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Finding the motivation and wellbeing you need to follow your early years career pathway

In the Early Years/education sector many of us can feel confused or uninspired about what steps to take next with our career pathways. In the light of the current worldwide crisis, Early Years practitioners, educators, teachers, professionals have come under more stress, with increases in our workloads. We may lack motivation due to the unpredictable state of the workforce, our students and the world. We may have already been feeling lost due to the existing pressures of the job and the pressures of life in general. Some of us have been in the profession for decades and others have just started their journey, but the feeling across the board for many of us is ‘what next?’

 

The start of this year

At the beginning of the year 2020 we all had high expectations of what this New Year would bring and what we would achieve. The New Year/the new school term is always a good place to start afresh and should be a great time to reflect and apply new energy, having recharged our batteries over the Christmas holidays. I was looking forward to finishing the first year of my primary Ed degree and I had visits planned with several schools as a keynote speaker. We all mapped out and planned our year as we normally would.

 

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But all that changed in March.

I don’t know what you were doing at the time, but I can guess for many of us our day may have started the same way: I walked into my class, greeted my colleagues, and started my morning ritual of setting up the classroom. And then I was told by the team that we had a whole school meeting in the staff room at 8.45am.

Now these whole school meetings would only happen if we had training, someone was sadly leaving, or they were giving us some serious news.

I knew about the rise of Covid 19, but I didn’t think it would affect us at the school. Yet to my surprise we were told they were planning to close the school.

 

The new norm

We were told to start prepping for the closure of the school and about the government Covid guidance. We were instructed to film activities that would be put on YouTube for parents to view. To accompany the filmed activities, we had to create take home bags for each child in our classes.

The senior faculty team informed us that the school would close based on government guidelines. They told us our work would not stop but that we would be working from home. Each class would have to hold a catch-up meeting on Zoom or Microsoft Teams every morning and we would have to create more activity videos and send in activity power points daily. Teachers would hold one to one sessions with children and their parents.

We didn’t know how long the closure would last, but we knew that this way of working was the ‘new norm’.

 

Reflection

I knew that things wouldn’t be the same and that thought echoed throughout the sector.  Even now that my school and many others are open again, we are still not back to what we classed as the norm. The pressure of working within bubbles, having to wear a mask, and maintaining social distancing with children who are neurodiverse and neurotypical has added weight to a job which is already demanding.

These thoughts and the current climate led me to write this blog. In this time of Covid and worldwide change, how do we regain focus and what steps do we take to continue with our continuous professional development (CPD) and embark on our career pathways. I reflected on my own journey and what helped me to restart and continue THE WORK. I then reflected on a previous article I had written (for Optimus Ed) and thought about the health and wellbeing of my colleagues.

 

Pause

Let me give you one word of advice: PAUSE…

We all need to allocate a time during the day to do nothing or allocate a time to do the things that we enjoy. We can sometimes become fixated on completing a task or stuck in the routine of work, so we forget about our own wellbeing. A moment of stillness enables us to clear our thoughts and give our own desires and needs some attention.

 

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If you’re not feeling motivated…

It is good practice to visit other classrooms (within your bubble) or visit websites of other schools (due to the pandemic visits to other schools are off limits). Talk to other members in your team or within your bubble when lost for ideas. You can also use the web if you want to find inspiration – join websites like Pinterest or purchase activity books. Personally, new toys, equipment or paint make me happy, so I always try and treat my class to one of these things. I’ll make suggestions for new resources that my class may need and if there’s a budget I’ll push for it to be purchased. New equipment creates new activities or possibilities.

Remember, energy never dies, it is transferred. The energy we bring to work is transferred to all the people we meet in passing. So, if we are full of joy, our positive energy should rub off on our children and our team. Then when they go home, they will share that energy with others in their households. This is also true of negative energy.

 

Here are some wellbeing and CPD tips

Jamel Carly’s 3 tips to support mental health and wellbeing:

1.       Write a list of all the things you enjoy. Then try to do at least two of these things each week. This will make you feel good because you’re doing things that you like to do, and it will give you something to look forward to other than going to work or the responsibilities of your personal life.

2.       Find a special place. A place of peace, maybe a place you visited as a child that holds good memories or a place you aspire to live in. This will help to raise your spirits and create a euphoric feeling of aspiration and motivation.

3.       Celebrate your accomplishments. It doesn’t matter if they’re big or small. You have achieved something, so be proud.

 

There is not just one conventional route or career pathway in the Early Years. Due to that factor, making progression or joining the sector can be a daunting task for many. 

 

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Jamel Carly’s 3 tips to support career progression and CPD:

1.       Research current career guidelines and pathways on the gov.uk website. Guidelines and pathways are constantly changing.

2.       Some nursery chains and schools have apprenticeship opportunities and ‘learn as you work’ schemes to support aspiring Early Years educators as well as aspiring managers. Ask your manager to contact the learning department at your setting to find out what courses are available and to receive the annual learning/training calendar.

3.       I would advise all those who work in the early years to become active online. Join early years groups on your social media platform of choice and visit Early Years CPD provision websites. They often have blogs or links to training, job vacancies or job sites.

Each person’s mental wellbeing threshold is like a fingerprint and their wellness needs will be different to mine. These tips are based on my own experiences - I hope they will help you.

The Early Years career pathway is always changing. Qualifications don’t determine what roles you can get once you have achieved your foundation qualification of a Level 3 or Level 4. Your employment is based on your knowledge and experience. You need to be actively researching and making steps towards embarking on your progression journey. This is true, even though the way we teach and the daily functions of our schools have changed in a big way with new concepts such as bubbles and remote learning.

I acknowledge that during this time senior leadership teams are trying their best to support the children that attend their settings and the teams they employ. Finding the balance of supporting staff and children is a huge task even without a global pandemic, and dealing with the current crisis while maintaining a level of normality has become the main challenge.

The Covid crisis has taken centre stage but we can’t allow that to taint the level of care and practice we apply. Sometimes the job can be overwhelming, but we need to take time out to care for ourselves. Health is wealth, and we cannot care for or teach our students if we are not in good health physically, mentally and emotionally.

We need to take a moment to acknowledge the fact that the work we do is not easy. But each day we turn up we are supporting the learning of our children and giving them the tools they need to thrive. We make a difference to their lives and you/we are modern day heroes.


 
Jamel Carly-Campbell
Jamel Carly-Campbell is an Early Years educator, consultant, advisor and ambassador with over 19 years of experience in the sector. He is passionate about the impact the Early Years has on children’s lives, and about creating a workforce that mirrors the society we live in. He raises awareness about men in the early years, and how to recruit and retain black men in the sector.

Edited by Jules




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I absolutely love the phrase 'Energy never dies, it is transferred'. How true that is. I'm sure we can all remember colleagues who radiate energy that we can absorb and hopefully pass onto others. What a wonderful image!

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