Properly organized child care and education before school is the key to developing his thinking, memory, attention, imagination, speech, and physical health. Educational leadership is constantly being developed and maintained in the culture of the ECE environment (Davitt & Ryder, 2018). Without these basic qualities, it will not be possible to successfully adapt to elementary school, master the program of subsequent stages of education, and realize themselves personally, socially, and professionally. That is why the age from birth to 7 years plays a fundamental role in the formation of the person, and a great deal of attention is paid to preschool education at the state level. This analysis examines the first interview with a leader in early childhood education.
Key Roles and Responsibilities of the Educational Leader
In the 21st century, the heads of educational institutions have a special responsibility against the background of reforms in the field of education and the provision of comprehensive security. People should first understand safety in educational institutions by minimizing the risks of such emergencies as fires, disasters of environmental and artificial nature, terrorism, and extremism. Secondly, this term should be defined as measures to reduce the risk of injuries and shape working and learning conditions, and also the confidentiality of information and data of participants in the educational process.
In his interview, the head of an educational institution identifies several key roles and responsibilities. The first is the development of professional relationships and mentoring, guiding, and supporting educators and teachers. This aspect is certainly important because educational institutions need such a leader. The leader needs to combine personal qualities that contribute to the successful management of people engaged in the educational process and have sufficient experience and the necessary repertoire of management skills and abilities. Therefore, the manager should have both the professional skills, knowledge, and personal qualities of a leader. Otherwise, it will be difficult for him to achieve high results from the people working with him. It is possible to distinguish the following set of skills and abilities necessary for a head of an educational institution to perform his duties successfully:
- Leadership (setting goals and objectives; making decisions; exercising control; organizing teamwork).
- Methodological expertise (understanding teaching methods used in the educational process, predicting the educational process, effective interaction with the pedagogical team).
- People management skills (building a teaching team, motivating staff, managing conflict, communication, and team building).
- Administrative skills (planning the work of the school team, delegating authority, ensuring the effectiveness of the instructional process, establishing work procedures, and establishing and maintaining a system of accountability and control).
- Organizational skills (working effectively with superiors, understanding organizational interactions, organizing teamwork).
The second key responsibility of the supervisor is to understand and evaluate the individual learning and unique learning styles and experiences of each educator and teacher. Success in teaching and educating children is determined by many factors, each of which is quite weighty, and neglecting these factors inevitably leads to failure. Methods of teaching and education, age characteristics of children, and the level of their development are undoubtedly important factors in the success of education. Forming the teacher’s individuality contributes to teaching the child’s creative personality. By the time of implementation of such a choice, every adult who consciously chooses the pedagogical profession has already formed as a person and is undoubtedly an individual. The more diverse the individuality among teachers and educators, the more likely they are to teach and educate children with many different yet useful individual qualities. Teachers with different personalities may decide on the same teaching and learning objectives from the many but implement them differently. The head of an educational institution needs to understand these differences among teachers to find the right approach for each employee.
Developing a clear and shared vision for curriculum documents and pedagogical approaches to achieve children’s learning outcomes is the third key role of the leader. A clear plan for the learning process is one of the main keys to success in pedagogy. Current educational institutions use model subject curricula and are recommendatory. They are the basis for teachers to develop curricula that consider various factors, from the specifics of the geographical area to the possibility of using innovative technologies. In the classical sense, curriculum development involves creating a plan of activities, defining the main provisions, goals, and areas of work, and traditionally the first and important step in curriculum development is the selection of teaching and learning materials by the goals, activities, and standards that have been identified. Developing curricula and training programs need big improvement and scientific justification of the decisions made (Cheeseman & Walker, 2018). New approaches to curriculum development responsive to children’s needs and characteristics are required.
The fourth responsibility of the interviewee leader is a passion for professional learning, continuous improvement, and the amazing work that goes on in preschools. Only a fully committed to their work and loves it can achieve heights in this field. The process does not stand still; children are growing up much faster than a few years ago, so the demands on teachers are getting higher. Many new teaching methods have emerged, so preschool staff and administrators must continually improve to remain competitive. A quality and up-to-date preschool education give a great start to a child’s further education.
Advocating for children and high-quality early learning programs is the fifth major responsibility of a preschool manager that the interviewee defines for himself (Waniganayake et al., 2017). A person who runs such institutions must truly love children and always be on their side. There are cases where teachers violate children’s rights. For example, a child’s right to express his thoughts, opinions, dress, and look the way he wants. The dress style should coincide with the school’s requirements, but it should not violate the student’s constitutional rights. For example, a child is required to wear a school uniform, but no one has the right to control the color and length of his hair or to comment that he looks wrong somehow. It is the principal’s responsibility to monitor teachers’ attitudes toward children carefully.
The specific nature of preschool age is such that the achievements of children of preschool age are determined not by the sum of particular knowledge, skills, and abilities but by the totality of personal qualities, including those that ensure the psychological readiness of the school child (Boyd et al., 2021). It should be noted that the most significant difference between preschool and general education is that there is no rigid subject matter in kindergartens. The child’s development occurs in play, not in learning activities: “Play provides opportunities for children to learn as they discover, create, improvise and imagine” (Australian Government Department of Education and Training, 2021, p. 17). The standard of preschool education differs from the standard of elementary education in that there are no rigid requirements for the results of the program
The Leadership Style
The leadership style to which the interviewee adheres is cooperative leadership. Anyone who thinks of themselves as a leader and calls themselves a leader but does not coordinate with others, cooperate, or create a sense of “team” is a dictator. Collaborative leadership is a relatively new form of leadership in which the traditional leader plays the role of facilitator rather than an authoritarian ruler. It is educators who most often resort to this style of leadership (Rodd, 2013). The essence of collective leadership is that a group working together toward a common goal can create better strategies and implement meaningful practices more effectively than one person. The leader must involve team members in working together to achieve common goals (Douglass, 2019).
A leader who chooses a collaborative leadership style faces many challenges daily. For example, lack of time can be a problem in a collaborative leadership style because it is necessary to listen to each employee, come to a consensus, and prescribe a way to solve the problem together. This problem can also be beneficial; for example, the manager can analyze his employees’ behavior and improve his relationship with them by communicating with them. The next challenge for the manager is autonomy in decision-making. There is one person in a managerial position, not a team, so they have much responsibility. This can cause a lot of anxiety and doubt, but with time and practice, the manager will succeed. That is why continually improving one’s professional skills is very important.
Challenges Facing the Leader
The main problem that the intervener faces is a lack of time. The leader occupies two positions simultaneously, requiring much effort and energy. The educational leader has to face these problems alone because usually, the position is held by one person. The leader can hire an assistant, but the main responsibility will remain with the leader. For example, emergencies and conflicts among mentees can take up much time and exhaust the leader. That is why the leader needs to have conversations and set rules to minimize such situations (Carter et al., 2021). Because of the leadership style chosen, the leader cannot fully transfer responsibilities to the employees, as this would be contrary to cooperative leadership. The leader must be involved in all processes, help his mentees and be on an equal footing with them.
Measures to Protect Children’s Learning and Development
The innovation that the Abecedarian approach introduced into his educational center was. This approach brings excellent results because it covers several important factors in a child’s development, such as communication, interaction with the environment, and learning through play (Stamopoulos & Barblett, 2018). With this approach, the leader and staff of the center have achieved significant results, for example, every room of the institution is equipped with supplies for learning through this approach, and the teachers are learning more and more about the theory of the Abecedarian approach every day. The center has developed a program where children can practice at home to improve their results.
Early childhood education ensures that all children have equal opportunities for development and learning, so it is important that children participate regularly. Play plays a key role in preschool education. Through play, a child learns to cooperate with other children, gets support in language development, and prepares for learning. Finnish as a second language is taught in preschool education, which promotes the language development of children from immigrant families.
Quality in Terms of Leadership Role
An educational leader who is interviewed demonstrates quality practices as part of his or her leadership role, referencing the National Quality Framework. Quality education, according to the leader, is very important in preschools. These types of institutions provide the knowledge base that will help children in the future. That is why the head of an educational institution holds frequent meetings and conferences and engages in staff development. There are factors that characterize the quality of preschool education:
- The staffing of the educational institution (pedagogical, managerial, and other) with the appropriate level of qualification. At the same time, the pedagogical staff should possess all the basic competencies, know the information and communication technologies and be able to apply them in the educational process.
- Material and technical provision of the educational process;
- Educational-material support (presence of the subject-developmental environment of the educational establishment, creation of an object-developing environment, considering the principle of integration of educational areas);
- Medical and social provision: medical service, formation, and filling of groups passing preventive examinations by the staff, organization of nutrition, and health improvement of pupils.
- Information and methodological support, allowing monitoring and manage the educational process.
- Psychological and pedagogical support of professional interaction of teachers with children of preschool age, based on: subjective and benevolent attitude of the teacher to the child; individual and motivational approach; taking into account the zone of the nearest development of children.
The educational process should include joint activities of an adult with children and free independent activities of pupils. As the national quality standard states: “Each child is supported to build and maintain sensitive and responsive relationships” (National Quality Framework, n.d.). This is why the teacher needs to approach each child so that they develop equally.
Boyd, W., Green, N., & Jovanovic, J. (2021). Learning and teaching in early childhood; pedagogies of inquiry and relationships. Cambridge University Press.
Carter, M., Casio, L. M., & Curtis, D. (2021). The visionary director: A handbook for dreaming, organizing, and improvising in your center. Redleaf Press.
Cheeseman, S., & Walker, R. (2018). Pedagogies for leading practice (1st ed.). Routledge.
Davitt, G., & Ryder, D. (2018). Dispositions of a responsible early childhood education leader: Voices from the field. Journal of Educational Leadership, Policy and Practice, 33(1), 18–31. Web.
Douglass, A. L. (2019). Leadership for quality early childhood education and care. Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Web.
National Quality Framework. (n.d.). National Quality Standard. (5.2). The Australian Children’s Education & Care Quality Authority. Web.
Australian Government Department of Education and Training. (2021). Belonging, Being & Becoming The Early Years learning Framework for Australia. Web.
Rodd, J. (2013). Leadership in early childhood: The pathway to professionalism. Taylor & Francis Group.
Stamopoulos, E., & Barblett L. (2018). Early childhood leadership in action; evidence-based approaches for effective childhood. Allen & Unvin.
Waniganayake, M., Cheeseman, S., & Frenech, M. (2017). Leadership: Contexts and complexities in early childhood education. Oxford University Press.