We often forget how connected our local Early Years community really is!
Early Childhood Educators are incredibly hard working and resilient people and our work has indisputable impact. We typically think about this impact in the role we play in the lives of the children and families we care for. However, we are overlooking an equally important means of influence that we have, that with our colleagues, peers and fellow Educators. Our profession is one that relies on relationships and connection, and mentorship is a big part of that, particularly when it comes to those about to enter or who are new to the field.
Every year, RECEs across our community welcome students into their programs and playrooms to learn, observe, and grow together. We do this in addition to our already strenuous workloads because we believe wholeheartedly in this profession, in one another other, and in the power of continuous learning.
For many of us, the mentors we meet during our placements as students, are the first real professional connections that we make. They guide us, mould us and can help to set the tone and direction of our budding careers.
But what happens after the placement is over? After we cross that stage at graduation? Sadly, we often fall out of touch and don’t always get the opportunity to say, thank you.
Recently, we were fortunate enough to witness an incredible reconnection unfold between an Educator and her former mentor at our Community of Practice: Infant Educators.
This particular Community of Practice invites those who work in and/or support infant programs to come together and collaboratively reflect on the unique joys and the challenges that come with caring for our youngest children. In attendance at January’s gathering were Heather Dunton, an RECE at Jean Vanier Children’s Centre (London Children’s Connection), and Claudette Raymond, an RECE at Whitehills Child Care Association.
When Heather was an student, completing her Early Childhood Education diploma program, she had a placement experience in an infant program at Whitehills Child Care Association. Claudette was her mentor. When Heather and Claudette saw each other on the Zoom call at the Infant CoP, memories of the time they had spent together came flooding back.
We asked if they would be willing to share their story of mentorship and connection and they both graciously agreed! Keep reading to see what they had to say!
From September to December 2006 of my Early Childhood Education course, I was lucky to have been placed at the St Thomas Aquinas’ Whitehills Child Care Association site, in the Infant room. My wonderful mentor was Claudette Raymond.
I was nervous, but excited to start my very first experience in an infant room. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. What I found was a calm, happy room, full of content babies and caring staff.
They had the perfect flow there, sharing tasks, observations, and an obvious enjoyment of their work.
To this day, it makes me feel that the success of a quality infant room depends on the kinship and compatibility of the staff.
You could just feel walking into that room that they had the perfect groove going on. Where they were all equals, taking turns doing the fun and not-so-fun aspects to the job, and the joy in their eyes as they did it all just made me think,
“THIS is why I’m in this field. This is what I want too!”
I recently participated in some Communities of Practice for Infant Educators, and I realized at one of them was the one and only, Claudette Raymond, my former mentor from WHCCA!
I made sure to let her know who I was and how much I appreciated her mentoring me back in 2006, and look where I am now, working at JVCC for London Children’s Connection in…you guessed it…the infant room!
I’ve been there since 2007, 14 years (my goodness, has it been that long?!) and I really owe it to Claudette and the other ladies that were working at that centre, showing me exactly where I belonged in the field of ECE and setting the perfect example of how it should look and feel when you are there:
Thank you Claudette, for helping me get to where I am today.
Sincerely, Heather Dunton (née Vanier) RECE
How funny life can be!
In my last workshop (Community of Practice: Infant Educators), one of the educators also in attendance remembered me as her mentor!
It took me by surprise, but I was so proud to see that Heather had continued on in childcare.
Heather had many kind words and it warmed my heart to hear that I made a positive impact on her. The day of the workshop she even mentioned that she still had the Christmas gift I gave her!
Wow! That was amazing to hear.
From what I remember, Heather was an excellent student; full of life, eager to learn, wonderful with the infants, and always willing to help.
When I mentor students, I look for hard workers who are willing to learn and ask questions. I also look for the warmth they have towards the little ones. Then, I ask myself, would I want to have them as a coworker? With Heather, my response was a big YES!
I am so proud of Heather and so glad she’s taking care of our little ones. They are very lucky.
I’ve been with Whitehills for 30 years now and hearing this former student remember who I was and how much she loved her placement with us means we must be doing something right!
Sincerely, Claudette (RECE)
Thank you to Heather and Claudette for sharing your story and reminding us of this incredibly important, yet often understated aspect of our work: mentoring.
Do you or did you have an amazing mentor? Tell us about the person or people who have positively influenced your professional journey in the comments below!
Interested in learning more about, or participating in our Community of Practice: Infant Educators? Click HERE.
Written by Heather Dunton, RECE & Claudette Raymond, RECE
Introduction and additional notes by The Strive Team