Create ‘Daily or Weekly Talking Points’ to give you direction and enable leadership

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Case Study: Daily Talking Points To Make Your Service Better

A service wanted to measure what they were doing well and in what areas they could improve. This was in order to monitor their practices and assess whether educators were really living the service’s philosophy in their everyday practice.

The service created Daily Talking Points that all staff in the service reflect on daily to ensure that their practices are meeting the standards of the service’s philosophy. Instead of putting a negative spin on things that the service wasn’t achieving, they wrote everything in a positive manner. This way they became goals to achieve rather than problems that needed addressing.

The service printed one set of points at a time and talked about them during their day. The educators tried to change their practice by implementing the points and sharing with other educators within the room and service how they were implementing the ‘Talking Points’.

Remember educators can’t always see where they can improve and may need some assistance from you by demonstrating, guiding and practicing with them.  For example:

What the Room Leader observed that needed improving within the room How the Room Leader communicated the improvements to educators in a positive way
Our environment is sometimes set up for what’s best for the educator and not the children Creating enriched learning environment
  • Our resources are set out to be inviting
  • Our resources are rich in learning
  • Children's learning and interest enhance the environment
Educators have been wearing tights to work and not the uniform pants Our professionalism is always on show
  • We play our roles as educators in our community
  • We take pride in our appearance
  • Our behaviour always reflects our professional role
Educators don’t take enough time to explain a child’s day to family members Our Families are Our Most Important Asset
  • We have three clients; the families, the children and the government
  • We deliver care and education beyond their expectations
  • We are friendly and anticipate their every need
We don’t always realise that we are here to run a business that needs to make money to cover costs such as wages and superannuation We know we have three very distinct roles
  • Our service as family
  • Our service as a business
  • Our service as a learning environment
  • We know where our roles start and stop
Occasionally a broken piece of equipment is overlooked We create the safest service
  • We do our daily safety checklist with meaning
  • We ensure all family members contribute to the safe service
  • We immediately fix, repair and remove things that are not safe
Educators are not doing well implementing EYLF We implement EYLF
  • We sit, interact and play with children
  • We build and follow upon children's leads to meet EYLF
  • We interact with families to build the EYLF program
Educators aren’t completing paperwork correctly Our documentation is always completed on time
  • We will do our EYLF programming with the children
  • We will work out innovative ways for children to help complete our documentation (and enhance their literacy skills
  • We will work out innovative ways for families to help with our documentation
Educators sometimes miss opportunities to extend learning We are always ready to teach
  • We see every moment of the day as a learning opportunity
  • We describe objects, ideas and experiences in great detail and remember children learn when we take the time
  • If we don’t know the answer we see it as an opportunity to learn with the children
Educators are possessive of “their” programming ideas, rather than celebrating them as an achievement for the room Educators share their EYLF experiences with other educators as part of our professional development
  • We trust educators to support, collect and share great EYLF examples throughout the service
  • We enjoy and celebrate EYLF by sharing
  • We are enthusiastic participants in our in services and training sessions
Cleaning rosters aren’t always adhered to Cleanliness of our environment is a part of our success
  • All areas are clean
  • There are no revolting smells
  • Children are kept clean
Educators are shy to answer questions about the service on the phone or in person What We Do All Day Counts In Growing Our Business
  • We recognise that new families come from word of mouth
  • We recognise that new families come from observing our conduct
  • We treat all people in the community as a potential lead to a new family
Educators could know our policies and procedures better so they can answer their own questions We Measure Our Ability To Perform Against The Regulations, NQS and the Policies
  • We know our policies and regulations by regularly referring to our simplified Regs notes
  • Educators will take responsibility for knowing the NQS and Regs
Too often, new Educators are left to figure things out for themselves. We need a better Induction procedure. Valuing New Educators
  • It is up to each of us to warmly welcome new families and educators to our service
  • It is important that each of us helps new team members to understand NQS, Regs, EYLF and policies
  • We will do all we can to help new educators and staff understand and value our culture
Educators aren’t paying enough attention to what’s going on in the service All Of Us At the service Know a Lot About Our Service and Local Community
  • We always know what training and in-services are happening and we will attend to get the most out of our profession
  • We read our bulletin and keep up-to-date with all correspondence
  • We can direct families to local support units and agencies
  • We can support educators with further training and resources
Families could be more involved in the service We Are Proactive In meeting Expectations Of Our Families and Community
  • We understand how to meet the service’s commitment to children and families
  • We regularly ask families for feedback and take on suggestions
  • We inform the scheme of any families concerns and suggestions
  • The Nominated Supervisor takes on and acts on feedback from educators
Taylor’s mother complained about finding paint all over his jumper in his bag. She didn’t care about the jumper but no one told her when she picked him up for the day. We Handle All Damages And Loss To Children's Property Promptly
  • We inform parents promptly
A child wearing nappies is brought to the service regularly in his nappy from the previous night. Adele is always still hungry after she has eaten what’s in her lunchbox. It’s not enough. We inform parents about our expectations regarding children's health hygiene and wellbeing.
  • The educator is entitled to charge parents when insufficient food and clothing supplied
  • We promptly inform both parents and Nominated Supervisor when a child's health or hygiene needs are not met
  • We report and document immediately when are child is injured
  • We report and document child protection concerns immediately to the Nominated Supervisor
The educators are embracing EYLF and getting better at it. We are “The Very Best Educators …. Guaranteed”
  • We consistently identify and build upon each child's strengths, skills, knowledge and understanding
  • We document each child's development towards and through the EYLF learning outcomes
  • We purposefully present toys, equipment materials in a stimulating way to children that builds skills, knowledge and understanding
There are sometimes harsh words exchanged between our office staff and the educators. They each believe they’re more important We are always positive about our work, our service, our families and our educators
  • We are courteous and polite to our educators
  • We are courteous and polite to our back of house staff (admin assistants, cooks etc)
  • We are courteous and polite to our families
Educators keep quiet about things that could be improved We always represent the service
  • We are ambassadors of the service at which we work, inside and outside of the workplace
  • We speak positively of the service and encourage “Only the Best” of our friends and family to join our team
  • We share our concerns about the service with our Nominated Supervisor
  • We maintain confidentiality at all times
The families aren’t aware of our policies and procedures We orientate our families to the service’s practices and procedures
  • We build trust and relationships with the child that are warm caring and supportive that extends to the families
  • We consistently remind families about policies and procedures
We could be more respectful of our employees. They are referral networks for the service too We treat all of our employees like customers
  • Treating others with respect creates a positive work environment
  • We are a mirror of how others will react reflecting back to us
We could incorporate more of the children’s cultural backgrounds into our service We are respectful of each family’s values and culture
  • We acknowledge the community and its context
  • We consider each families perspective and encourage families to share their knowledge of their child
  • We assist each family to develop a sense of belonging
Educators don’t follow procedures when equipment breaks We do a risk management of all environments children will be in
  • We notify educators immediately of hazards, injuries, equipment failures or assistance we may need
  • We practice safe work habits
A new parent commented that our service is a bit dirty and the toys look old We maintain all of our equipment and the service in good repair
  • We keep all our equipment and room looking and operating like new
  • All signs and house numbers are prominent
  • We are proud of our service
We don’t need to stop just because the job is done. We need to keep learning and improving “Good Enough Never Is”
  • We keep our standards and look for innovative ways to improve
  • We embrace change, seeing new ideas as additional building blocks for our success
  • We learn from our mistakes and move on to better ways
Nice comments we hear from grateful parents don’t always get passed on to all educators We are proud of our team
  • Proud but not prideful, we accept criticisms and positive comments humbly
  • We celebrate success and do our work the service’s way
  • When we hear good things about the service and educators we share the feedback with all

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Identify what needs leadership

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Why teams work and don’t work and what you can do about it.

Wilfred Bion (1897-1979) was a psychoanalyst famous for his study of group processes and interactions. He uses the term ‘work group’ to describe a group that can manage its shared tensions, anxieties and relationships to achieve set goals. In an ECEC context all team members would be working to help children achieve Learning Outcomes and maintain the daily service routines.

Bion says work groups will become ineffective from time to time when individuals in the group are overtaken, consciously or unconsciously, by strong emotions eg fear, anxiety, love, anger, guilt. When this happens the group loses touch with its purpose and gives in to ‘basic assumption mentality’.  The belief or assumption is basic because all group thinking and activity is based around avoiding the strong emotion. Each of us might do this for example when we convince ourselves we need to make a ‘to do’ list before starting to work, and then never start the real work.  Groups in this mode seem to be getting work done but they’re not achieving what they should really be doing because they have turned away from their real purpose. Group members ignore what is actually happening around them and time has no meaning to them because they are caught up in something else. The group behaves as if all group members agreed to this way of operating, even though this never really happened – so it can be difficult for any group member to challenge what is going on.

Bion said basic assumption groups fall into three types of states: Dependency, Pairing and Fight or Flight. In the Dependency State, members are overly dependent on the leader who they consciously or unconsciously expect to know everything and solve all their problems.  Group members may feel neglected, misunderstood, compete for attention, or become passively compliant, even sullen, in response to the leader’s requests. If the leader can’t solve all the problems, group members look for a new leader. There may be cycles of leader seeking, idealisation and belittling.

In the Pairing State, the group’s focus shifts from the group as a whole to one (or more) pairs within the group which hopefully will save them from their unacknowledged anxieties and tensions.

In the Fight/Flight State the group tries to collectively fight or escape form a common enemy who can be found inside or outside the group. There may be a lot of conflict within the group, as some members challenge the leader’s authority, form subgroups or withdraw.

Bion noted that the work group and basic assumption mentalities always co-exist within every group, but that one tends to dominate the other at any particular moment. This means all groups can rapidly or slowly move from a work group mentality to a basic assumption mentality and vice-versa. They can also move between the three basic assumption States. When and how this happens depends on whether group members can control emotional tensions (conscious and unconscious) well enough to avoid work group mentality being overtaken by basic assumption mentality.

Which type of group(s) do you think you lead? Some questions to consider include:

  • how well does the team meet the goals it’s been given ie get the real work done?
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  • how heavily do your educators rely on you as Room Leader?
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  • how aware are educators of the time they have to complete their work?
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  • have any of our team members paired up (got together) to achieve alternative goals?
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  • is there anyone or anything the team is trying to avoid in your room?
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Bion said there were three group mentalities in basic assumption groups – dependence, pairing and fight/flight. It’s interesting that he never applied these States to the more functional ‘work-group mentality’ groups.

French and Simpson think this is unreasonable. They think these States can be seen in basic assumption groups or work groups. They argue there are plenty of occasions, for example, when dependence on a leader leads to productive work rather than stagnation ie dependence in the service of, not in conflict with, the group’s purpose. They’ve also seen pairings which result in a significant contribution to the group’s purpose because the people involved pair up to achieve the group’s purpose rather than for personal advantage.

Remember too that Bion said work groups and basic assumption groups are never completely pure. Work group and basic assumption behaviours always co-exist, although one behaviour will dominate at specific times. So you may have a group where a pair, for example, is productive at one time but due to factors, conscious or unconscious, become unproductive at others.

The real significance of French and Simpson’s ideas, however, are that they suggest a way in which basic assumption mentality can be shifted to work group mentality. They suggest the move works better if the focus is not on the same type of State. For example, if a basic assumption group is in a flight/fight State, then the group is likely to refocus on its purpose if an intervention to work group behaviour supports dependence or pairing. 

Source: R French and P Simpson (2010) The Work Group: Redressing the Balance in Bion’s Experiences in Groups

If your educators are not achieving their tasks/purpose (a basic assumption group) reflect on how you might move them towards a more effective work group. What State are they in and what technique could you use to stop that way of working?

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