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Early education directors receive encouragement for multifaceted roles

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A veteran director of weekday early education warned new directors to “take care of yourselves,” during the National Preschool and Children’s Convention, Oct. 16-19 at LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Citing the several dozen roles a director of weekday early education fills routinely, Ann Parnell said, “If you don’t take care of you, you will burn out or become ill.”

Parnell, weekday early education consultant for LifeWay and director of the Texas Baptist Church Weekday Education Association, advised new directors that “some have distorted views of your job.” She recalled one person who said she would like Parnell’s job someday, “because you just sit at that desk and smile.”

Weekday early education directors share Jesus with parents and children, the majority of whom are not Christian, she said. They also serve as legal experts, personnel managers, financial experts, public speakers, security specialists, records analysts, conflict mangers, purchasing agents, curriculum experts, office managers, diplomats, nurses, counselors, maintenance engineers and newsletter editors, among others.

“Learn to say ‘no’ and not feel guilty about it,” she advised. “Go home and see if there is something in your life you could say ‘no’ to and never miss it.”

To succeed as a director and maintain a healthy personal life, she offered several pieces of advice:

— Be the director God has called you to be.

— Do not take work home.

— Understand your personality and the personalities of the staff with whom you work.

— Get ongoing training; be a lifelong learner.

— Work regular hours.

— Learn the resources that are available to you as an educator.

— Look the part of a director by dressing and conducting yourself professionally.

— Establish good relationships.

— Have a mission statement for your weekday early education center.

Among other pieces of advice, Parnell said directors should require teachers to submit teaching plans in advance.

“Good teaching requires good planning,” she observed. “If a child does not learn the way I teach, then I must teach the way a child learns.”

And careful hiring practices, she said, will eliminate a host of future problems.

“We hire most of our problems,” she observed. “As you hire, check references. Dig deeper than the provided references, if possible. Do a background check. You certainly do not want to hire someone convicted of a felony or someone who has engaged in child abuse. Conduct a second interview with another person in the room, and when you hire, always have a probationary period.”

Parnell said in addition to the obvious need to hire Christians in a church center, hire those who understand the weekday program is a ministry of the church.

Above all, Parnell urged, “[H]ave a vision. You are the leader. Planning is the thinking that takes place before the action occurs. Take time to think, to visualize what can be.”

In other sessions, Lois Gamble and Bob Couch, authors of a “Weekday Early Education Administrative Guide” to be released by LifeWay in January 2001, offered additional guidance.

Gamble, a consultant and former director of weekday education at Hyde Park Baptist Church, Austin, Texas, stressed the need for personnel policies and operating procedures to lessen misunderstandings and provide plans of action. Providing written guidelines, she said, “frees the director from unnecessary involvement in the resolution of problems and provides consistent actions, resulting in more efficient operation of the program.”

Couch, a church consultant who retired as a senior consultant in childhood education with LifeWay, urged convention participants to remember that Christian weekday early education is a ministry. He said every chapter in the new administrative guide is written with Christian ministry as one of the expected results.

“The more evidence of ministry, the more likely the program will gain the support of the church and accomplish its purpose,” he advised.

More than 800 leaders attended the National Preschool and Children’s Convention sponsored by LifeWay’s church resources division.

    About the Author

  • Charles Willis