In the field of early childhood education (ECE), no two days are ever the same. Alaska’s early childhood educators are busy creating stimulating, safe, and developmentally appropriate educational environments and experiences for our young children.
To help child care programs and early educators deliver high-quality care, thread offers an annual Quality Initiative (QI) program. By participating in thread’s QI programs, child care programs and early educators gain professional development, adopt new skills, and set goals around a specific early care and learning topic. They also receive financial support to achieve their goals.
This year, thread shifted the focus of the QI program to emphasize the importance of self-care and wellness for the early childhood education workforce. According to a recent survey conducted by NAEYC, 88% of child care programs report that burnout and exhaustion are “greatly” or “to some extent” contributing to issues retaining qualified teachers. Considering this data, the need for a self-care and wellness QI was evident.
The Wellness 4 U Quality Initiative
A new “Wellness 4 U” QI specifically for early educators launched earlier this year. More than 290 educators signed up to participate. The Wellness 4 U Quality Initiative was designed to support these professionals who work tirelessly to ensure their children, families, and businesses are well taken care of – but seldom make quality time for themselves.
Participants of this QI learned how to identify and describe different ways to support self-care in the workplace, practice using awareness tools and how to incorporate them at work, and learned the science and research behind prioritizing wellness. They also created a personal list of self-care support tools. 99% of early educators who participated in this QI reported that “the support I received from the thread Specialist gave me concrete and practical strategies for applying the content.”
One highlight of the QI was a wellness training led by Woodrie Burich, CEO of the Integration Group. The training was open to QI participants as well as the general public, more than 200 attendees joined to take a deep dive on taking care.
Afterwards, participants shared the following reflections about the training:
“This is one of the best self-care classes I have ever taken.” – Early Educator, Hillcrest Children’s Center, Anchorage
“Reminding your coworkers to take some time for themselves when possible…even a little reminder to get something to drink or eat can feel like the permission they need to take a minute.” – Early Educator, CCS Early Learning, Wasilla
“We talked about how wellness (self-care and care of one another) is SO important, especially during such a time of crisis in early childhood. However, we all have the opportunity to be advocates for early childhood in Alaska so that all of these amazing people are valued and honored for the important work that they do. Together with strong voices – we can turn this crisis into positive change!” – Early Educator, CCS Early Learning, Wasilla
The main takeaway from the “Wellness 4 U” QI is that these professionals can set attainable short and long-term goals related to their wellness. Those that practice self-care tend to be happier, have a more positive outlook, and perform better in their personal and professional lives.
Empowering our early educators, a workforce that goes the extra mile, to take the time needed to care for themselves sets them on a path of continued success — and able to stay committed to the work they love.
Now it’s time for a break!