Work Ethics (in a Preschool)
It’s one of those concepts that are easy to define, but so much harder to execute. What qualifies as good work ethic? Showing up on time, showing up every day, working hard, taking initiative… all of these are textbook answers. But, sometimes it’s a lot harder to execute.
Coming straight out of high school, I worked several part-time jobs while I was in college. Yes, I interviewed well. Yes, I had a nice resume with good references. But, when it came to being responsible, dependable, and a hard worker… those skills took years for me to gain.
I admit, I wasn’t always the hardest worker. During college and even for a few years afterwards, there were so many days where getting to work was just the hardest thing for me to do. And if I was working in a position where the supervision was minimal, it was just so easy to scrape by by doing just that- the bare minimum. It’s not what I’m proud of, but it would be a lie to say that I’ve always had an impeccable work ethic. But what I can say is that I’ve come a long, long way and I’ve learned so much over the years and now as a supervisor.
As an administrator of a preschool, there are many different types of workers that I encounter on a daily basis. It’s unusual, I guess, because we do have a mix within our faculty. There are the young, straight-out-of-high-school girls who were just getting their first experiences in a classroom. There are the straight-of-college girls who were using the preschool setting as a resume builder as they searched for district jobs with their certifications. There were older, experienced teachers I call the “preschool veterans” who have been working for decades in this setting. There were the older, nurturing, grandmother-y type of teachers who were either retired teachers or wanted to work with babies. There were teachers with limited teaching/childcare experience but were switching fields. Within all of these subcategories, there are so many different types of workers.
I’ve worked with 18 year olds with impeccable attendance, and are eager to learn. I’ve worked with older teachers who call in sick at least once a week and come up with every excuse in the book to try to leave before their shift ends. And, vice versa. As an administrator, I have to readjust staffing on a daily basis to accommodate the teachers who are scheduled off with the teachers who call in, to ensure that classrooms are still able to maintain their ratios. It’s an unusual aspect of my job, because the overall quality of my day (and teachers who show up to work) is constantly affected by what staffing looks like. It’s inconvenient to have to ask teachers to work overtime, or to shift around children/teachers when we are incredibly short-staffed. It’s hard to explain to parents when teachers are inconsistent with their work schedules. And worst of all, it’s hard for young children to adjust when their caretakers change on such a regular basis.
I realize that this is an unusual kind of situation. In most corporate jobs, your absence doesn’t create as much of an issue for others to do their jobs. Even in a school district, that’s what substitutes are for- they would never shift around children or teachers to accommodate for a teacher who doesn’t come in to work.
During my first couple of years as an administrator, it really hit me. I started to feel great purpose in what I was doing, and that pushed me harder than any paycheck I’ve received since I started working. This is the point I’d hope everyone hits at some point (and sooner rather than later). When I am able to see the bigger picture of what I’m doing, and not just a day to day routine, it motivates me to want to be better. It pushes me to seek professional development to improve upon my skills, it inspires me to ask for feedback from others so I can be a better administrator, and it makes working longer hours seem irrelevant when I’m trying to achieve something that can’t be framed in a 40-hour work week. This is the difference between a job and a career. To be honest, no, you don’t have to have great passion in what you’re doing to have good work ethics. But it definitely helps. When you’re doing the same thing for 8+ hours a day, 5 days a week, for years on end… why not do it well?