Being an early learning and child care (ELCC) teacher can be an extremely rewarding experience. Particularly knowing that ELCC programs can improve child development outcomes that stretch into adulthood.1 These optimal outcomes are due, in large part, to practicing nurturing care within the program.
Nurturing care in early childhood is defined as providing healthy, nutritionally adequate, secure and safe, responsive caregiving, accompanied by early learning opportunities within a supportive environment that enables these interactions.1
However, as with any career, there are many physical, social, and emotional demands that accompany this work that can add strain for an ELCC teacher. Research demonstrates that many teaching practices related to nurturing care, such as positive classroom management and responsiveness approach to children’s needs, can be negatively influenced by reduced educator psychological well-being (i.e., stress and burnout).2 Therefore, achieving wellness in the workplace is not only critical for supporting teacher well-being, but it also ensures that ELCC teachers are well-equipped to provide the physical, nutritional, social, and emotional stimulation necessary for child health.2
ELCC workplace wellness sets the stage for optimal physical, nutritional, social, and emotional environments that support children’s healthy growth and development.3
Job Demands refer to the physical, social, and organizational factors that take mental energy in the workplace (e.g., managing children’s behavioural and emotional needs).4
In contrast, Job Resources are the physical, social, and organizational factors that help us achieve our workplace goals (e.g., providing high-quality care to children).4
Within ELCC settings, managing job demands through the use of available resources is a way to reduce stress and burnout and promote motivation.4
When seeking out job resources, you need not look far! Some of the most effective job resources are readily available at your ELCC centre:5
A study conducted by the CHEERS team during COVID-19 further highlights these three points as they concluded that ELCC staff’s well-being would benefit from work environments that promote social connection and job autonomy.6 Wellness can be fostered in the workplace through providing social support to co-workers, cultivating strong-working relationships with supervisors, and promoting freedom and self-determination within early learning settings, which are important resources to help reduce stress and maintain high-quality care practices that support children’s overall health and development. Remember that everyone experiences job demands and accesses resources differently. That is why it is crucial to pay attention to your workplace needs to promote mental well-being in a way that works for you.
Check out the findings from the Happy Teacher Project that describe early childhood educator wellness as a global imperative that needs to be approached from individual, program, and system levels in order to support high-quality care and education which will support a better society through healthier children and families. ECE Well-Being - What We Know and Why We Should Care
Check out our CHEERS Blog, Lessons from the Pandemic: Supporting Educators Well-Being, for a brief summary of the sources of distress and resilience of both early childhood educators and supervisors and the ways we can further support well-being in the classroom.
Makayla Vermette is a Research Coordinator for the CHEERS research project in the Department of Health and Physical Education. She completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology at Mount Royal University and is pursuing her graduate degree in Psychology at the University of Windsor. She is passionate about workplace function and wellness for the employee.