If you are a child care professional, you definitely know how hard it can be to maintain composure both inside and outside of the classroom. To help you find your calm, we hope you’ve heard about SPARK Learning Lab’s partnership with the Calm App. By filling out a short form, you can get access to a premium subscription to Calm through February 2024.
In addition to self-care and meditation, you can also learn a lot from others who have been in your shoes. That’s why we connected with Brittany Flaugher, manager of strategic partnerships at SPARK, to understand what worked for her in the classroom and what she’s learned since.
What is your early childhood education background?
My journey began working at a local child care in my town. I loved working with children and after receiving my bachelor’s degree in child development and family studies, Then, I went on to become a developmental and behavioral therapist. I continued my education and received my masters in education in 2020. The next five years, I coached educational program leaders in a variety of settings. Currently, I have taken on the role of managing partnerships and projects for an educational company, while raising my beautiful seven-year-old daughter.
What is something you wish you knew when you were in the classroom?
There are so many things I look back on and wish I had known when I was in the classroom. The resources and technology have evolved so much since then. I wish I had spent more time connecting with other teachers in and outside the program where I worked. I often felt stuck in my own routine and way of doing things; I didn’t think outside the box of how I could make my current situation better or how I could support a specific child better. Working with children is a very challenging yet very rewarding experience. I often can still feel the heaviness of the stress and burnout when reflecting on that time in my life. I wish I had known how to cope with those feelings and overcome some of them. At the time, the resources weren’t mentioned much and the words “mental health” were not present. When observing and evaluating the children in my care, I wish I had known how to use the CDC Developmental Milestones to monitor child development and how to use them as a support when talking to parents.
How did you find your calm when you were in the classroom?
Wow, this one is hard. I am not sure I even found “calm.” I remember there being high highs and low lows. In the midst of it, I was able to find a healthy moment where I stopped and thought, “this is why I do what I do.” I always took advantage of nap time as a time for me to explore my creative self and take time to breathe. I would think of fun projects I could do with the children or remodel the classroom. It was a time for me to find my outlet and have a few minutes of “me time”, even if that meant I was off daydreaming about these projects and plans while patting a child’s back. Because we all know, there were some days where nap time did not mean I got a break.
What resources are available to current early childhood educators to help them “find their calm?”
I believe the world of mental health has evolved so much in the last five years. We now have so many more resources at our fingertips, as well as humans who support the words “mental health.” I believe now more than ever we have each other. We have people we can go to help us find our calm. It is ok to go chat with the person next to you and say “I am just having a hard mental health day,” and we just get it. If not, we have ways to support each other. Setting up some therapy sessions can be a helpful tool. You can also download the Calm app, play a sleep story, and use it to help the children fall asleep in the classroom. Or, just listen to a motivational story while you are patting a child’s back.
There are so many ways in which we can give ourselves a healthy boost throughout the day. “Dose of Joy” is what I like to call it. We may never find “calm” or a balance, but we can give ourselves moments of joy and tap into all the amazing resources that we have out there today. The relationships around us, leaning into other educators, downloading wellness apps, and utilizing wellness programs area all great places to start