Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A Day in the Life of an Early Learning Center Director

In 2015, DEL featured a set of blog posts that provided an in-depth description of what a family home child care licensor and a center child care licensor encounters on an average day at work.

Today, we will focus on an average day of work for the early learning professionals who run child care programs in centers and in family homes, providing high quality early learning to Washington children. The following post was written after spending a day shadowing Lois Martin, director of the Community Day Center for Children in Seattle’s Central Area. 

About Community Day

Founded by Lula Martin in 1963, Community Day Center for Children (CDCC) is in Seattle’s Central Area neighborhood. They serve 37 children, 13 percent of whom receive Working Connections Child Care subsidy. The CDCC lives up to its philosophy to provide a culturally diverse atmosphere where children learn through social interaction. The staff is comprised of African American and East African educators and the children come from a variety of racial, cultural, ethnic, and economic backgrounds.

Lois Martin wears many hats throughout the day. From her office she has eyes and ears on the activity in each classroom. She communicates regularly with staff over walkie-talkies.  She announces updates to classroom coverage when two teachers are out for the day, advises teachers about shortened outdoor play time schedules because of cold weather, and reminds teachers to look out for flu symptoms after two children go home ill.

Quality Matters

CDCC is participating in Early Achievers, but has not yet been rated. This is evident in her constant attention to child/ teacher ratios and the ability of staff to meet the individual needs of each child even on short-staffed days. Martin shared that she and her teachers were using Early Achievers tools several years before enrolling in the quality improvement program because of the center’s affiliation with the City of Seattle Comprehensive Child Care Program. 
When asked about how Early Achievers influences her day-to-day work, Martin notes that her first priority is the health and safety of the children and her staff. 
Martin shared the importance of utilizing these types of tools to analyze how the center classrooms encourage quality early learning experiences for the children. For example, they recently went through each classroom, as a group, to talk through several environment rating scale checklists and how teachers are using the different materials.

Supporting her teaching staff in their ongoing professional development is another important part of Martin’s role as director. Most of the CDCC educators are in school with three pursuing a Child Development Associate (CDA) certificate, two pursuing Associate of Arts (AA) degrees and one pursuing a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree. Martin helps her staff find conferences and training to aid in their professional development and provides them opportunities to apply their learning as leaders at the center. She wishes there was more time to dedicate to training as a group.

Lois Martin, director of CDCC,
 comforts a sick child sleeping in her lap. 

Community Minded

Martin is also actively involved in the community surrounding the center. Today, in addition to her errands and coordinating adaptive schedule changes in classrooms, she has a phone conversation with a community member about plans for the dedication of new outdoor space on the Garfield Campus and their hope that it will become a community living room that serves as a safe space for all. She recalls the ways the neighborhood has changed over the 24 years she has been directing the center. While most of the children live within an 8-block radius of the center, many center teachers are no longer able to afford to live in the neighborhood. 

The ability to retain and continue to provide high quality care to families who receive Working Connections Child Care (WCCC) subsidies was the major impetus in the center becoming a part of the Early Achievers program.  It is important to Martin that CDCC maintain a socio-economic mix of families at the center, so she is willing to take the extra steps to make this possible. For example, today she makes a call to the DSHS provider line to confirm the center received a past-due co-payment.  Then Martin calls the parent to assure her the balance is cleared up and a called was placed to the WCCC call center.  
“If you really enjoy it, it becomes a part of your life and everything you do… That is how you obtain quality, we must pay attention to it every day,” Martin said.
As the day comes to an end, parents stop in to chat with Martin. She shares highlights from the day and they laugh about communal stories. She pulls out the walkie-talkie and cheerily praises her staff for their good work taking care of each other and the children on a short-staffed day, and reminds them to stop by the office to pick up treats left by a family in appreciation for the center’s dedicated staff.

Know of a special place where Washington children grow and learn? Send ideas to communications@del.wa.gov

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