Parallel practice. We talk about it all the time, don’t we? How we apply what we are learning as educators and create a similar experience for young children in the classroom is considered a hallmark of quality ECE practice. And yet while we seem so adept at it in the classroom, we so often struggle with it in our leadership roles. Why is that? I try to remind myself of the values exercises offered by two of my favorite leadership experts – Elena Aguilar and Brene Brown. They teach us that it is important to identify our core values and be intentional in aligning our behaviors or “our practice” to these values. I use these exercises and concepts in my leadership coaching with early childhood directors not just because they provide important grounding for leadership development, but because it is easy to lose our way in the fast-paced environments of running our schools.
Being able to identify when we are engaging in behaviors that are misaligned to our values – to the way we truly want to walk through the world – is an essential part of growing as a leader. Jewish tradition teaches us about the value of kedushah – of holiness and intentionality. One of the ways to bring this into our practice as leaders is to be mindful on a daily basis about how our behaviors, interactions, conversations, and so much more, reflect our values. Are we acting with integrity? Are we leading with appreciation and seeing the potential in those around us? Are we identifying possibilities and opportunities? When we can do this for ourselves, we can then begin to do it for our educators. We can create school cultures where challenging situations are met with inquiry and possibility, not criticism and judgment. When we focus our support of educators around helping them be the best version of themselves, acting with intention, we will cultivate educators who are compassionate, empathic, kind and responsive in their own practice. Ultimately, the rewards of this parallel practice will be evident both in classrooms and in school communities, as our early childhood professionals lead with their values.