Hello fellow educators and professional learning enthusiasts!
I guess now is a perfect opportunity to introduce myself! My name is Bre Piccolotto and I am the newest member of the Strive Team. I’m the one who will be sending you all the emails about completing your reflective feedback surveys (hint: we LOVE it when those are completed!). I hope to get to know the community even better in my role with the Strive team. I am really looking forward to connecting with you about professional learning in the early years!
The Impact of COVID-19 on our Community
Since April, Strive offered online professional learning events at no cost to our participants. We made that decision because of how severely the early years community was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Even amidst these closures, Strive hosted 24 events and had 936 total attendees! It has been incredible to see this community’s commitment to professional learning even under challenging circumstances! The resilience of early learning professionals is nothing short of inspiring
IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Title in light blue block font that says “Strive Events”. Subtitle in black font that says “Post Covid 19 closures in March 2020”. Statistics are provided about Strive events that have been hosted since the COVID-19 closures in March 2020. The first listed statistic is “4 Months April to August”. The second statistic is “24 Professional Learning Events”. The final statistic is “936 Total Attendees”. Background is light turquoise with abstract shapes in yellow-green, navy blue, pale yellow, and light blue.
PHOTO SOURCE: Bre Piccolotto, created on Canva.com
Prior to working with Strive, I personally attended several of these events as I navigated completing my final semester of the Early Childhood Education program at Fanshawe College amidst the pandemic. I had lost my job in my early years program and was missing the children, families, and colleagues at my centre dearly. I felt listless and my usually upbeat attitude was nowhere to be found. These events helped me refocus on my professional learning goals and provided me with the connection and sense of community I was desperately missing. I began to feel more at ease with how tumultuous and uncertain everything in my life felt. It was wonderful being able to participate with and learn from other professionals and feel supported during this difficult time.
The Transition to the Recovery Phase and the Cost of “Free”
Across Canada, we are gearing up for autumn. For those of us in education, this means the return to school and the reintroduction of in-person services and programs.
At Strive, we want to support Educators and early years professionals in their learning and growth as they transition into the recovery phase this Fall. As Educators are returning to classrooms and playrooms, Strive will be returning to reinstating some associated fees for events. We will, however, continue to be mindful of the impact the pandemic has had on our community. If cost should ever present as a barrier to participation, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. We want to ensure everyone can participate meaningfully in meeting their professional learning goals.
We are extremely grateful to the City of London, County of Middlesex, and city of St. Thomas/Elgin County for continuing to support Strive in a way that allows us to keep our fees minimal for participants. It is important to note here, that when fees are collected at registration, they go immediately back into other services and events that we offer.
IMAGE DESCRIPTION: From left to right, logo for the City of London, logo for Middlesex County, logo for Elgin County.
When events are offered at no cost to participants there are still expenses that need to be covered. Facilitators who are sharing their knowledge, expertise, time, and resources with our community are always compensated. There are also incidental costs for hosting events whether they be in person or online. Costs for venues, additional equipment, promotion, virtual platform licenses, etc. are all accrued with each session. The Strive team also puts many hours of work into each event to ensure they run smoothly and meet community expectations. We do research and evaluation pre- and post-session to ensure the content is meaningful and in alignment with our guidelines. We consult and seek endorsement from our Professional Learning Committee to our make certain that our offerings are reflective of Educator needs. All that to say, no fee for you, does not mean no cost to us. Even in instances where there is a registration fee, the amount you pay is significantly different from the actual cost. Strive is committed to making professional learning as accessible as possible by heavily subsidizing the cost to participants.
What Happens Now? The Importance of Supporting Each Other
Though the reinstatement of associated fees for some events may come as a surprise to some, those that have been attending Strive events prior to the COVID-19 pandemic closures know that this is not a new practice. Interestingly, we see a 10% increase in attendance when there is an associated registration fee. It would seem that when there is a cost to attend, folks are more likely to hold themselves accountable and follow through with participating.
While this may not seem extremely meaningful at first glance, it is a very important aspect to our operations. Not only does having members of our community attend our events allow us to support your professional learning journeys, but it also allows us to get a better sense of what our community wants and needs to further develop their practices, programs, and careers (*wink* those reflective feedback surveys are an additional way for you to let us know what we can be doing to support you further *wink*). This facilitates future planning.
IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Digital image of nine hands overlapping one another in a circular formation. Background is navy blue. Hands from top of the image clockwise are coloured fuchsia, blue, light blue, light green, yellow, green, light yellow-green, purple, and violet.
PHOTO SOURCE: https://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2020/02/03/scholarly-societies-the-importance-of-community/
Additionally, Strive works collaboratively with our facilitators to determine the capacity for each session. When you register for a session and don’t attend, you are denying someone else the opportunity to participate in that learning. Not only is your attendance a gesture of commitment to your own professional growth but it is also a demonstration of respect and support to the facilitator. It can be incredibly disheartening to be told that 40 people have registered for your session to only have 15 attend. As a community of professionals who often feel we do not receive enough societal support or recognition for the work that we do, it is imperative that we are accountable to supporting one another where and when we can. Our passion at Strive is to support and empower our community, and in return we ask that our community not only supports us, but one another as well.
A Brief Letter to Fellow Educators and Early Years Professionals
Though I am still quite new in the early years community, I have learned a lot about the importance of supporting one another in this field. Being an early years professional can be tough work (as we all know). Honestly, I was not initially expecting it to be as challenging as it has been. Coming from an educational background in psychology, I had a good understanding of early years development. However, this understanding was from a clinical lens which failed to capture the important work Educators do each and every day.
When I stepped into my first program room, I was immediately overwhelmed. I thought, “there is absolutely NO WAY I can do this”. The RECE in the program room noticed my terror immediately. She simply turned to me and said, “these kiddos are so excited to get to know you and you wouldn’t have been hired if you couldn’t do this”. That quick statement, said in passing, as she rushed to stop a toddler from dunking a dinosaur plush into the toilet, meant the world to me. As I took a deep breath, I took my first step towards embracing my passion and purpose in being an early years professional.
As I have progressed in my career, I would not have developed into the Educator and professional I am today without the support of other Educators and pedagogical leaders. I owe so many of my successes to the amazing Educators who have supported me on my journey. That is why I feel it is so essential to offer that same support to other Educators and early years professionals. I truly believe that reciprocal support will be what advances our community forward. Coming together as a community of professionals and supporting one another in our growth is vital.
I want to personally thank all of you for your perseverance, hard work, and support throughout these unprecedented times. The work that you do is essential and the impact you have is undeniable.
If you have any further questions or comments about Strive’s operational decisions, or would like to know more, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me!
Written by Bre Piccolotto
Breanna Piccolotto is Strive’s Project Associate and a Registered Early Childhood Educator. Bre recently moved to London from Guelph and is enjoying exploring her new city! Bre is a self-described “crazy plant lady” who loves acquiring and tending to her many houseplants. In her spare time, Bre is learning American Sign Language and Korean. You can connect with Bre at firstname.lastname@example.org.