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  • Writer's pictureMs. V

Easy Networking for Early Childhood Educators

I used to always think of networking as the most boring term in the business world - full of pretension and only for people who had the time and the money to consider things like joining boards and work related clubs. Then, over the course of talking with more and more early childhood educators over the last few years, I realized that so many of us had immense amounts of knowledge that related to each other's struggles and concerns, but there wasn't enough sharing. This isn't to say that educators don't want to share knowledge, but I believe it lends to the idea that we have such limited time, limited resources and limited opportunity.


With that idea in mind, I started seeking out more connections - community groups, conferences, conversations and just trying to get in front of more and more educators in the space. Often early childhood leaders are working extensive hours and unable to "lunch meet up" or they're essentially being told that they aren't professionals and don't require time to develop themselves and their programs beyond the baseline "required" coursework.


This whole journey was one big push to lead me towards started Engaged Early Childhood (EEC).


So, if you're feeling isolated, or wanting to expand your professional network, but unsure of where to start, I'm going to give you a quick list of ways to get started. With all of that said, don't hesitate to expand your network to include folks doing all kinds of impactful work in the early childhood space. Some of us are working in large child care centers, some are in home providers, some are in school district preschool classrooms and some are in organizations that work with all of the above on a regular basis. No matter what your connection to early childhood education might be, your knowledge and your experiences are needed and necessary to help the whole profession grow.


Three Easy Ways to Start Networking as an Early Childhood Educator or Professional


  1. Find NEW trainings that are relevant and interesting to you. A 20 year veteran told me recently that she is so frustrated that all the trainings in the DHS portal are stale and she's already taken them all. Unfortunately we are limited by what "counts" as DHS credit if we have to attain annual hours. However, make sure you check the portals often. In Iowa, we have iPower through DHS that regularly has new trainings posted. Sometimes those trainings don't happen because of low enrollment so check often because there might be something new you haven't taken before and want to explore. The key to this for networking is that you must go into these classes ready to engage - talk, ask questions, take note of other participants who seems to match your vibe or what you're looking for professionally. People are often excited to connect in these spaces so take advantage of this gathering of educators! You may even find a connection with the instructor that could have long term opportunities.

One example of a really great course I took that wasn't DHS sponsored was with a group through Wisconsin's Farm to School programming:

(Side note: Once EEC attains non-profit status, my hope is to work on securing funding to bring MORE diverse trainings to Iowa in general, so I will keep you up to date on that progress as well)



2. Make time for conferences.

My suggestion for administrators is to attend a minimum of two per year. One would ideally be new to you so you can make new connections. If there are not "new" ones you can attend, then as long as they are extensive enough or include enough relevance to your current status, go for it. For teachers or other positions, try to attend at least one conference per year. I can write pages and pages on how I suggest you approach conferences depending on your current goals, but for now, I want you to remember that you can network and information share and make long lasting, amazing connections via conferences. If you are someone who likes to talk and present, submit your own proposals to talk at the conference you wish to attend. This is one way you can gain discount attendance, get in front of an audience to connect and grow your network fast. If you aren't one to present, that's okay too, grab your ticket (there are usually scholarships if financials are a barrier!) and go. Talk to new people, discuss what you do and what they do and often these conversations lead to knowledge sharing naturally. If you have business cards, take them so you can easily share your information for later connections as well.



3. Dig into your relationships.

Admittedly, this one sounds weird, but hear me out. Chances are, you have friends that have or had kids in different programs. Do they recommend them? Do they have someone you could connect with and talk to about their program? Just through talking about what I do to people who I know well or meet casually had led me to some of the best working relationships I've ever had. For example, I used to work with another local non-profit. Through that work, I had created a great relationship with a fellow non-profit head. I discovered that she had started working in a child care center and quickly went about making the connection to discuss our work in ECE between our teams. That connection has already proven to be one of great reward both professionally and personally, with a lot of knowledge sharing and I foresee a great future in the connections we have made. I have also make great relationships with others in the field through connecting with friends' child care providers as well as through opening conversations with school based programs my own child has been involved in. Home providers are also a beautiful community to dive into and often are finding ways to connect via social media groups. Early Childhood Education and child care are so incredibly important to the function of our communities and the success of our entire economy. It is one of the easiest connections to find among people in our communities because so many people are connected to someone in the space for one reason or another.



I hope that at the end of the day you can find your people and recognize that you are not alone in this profession. Hundreds of thousands of us work day in and day out to give the children in our care the very best experience and care possible. If we are willing to work together to elevate the field for ourselves, our communities and especially the children, we will have a beautiful future.



Thanks for stopping by,

Veronica



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