While working in an early childhood setting, one of the positions available is a room leader. A room leader is an educator who leads the room, responsible for the children the staff and running of the room. A room leader is not an easy job and it takes someone who is experienced and qualified to successfully become an efficient leader of the room.
Roles and Responsibilities
As a room leader you are in charge. This does not mean you sit and make everyone do the work but it means you need to direct and manage what happens in the room. You will have to ensure that staffs who work in your room are working in accordance to policy and procedures, as well as this you will need to ensure they are included in planning and programming.
Room leaders need to be familiar and have thorough understanding of the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF), National Quality Standards (NQS) and the National Regulations to make sure their practices within the room are in accordance with these. Along with these the centre’s philosophy and policies and procedures need to be known as these should be reflected throughout the program and planning and the duties and tasks being completed. It is a lot of information to gather and understand but its necessary for all room leaders.
Roles and Responsibilities as a room leader also include but not limited to:
- Responsible for the guidance/support/direction/discipline and general supervision of staff, students and volunteers working within the Childcare service.
- Mentoring students on practical placement. Provide verbal and written feedback to aid reflective learning.
- To develop the Children’s Program (reflecting Early Years Learning Framework guidelines). Write up the program, co-operating with staff and Children’s needs.
- In compliance with the OH&S Policy, ensure a safe environment is maintained for staff and children, with particular attention to children with anaphylaxis, allergies, asthma etc.
- To ensure that accurate records are kept in regards to accident, incident, injury, illness and medication. The appropriate books/records are to be checked on a regular basis to ensure ongoing compliance.
- To ensure staff are aware of current thinking and practice in early childhood education, and service delivery.
- To liaise with families in regards to the day to day happenings.
- To co-operate and communicate effectively with parents about their child-care needs.
- To promote good parent / Centre relationships.
- To promote and maintain positive working relationships with other staff.
- To actively support and co-operate with other staff in their child-care duties.
- To encourage parental involvement in the Childcare program.
- To maintain observations and records of individual children’s progress, particularly those identified through staff observation.
Not only are you responsible for the staff, children, programming and planning etc. It’s up to you to lead your team to become a unified unit within the centre. You need to develop trust in those around you and also provide assistance and be supportive to other staff in the room. Be someone who can suggest ideas, give positive feedback, a role model, an effective team leader... these are the qualities and responsibilities required.
Communicating With Staff
Depending on how many children are in your room on any given day, you will have at least one staff member assist you within the room. It is important that as a room leader you work together to provide the best of care to the children.
You need to be open and honest in communicating your needs to staff. If there is a concern or something that you don’t agree with, discuss it with the staff in your room straight away. No one is a mind reader and until you mention something, nothing is going to be done about it. Encourage your staff and support them. Find out what their interests are when working with the children and do what you can to support them.
Provide encouragement through verbal feedback and show appreciation. Tell staff that you like what they did or how they could improve or what good ideas they have to share. Appreciate their efforts and show them you care about what they have to say as well as their ideas and suggestions. Positive communication also includes:
- Being attentive.
- Listening carefully.
- Letting the speaker finish what they want to say.
- Being aware of a person’s facial expressions, tone of voice and body language. These give clues to how the other person might be feeling.
- Asking some questions and restating what the person has said. This helps you understand what has been said and gives the other person a chance to explain if their meaning was different.
- Noticing how others respond will help you know if the conversation is going well or not.
- Identifying which language would be best to communicate in. If you speak a different language, check to see if there are others who may speak the same language and are willing to help.
- From experience, it worked when you sat down with the assistant (and any other staff working in your room, even relief) and discussed expectations and talked about various aspects of routine and who could contribute what to the program.
- Express gratitude and say thank you to others in your room, a little goes a long way and most of all be a role model, for your team and the children.
Delegating Jobs To Staff
- Do not ask or expect other staff within the room to do anything you are not prepared to do yourself. If you are not prepared to clean wee or poo up after a child has had an accident, do not expect someone else to.
- Depending on the types of people you work with making cleaning rosters could be a good idea so it is clear who is doing what jobs that day. Make sure jobs are equally spread and rotated so everyone feels like they are doing as much as the other person. There is nothing worse than someone feeling like they are lumped with all the cleaning/toileting jobs and not much else.
- Take it in turns to do nappy changes and toileting procedures. Depending on which room you are running, nappy changes and toileting occur throughout the day. Instead of delegating this task to one person per day, break it up so someone different does it each time. It gets tiring if one person is stuck with having to do all the nappies throughout the day, especially if there are lots of children. If there are too many children more than 6 for example, split this task into half and share this procedure.
- Overall try and maintain an equal share on who does what in cleaning, toileting, supervising etc. When staffs see room leader getting involved in these tasks themselves it creates a happier team. Be fair and delegate jobs appropriately between all staff within the room.
Programming and Planning With Staff
Please allow staff within your room to do observations and take an active role in your programming and planning. If they are actively involved they are more likely to take more of an interest in the children and the actual running of the room and be enthusiastic, happy and productive members of staff.
With observations sit down with staff and discuss how you want observations to be completed, what to include, how you would like them written etc. Even though you may not have written the observation yourself you are responsible for the documentation and each individual child’s learning and development. In saying this, when getting others to write observations you have the right to check them to clarify what has been written and to follow up if necessary. Write up an monthly observation checklist with each child’s name and date to be observed along with the staff who will be doing the observation for each specific day. That way everyone in the room is clear on who they will be observing for the day.
Ask for their input on what experiences should go onto the program for the week, if they have noticed any interests arising or any parent input that needs to be added etc. They are also your eyes and ears and can support you with the program and planning side too.
Know and make staff know there are some jobs that will be done (mostly) by you but with assistance from them and explain why. Observations, planning/programming are one. You will be doing the majority but you need the help from staff in the room as it is sometimes impossible to get it all done alone. Something as simple as printing and gluing photos in the day book, or writing up the daily reflections can be a huge help to you as a room leader.
When getting staff to do the daily reflection make sure they do it correctly. That is to reflect on the experiences provided from the program. It is not to be used to talk about how the weather was and you all had a good day. The daily reflection is an important document to be used as a source of information so it’s important that it gets done correctly. Just guide them through it and help them to write it properly. It may take time to get all staff on board but it’s worth it.
With group time, I think it’s important as a room leader to plan and be involved in the main part of group time with the children. This is a great teaching opportunity and an integral part of the program. Other staff within the room can do stories, songs, games etc. However for teachable moments it is your responsibility to see to it.
In the end you need to work out what you are comfortable with letting the other staff in the room complete when it comes to programming and planning. Whatever it is, check that it’s done correctly because as a room leader you are responsible for what happens.
Relationships with Staff and Families
Positive relationships with staffs are vital as it creates a caring and supporting environment for the children to be a part of. In child care, we are working as part of a team in caring for children and it’s important o work together and in mutual respect for one another. Each of us is our own individual but regardless of our likes and dislikes it's vital that we collaborate with each other while working together.
By collaborating and establishing positive relationships with families, this will enable you to gain parent trust and respect as you interact with their child. Parents will feel comfortable in talking to you about any issues and concerns they may have about their child and accept your professional opinion. Another important factor to remember when building relationships with families is that they will actively participate in any events or experiences in your centre and become more involved in the programming and planning.
Remember the staff within your room may not have much experience so they are looking to you to learn new skills and perfect ones they may already have. Be a mentor, share your experiences and celebrate your successes together. You are a team and you need to balance things so everyone is doing something worthwhile in the room while creating a caring environment for children.
Suggestions for Positive Communication