreciated and that there are consistent consequences to our actions. We need to know our leader gets us, knows what our drivers are, understands our ambitions and is able to pick us up when we are down.

We need to build a consistent framework of observation, assessment and planning similar to that which we have for our children. Practitioners need to know what we expect of them, how we will measure performance and that we will jointly plan for their next steps. We may not always bond well with every member of our team but we do need to apply a consistent professional approach to our leadership role.

Enabling Environments

Your practitioner does not operate in isolation, he/she will have colleagues, use physical resources, have a set amount of knowledge and will only have the same 24 hours in every day that we all have. In order to decide if your environment is enabling we need to consider each of these points:

Colleagues – what are relationships like within the team in which your practitioner works? Is there a good team spirit with everyone helping each other? Do all members of the team pull their weight and do they consistently follow the evidence i.e. what does the policy say? Are the children within the room supported by all members of the team or is it the key worker’s responsibility?

Physical resources – are there enough, are they good quality, do your staff help chose them? If your practitioner identifies next steps for their children do they have the resources to be able to support that next step? Are the resources being fully utilised? Have ideas dried up; do you need to get some creative thinking within the team to consider how the resources could be used differently? Maybe a visit or a room project is needed. When you visit the room do you identify something that looks good, is well presented or is being used creatively and feedback to the staff?

Knowledge – we only know what we know:  your staff have a certain amount of knowledge in order to do the best job they can. Do they have sufficient knowledge? Are they confident in their own skills, do they need some practice? Are you considering their current skills set and supporting them with their next steps (see leadership matters).

Time – how many times have we said ‘what am going to do with all that time?’ Not often I imagine. I have however many times said ‘how am I going to fit all this work into this amount of time?’ It is the same for our staff: they have 24 hours in every day too; they have a set amount of hours to work and a set amount of work to complete. Time needs to be managed in the same way as all other resources: if you allocate 2 hours to completing this task, is 2 hours a reasonable and realistic amount of time? When is it going to happen? Does the practitioner decide when it is quiet or do you structure it? Whatever you decide check that the time has been made available and the task has been completed.

Outstanding Practice

In order that your car runs well you service it, look after it, add fuel and identify anything wrong early so it can be repaired. The same approach is needed with leadership, if we see our staff as unique, tell them exactly what we expect, check they are doing it, praise good work and challenge poor practice, ensure they have what they need to complete the job effectively then the result will be an outstanding practitioner who runs for years.

About Janet Holland

I qualified NNEB 30 years ago and having spent over half of this time within a leadership role I have a wealth of knowledge and experience to share. I want to empower early years leaders to be the best they can be.

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