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Afraid of networking events? We’ve got your back with these simple steps

Maybe you feel confident tweaking your bio for the school open house, but your palms sweat when you think about going out to a networking event and  building connections face to face. With a little advance planning and positive thinking, you can be just as poised at networking events as you are behind your computer screen  or at your center. Try these suggestions for working a room.

Steps to Take Before Your Networking Events 

  1. Do your research. Advance research is a great solution whenever you want to calm your nerves and make a strong impression. Browse online for details about the event, venue, and expected crowd.

  2. Clarify your purpose. Focus on your goals instead of the butterflies in your stomach. Maybe you want to invite two new acquaintances out for coffee. Perhaps you are looking for a potential mentor.  Maybe you want to consult with experts about the impact of recent legislation on your industry.
  3. Bring a friend. While you eventually want to be able to muster the courage to fly solo, companionship can help while you’re still in training. Just be sure to split up frequently so you can mingle with others.
  4. Volunteer your services. Transform yourself into an instant insider. Call the hosts and offer to help with registration or escorting speakers. You’ll probably meet more participants, and your role provides an instant icebreaker as guests come to you for information.

  5. Prepare small talk. Are you stumped for something to say? Read up on breaking industry news. Write down questions you want to discuss with other guests.

  6. Dress the part. Appearances count too. Convey that you have a lot in common by going along with the dress code for jeans and t-shirts, or blouses and khakis. You’ll feel more at ease and start to build rapport.

  7. Bring mints. Smell as good as you look. Fresh breath makes it easier to wow others with what you have to say.

  8. Bring your business cards. Having your business cards gives you a simple way to indicate that you want to get to know the person you are talking with better.  It also is a great way to get their contact information. If you don’t have any, head over to vistaprint and order a small box for less than $10.  It is worth it.

Steps to Take at Your Networking Events

  1. Radiate enthusiasm. Smile wide and think positive. Remember how beneficial the event can be for your career and how much you appreciate those around you.
  2. Straighten up. Good posture boosts your mood and shows others that you’re strong and capable. Tuck your stomach in and roll your shoulders back and down.
  3. Make eye contact. Starting conversations with strangers can be challenging. Establishing eye contact is a natural way to gain someone’s attention and introduce yourself. From there, you can start chatting about the food or the program.

  4. Express interest. Guests at a networking event are likely to be eager to talk about themselves and their business. Ask open-ended questions that keep the conversation going. Share your own relevant experiences.  Give them a card.

  5. Be authentic. There’s plenty of advice available about networking. Sift through the information for tips that match your strengths and personality.

  6. Slow down. Pace yourself. Be courteous and friendly to each guest, but reserve your business cards for those colleagues you’re interested in following up with. Enjoy your initial conversations without rushing to connect on social media or promote your own products and services. Healthy relationships are based on trust that grows over time.

  7. Move along. Leave your contacts wanting more. It’s usually more productive to strike up brief conversations and make plans to talk again later if you think you’ve discovered a potential client or partner. That way you can dial down the pressure and explore more options.

Show up at annual conventions and monthly luncheons ready to make new contacts and stay in touch with old friends. Create business and social opportunities by reaching out to others. Allow your real self to shine through and feel your newfound confidence.  You can do this!

If you are still not sure you can do it, take a moment to read my thoughts on waiting to try something new.  Why Waiting for the Right Moment is Often a Mistake  Trying something new can be scary, but not is stagnation.

Take a moment to let us know about a networking event you have gone to and how it went.

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9 Steps to Getting a Promotion

It’s enjoyable when your life is progressing. Like losing weight or increasing your nest egg, getting a promotion can be gratifying. The key is to prove that you deserve a promotion and are the right person for the job. With a little planning, you can get a promotion and advance your career.

Even if you’ve been stuck in the same job for years, it’s never too late to make new career strides. You can quickly establish yourself as a valuable employee that deserves greater responsibilities.  Do you want to be a lead teacher, curriculum specialist, trainer, or director?  You can!

Get a promotion and revitalize your career:

  1. Work at a school where promotions are possible. For example, if you work for a small center with a long-term teachers, there will be few opportunities for promotion. So, your first step might be to find a new center! Ideally, it would be a large company with multiple locations. If your center has room to grow, stretch your wings there.
  2. Start each day with a plan. Most employees arrive at work, grab a cup of coffee, socialize for a while, and then try to figure out what to do. Have a plan before you go to bed. With a plan, when you get up, you can start your day effectively and get a head start on the competition.
  3. Go above and beyond. Does everyone else arrive at 8:00am and leave by 5:00pm? Then you arrive at 7:30 and leave at 5:30. It doesn’t take long for people to identify you as the person that comes in early and leaves late. Find a way to stand out as a superior employee. It isn’t hard since most others are just doing enough to avoid getting fired.
  4. Always be early. Be early to work and early with your work. If something is due by Friday at 5:00, have it completed on Thursday. Be 100% reliable. And be on time for meetings. Avoid letting anyone down. Be impeccable with your word.
  5. Avoid making enemies. You never know whom your archenemy knows. You both might be low on the totem pole but your nemesis might be best friends with the boss’s daughter. Be one of those people that everyone likes and admires. It’s not hard to be pleasant when a promotion is at stake.
  6. Be indispensable. There are certain people that your school can’t do without. You probably know a few of them. What can you do to be so valuable that the owner or board will try to keep you happy? One key to getting a better job is being important enough that the company won’t want to disappoint you.
  7. Identify the important people. Where is your promotion likely to be? Whom would you work for? Start making friends and prove your worth. Specifically ask about the position and what qualities they need in an employee.  Begin developing and advertising the skills necessary to be successful.
  1. Speak to your boss and any other managers. Let them know that you’d like to take on a new role in the near future. You’ll be viewed favorably for showing initiative and you’ll be on their radar. Being proactive shows that you’re willing to take on greater responsibilities.
  2. Get the training you need. If you want to be a Director, or Assistant Director, Get your Director Credential.  Texas Director can help you get your credential in less than a month.  If you want to be a trainer, take a train the trainer class.

Keep your ear to the ground to know of upcoming openings. You can even suggest a new position be created that’s perfect for your backgrounds, skills, and interests.  Perhaps you can step into the new role for 2 hours a day, and stay teaching the rest of the time.  Be a creative problem solver!

Most employees aren’t willing to earn a promotion. You have much less competition than you think. However, if your best efforts fail, it might be time to look to another company. The perfect promotion for you already exists somewhere. The disadvantage of staying with the same company is fewer opportunities. Weigh your options and enjoy!

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5 Ways to Celebrate Holidays/Holydays in Your School

Holidays are often a key element in the annual calendar of our schools.  Christmas crafts, dreidel spinning, flag making, pumpkin carving, Chinese dragons and eating special foods enrich our programs.  The children enjoy the change from the standard routine and we feel great about incorporating elements from other cultures and broadening the kids’ awareness.

Sometimes in our excitement to do these wonderful things we misstep.  Dates that our calendar lists as holidays are sometimes actually holy days.  Days that are holy to families around the world, some of whom may be at your center.   We are entering one of the busiest times of the year for this.  Tomorrow starts the Muslim holy Day of Eid al Adha. The Jewish high holy days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur happen in October.  Hindus and Sikhs have Diwali.  Pagans have Samhain/Beltane. Christians have All Saints Day and Christmas. Additionally Buddhists have Bodhi.  That is just between now and the end of the year.  It is jam packed.

We don’t want to inadvertently treat a day that has a lot of significance for families cavalierly.  So Here are 5 simple steps to make these days super special at your program.

1. Find out which families celebrate one of these holy days.

The easiest way to do this is with a survey.  I suggest doing a written and an online version.  Another option is to make it a point to ask each parent at pick up over the course of a week. DOn’t assume that you know what the spiritual background of the families is.  I have met African-American Buddhist monks.  You cannot know without asking.

if-you-want-to-know-something-just-ask

2. Select the 2 or 3 you are going to explore this year.

Branch out from what you always do.  Wouldn’t it be great to learn about the holy day that is celebrated with candles, fireworks and sand art creations?  If you add one new exploration a year, you will keep your teaching fresh and your families excited to see what is on the horizon.  It will help families feel that they belong at your center.

3. Research the holy day.

The context of the holy day is important.  Many of us spin dreidels in December with our classes as a way to explore Hanukah.  Do we tell the story?  I didn’t know that it is not really considered an important holy day for years.  Yom Kippur is much more central to Judaism.  Why are fires set on November first in parts of Europe?  Are there special food associated with the day?

Comment below if you want a resource guide we have, that answers many of these questions.   A guide to the major religious holy days of  Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and 4 other major religions.

hijab-etc

4. Select activities, stories, crafts, music and/or food to share.

A quick google sear with the name of the holy day and the phrase “children’s activities” will get you started.  Crafts and coloring pages are usually the core of those web links.  Call or go by your local library to see if they have any children’s books on the subject.   Google can also provide you with music to play in the classroom and potentially ones to sing at circle time.

Hopefully by the time this time of year rolls around again next year Texas Director will have finished our resource kit for centers about each of these holy days.  Right now all we have is the informational packet, which is a good place to start.  Just fill out the form below and we will send it to you!

5. Go on a journey of discovery with your students.

Leap into the (previously) unknown with your class!  Dance to new music, eat apples and honey to celebrate Rosh Hashanah.  Make sand art.  In doing so you will be honoring countless memories of people from around the world.

Something to look out for:

Sometimes we get caught up in the artistry of what we are doing and don’t think about what we are actually teaching the children.  This is most often and issue with Easter, but can be an issue with other holy days as well.  Because Easter is the most problematic, lets look at it.  What is the most important, or holy, part of this holy day?  Is it the crucifixion?   Is a man dying a horrid death what makes the day sacred to millions of people?  NO, it is that he returned to life.  If your projects are all centered on crosses you are missing the actual relevance.  Focus on what makes the day sacred to those who believe.  Making resurrection rolls,  yarn eggs, games of hike & seek,  and growing rye grass are all projects that focus on the renewal element of Easter.  This doesn’t mean chicks and eggs can’t be part of your plan, just select the activities that relate to what you want to highlight.

 

 

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Success

Sometimes we, who work in early childhood education, people who society at large calls “babysitters” at worst and “teachers” at best, look at our peers and envy their success.  People we went to school with are wearing nice blouses and going to meetings while we are playing with playdough.

Envy.  It is a nasty word, but it something we feel.  We tell the kids they are entitled to their emotions, and you are entitled to yours.

I just saw the movie Don’t Think Twice and it really made me think about this issue.  The movie is about what happens to a group of friends and collaborators when one of them “succeeds.”  He got what they all thought they wanted. That released envy, introspection and a change of focus for the other members of the group, changing all of them for the better.

When you hit the big time you have to move on form where you were.  You don’t get to live in the neighborhood you live in now.  You don’t get to keep the friends you have had for years.  You are now the other.  You don’t fit in any longer.

Revealing my age here, I have a friend from high school who went on to be an MTV vj.  She made it.  No one else I knew was recognizable nationwide in their twenties.  I haven’t seen her in decades.  I hope she is happy and fulfilled in her life.  I know from facebook that she has gone on to many adventures, in high heels.

But I don’t want that life.  I like my town.  Getting to see my pals from school is fun.  I love being married to my best friend from high school.  The fact that my kids got to play in the same parks I did is cool.

There are days that I wish I could wear nicer clothes.  I would love to go to dinner parties with people who shape the world.  I would like for everyone to hear what I do and automatically treat me with more respect.  To tell you the truth, though, I would be uncomfortable in that world.  The number of times I have asked adult friends where the potty is, is embarrassing.  You can’t do that when hanging out with CEO’s.

I like playing with playdough.  I am grateful for the life I have.  I will keep this life.

Take a moment below and let me know what you envy and what you love about where you are.

 

 

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Playdough

5 Great Playdough Recipes

Full disclosure:  I don’t create any of these.  They are just my favorite ones to make, some with the kids and some at home for the classroom.

Kool-aid Playdough (smells soooo good)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 cups water
  • Saucepan
  • Food coloring, tempera powder, or Kool-Aid powder for color
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 2 tablespoons alum

Directions

  1. Combine salt and water in saucepan and boil until salt dissolves.
  2. Remove from heat and tint with food coloring, tempera powder, or Kool-Aid.
  3. Add oil, flour, and alum.
  4. Knead until smooth.
  5. This dough will last 2 months or longer.

 

child cooking No-Cook Playdough

Ingredients

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 cup salt
  • 2 teaspoons oil
  • Food coloring or powdered paint

Mix it.  Keep kneading it until it’s just right. Depending on the age of the cooks it will take between 2 and 30 minutes.  Just keep smooshing and rolling.  Add a touch of essential oil or extract (vanilla or peppermint) to make it smell wonderful!

 

Long Lasting Playdough

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 tablespoons oil of your choice
  • 4 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • food coloring and scents of your choice

Directions

  1. Place all ingredients in sauce pan
  2. Stir till well blended
  3. Cook over medium heat, stirring often until it forms one large ball.
  4. Remove from heat immediately.
  5. Place play dough onto waxed paper or your countertop.
  6. When cool enough, knead until smooth.

child cookingNontraditional Playdough

Ingredients

  • 3 cups conditioner
  • 2 cups corn starch

Directions

  1. Combine cornstarch and conditioner in a bowl.
  2. Paint or food coloring can be added, scent is already there with the conditioner.

child cookingBoiling Water Playdough

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups conditioner
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 2 tablespoons of oil of your choice
  • 1 cup boiling water

Directions

  1. Combine in a bowl using a spoon until cool enough to touch
  2. Knead until smooth.

All of these recipes yield great dough for increasing fine motor control, managing frustration, stimulating the senses, and making your day better.  If the dough doesn’t turn out just right, make adjustments.  For the flour based doughs, if it is too sticky – add more flour; too clumpy, add more boiled water; too stiff add more oil or just roll it more in your hands. 

What is your favorite playdough recipe?