Leadership and life is about finding those who help you to be your best, who challenge you when you need to be challenged and who sit with you when things are just all too overwhelming until you have the strength to stand again. This principle not only drives how we desire to lead in Mother Duck Childcare, but it also captures how we work with children. None of us live in isolation. We need one another. This is why the work we do with children to develop a deeper understanding of their social responsibilities (how they show kindness, how they appreciate diversity, how they advocate for inclusion, how they care for others) is so incredibly important. One of my all-time favourite quotes by Lilian Katz captures this concept of “social responsibility” so well:
“Each of us must come to care about everyone else’s children. We must recognise that the welfare of our children and grandchildren is intimately linked to the welfare of all other people’s children. After all, when one of our children needs life-saving surgery, someone else’s child will perform it. If one of our children is threatened or harmed by violence, someone else’s child will be responsible for the violent act. The good life for our own children can be secured only if a good life is also secure for all other people’s children.” (Lilian Katz).
This quote began rumbling around in my mind several years ago when we first embarked on our “Reconfiguring Quality Project” with Dr Deborah Harcourt (Early Childhood Professor and Consultant) when she began to challenge our organisation with the question – WHO do we want our children to be? It’s the answer to this very complex question that should then drive all that we do as we work alongside children. Often in a child’s early years and even as they develop into “pre-teens” and teenagers, the question of “what do you want to be when you grow up?” is regularly thrown around. Although there isn’t anything inherently wrong with this question, the work we have been doing with Dr Deborah Harcourt has caused us as Early Childhood Professionals to go on a journey to dig deeper and to re-think how we work with children and how we work with each other.
For me, as CEO, this was very much amplified when COVID-19 struck. Although I have and always will respect the incredible work that our Early Childhood Educators “do”, what stood out to me across our organisation during the heightened threat of COVID, was WHO our educators were. Their values, their character was so evident in how they looked after one another- how they took selfless steps to make sure their fellow colleagues had enough hours per week across the “lockdown” period, the incredible gratitude that they demonstrated to their Franchisees and to me as CEO, how they courageously “showed up” each and every day for children and families even when their own families may have been struggling. “Who they were” shone through with such brilliance. Characteristics such as resilience, courage, collaboration and kindness were what held our Mother Duck community together and saw us come out the other side even stronger!
This journey through COVID, then triggered an even further reflection on our complex role as adults in supporting the character and skill development of children. As we questioned, “WHO do we want our children to be?”, we also realised we needed to intentionally and deeply consider, “WHO do WE want to be as adults in our children’s worlds?”.
Dr Brene Brown puts it this way:
“I think the single most important thing that I learned from my research is this: We cannot give our children what we don’t have. If we want our children to have courage, compassion and connection, we must practice these things in our daily lives. If we want them to love and accept who they are, our job is to love and accept who we are.”
This is why, as we continue to embark on our Reconfiguring Quality Journey, reflecting on how we can best work with children, it has also become incredibly important for us as a leadership team that we embark on a journey of developing ourselves as adults. Our work as leaders directly impacts our educators and with all of our “human imperfections” we recognise that we need each other to grow, to hold each other accountable and to help each other be the very best version of ourselves. This is why (as you would have noticed across our Facebook Pages over the last several months) we have engaged in the work of Dr Brene Brown and her “Dare to Lead” research and leadership framework to continue to guide each of our leadership teams.
We have so much to share about how this research and framework has challenged us and shaped us and will continue to do so, but for now, we wish to share with our families and community the commitment we have to grow and develop ourselves as leaders first. This involves:
- All of our key leaders in each management team across our organisation have completed a three full-day workshop based on Dr Brene Brown’s “Dare to Lead” book and leadership framework.
- Developing our core values as an organisation (our “Organisational Values Planning Day” was held this past Saturday- so there is more information to come about this).
- As leaders, continuing to develop an understanding of how we view ourselves and how this then impacts our interactions with others (“Who we are is how we lead” – Dr Brene Brown).
- Building a framework across our organisation that is strategically investing into the adults that are directly impacting the worlds of children- we desire to be the adults who model the values we wish to see in our future generation!
This blog only scratches the surface of all we want to share, so we look forward to sharing many more stories with you about our learning journey as adults and leaders across Mother Duck Childcare. We feel so privileged to walk this journey with each of our educators, children and families and thank you for your ongoing support of the work Mother Duck Childcare does within our communities.