Sacred Heart Outside School Hours Care is one of Discovery Early Learning Centre’s 23 services, all of which are actively engaged with the Be You initiative.
Joey Williams is Sacred Heart’s Outside School Hours Care Person In Charge.
She says working through the Partner and Assist modules within the Be You Family Partnerships Professional Learning domain has been a turning point for her in terms of building and nurturing relationships with families.
“Forming strong relationships with families is the most important tool that you can develop as an educator,” she says.
“It ensures that there is meaning behind every conversation you have and that families feel safe leaving their child with you.
“Be You has provided a variety of amazing templates and informative documents that have really impacted the way that I have progressed into this part of my career in the leadership team."
Particularly, says Joey, in having difficult conversations with families, about emerging behaviours of concern.
“If we do have a child that may have an additional need or require a lot of behavioural support, it’s important to remain sympathetic and empathetic during those moments,” continued Joey.
“Be You has provided me with the language and the knowledge to ensure that when I’m having those exchanges, families recognise that I’m coming from a good place of support and that I’m there alongside them, on their journey.”
Joey and Payton
One relationship that has really blossomed at Sacred Heart is the one between Joey and Payton. They are both palawa, Tasmania Aboriginal people. That shared experience has helped Joey build trust, and allowed her to support Payton in developing social and emotional skills.
“She’s always been an incredibly bubbly and happy, and enthusiastic person,” said Joey.
“I think with my support and through our relationship, she’s become an advocate for those around her.
“I’ve noticed over the last year, and I’m not sure if it’s just my influence or if it’s the schools or her growing as a person, that she is always consistently looking out for somebody that she can support, someone she can play with, someone that she can adore.”
Mia’s success story thanks to Be You
Whenever Adam James arrives at Sacred Heart to pick up his daughter Mia from Outside School Hours Care, he’s always greeted by the familiar face of Jonelle Crawford, the educator Mia has chosen as her safe person.
“The consistency of staff and the faces that we see is a huge benefit,” says Adam, who describes the relationship his family has with Jonelle and other Sacred Heart educators as essential.
“Mia has some challenges around self-regulation. She can feel really strongly about things that perhaps you wouldn’t expect. Certain things can knock her off kilter and she finds it really hard to get back to a regulated, calm state.
Before Mia hops in the car to go home, Jonelle and Adam always take the opportunity to chat.
“Jonelle and everyone at the service have been really proactive in helping us to understand what’s been going on, how Mia’s day has been,”
“For example, Adam and I might talk about what Mia has been enjoying doing at home so we can try and incorporate that into our program,” she says.
“We’re working with Mia, her family and the teachers at her school to find a way for Mia to be happy to come to after-school care.”
Like Joey, Jonelle credits Be You with helping her understand both the value of strategies like this and how to action them.
“Be You has helped me develop mutual trust with families through having open and honest communication about their child’s days – and particularly with Mia, who needs all-round support from everyone, including her parents,myself and the school.”
Educator relationships are prioritised
Jonelle describes the culture at Sacred Heart as being like a little family.
“We’re all very close, and the health and mental wellbeing of our staff and children are Discovery’s number-one priority."
Joey credits Be You with helping her, too.
“Be You has supported us in creating a baseline of what to expect from our educators around staffroom culture, as well as just creating a healthy environment.”
Ben Kikkert was, until recently, Sacred Heart’s Director.
With lived experience of what a positive impact Be You can have across an entire learning community, he claims the initiative’s heavy reliance on evidence-based strategies is a big plus.
“At Sacred Heart, the long-term aspiration is to increase the holistic understanding of things like wellbeing and supporting strategies for children, families and staff across the service," said Ben.
"The aim is to embed it so that every staff member has a shared understanding based on great information.
“Be You is so good at that because the modules have a really strong foundation in research and current theory.”
Ben mentions that it sets educators up for the future, too.
“There’s a feeling in our services culture that we have a responsibility to new people coming into the sector; to teach and nurture them to be the best educators they can be,” he says.
“We all believe we have an obligation to do a great job teaching and mentoring those entering the sector, and hopefully by doing that, it’ll eventually have great outcomes for children not only at our service, but across the whole sector. That’s the hope and the goal.”
From little learnings, big relationships grow Ben believes that the way Be You equips educators to help children register their emotions is one of the initiative’s most powerful impacts.
“It can be really scary for a child to have something happen to them in terms of feeling angry or frustrated and not be able to name what it is,” he says.
“Registering these emotions is key because it gives children an understanding of what’s happening so they can start to put into place things to regulate and deal with it.”
Ben says that prior to Be You, this concept flew under the radar for educators.
“Actually, before Be You, it wasn’t really on the radar at all,” he says,
“If we don’t have a really good understanding of this as educators, the children aren’t going to learn the best practice to manage their health and wellbeing.”
“Be You has been really great for that, for giving educators a window into understanding mental health, and giving us tools to talk about it with children and families in a way that’s non-judgemental, supportive and based on evidence.”
And often, that triggers an important ripple effect.
“Our educators will be helping a child register their emotions, providing empathy and support, and then, all of a sudden, you’ll notice a four-year-old go up to a three-year-old who’s crying and sit down, put their arm around them and say, “Are you feeling OK? You look a bit sad. Do you need a cuddle?’” says Ben.
“That is literally like magic because that child has learned empathy, as well as how to teach others about wellbeing and health. They’ve learned to express how they’re feeling, and that it’s okay to feel and talk about it. That’s what we’re aiming for with all of our children.”
If you’d like to connect with a Be You Consultant and begin your Be You journey, register as a Be You Learning Community and join a Be You Essentials event to discover what Be You has to offer.