Being a Leader of Learning is Vital in ECE

4th November, 2021

Written by Angela Bush

Bachelor of Education (ECE), Diploma of Nursing, Diploma of Teaching (ECE)
I have been a leader and centre manager in early childhood education for a lot of grey hair years now. Over this time I have learned a lot about myself, about people in general, about children and about leadership. I will be the first to admit that I have not always been a great leader. Hell sometimes I was absolutely terrible! 

But that is the thing about leadership and life in general... we live and we learn. Well, hopefully we learn.

Anyhoo, in my role at the moment I work alongside a bunch of really lovely team leaders. My role is curriculum leadership. Which is a fancy way of saying that I get to mentor and support team leaders to be the best that they can, so that their teachers can be the best that they can, so that the children and families in their care get the best possible early childhood education. One thing I know for sure after 30 + years in ECE, is that leadership is everything.

Think about it:
If you are an early childhood teacher working with children every day in an ECE service where you don’t feel supported to keep learning and growing, where you are not given regular feedback, where you have no idea what the vision for this place is... how can you possibly be your best version of you as a teacher?
Now imagine you are a teacher working in an ECE service where there is a very clearly articulated vision for the place, where you understand what is important here, where your leaders regularly let you know when you are doing great stuff, and where they also let you know when there are things you could do better and then they guide you in how to go about that. 

How would that feel?

going to hazard a guess that this place might feel like it’s somewhere that you are supported to be a great teacher.


If you are in a position of leadership in ECE, one of your primary objectives must be to lead the learning of your teachers. Because your teachers are the ones who spend the most time with children. What they say, what they do, how they go about their teaching and interacting with children and families every day is the core work. It’s the sole reason you all have jobs!


If you are in an ECE leadership position right now, this is likely because you have some years of experience as a teacher. And I am going to guess that this means you know a thing or two about how to be a good teacher. But what I also know is that the more experienced we get, the easier it is to forget how far we have come, and how much we have learned. It’s kind of like childhood. We remember some of it (usually what we see in our childhood photos), but we have completely forgotten that we did not always know what we know now. We were young, and sometimes foolish, and we were giving things a go to the best of our ability, with what we knew at the time.

And we most likely learned from experience, but we also learned from having other more experienced people (adults and teachers) give us guidance and support. No one just expected us to know everything at one point in time, and to perform to their expectations. Because that would have been unfair and unreasonable right?

This is EXACTLY the same for our teachers. If you are in a leadership position right now, you will be working with a bunch of teachers who are all at different places in their abilities, knowledge and experience. Teachers are also learners!
"But they are qualified!" I hear you say. Yes, many will be fully qualified. Some will be in training still, and some will be brand new graduates. Each of your teachers will be at a different stage in their career. We have all been there. And we are all still learning. Till the day we die. Morbid I know. But true.


So often I hear team leaders lament about how frustrating it is to get their team performing or being better teachers.
“Oh why don’t they just....?!”
“How can they not know....?!”

Well actually those are very good questions.

  • Why aren’t all teachers simply amazing all of the time?
  • Why aren’t all teachers highly knowledgeable, and capable?
  • Why don’t teachers understand how to teach, plan, create amazing learning environments etc etc etc?!

Did you always know these things?

I get it. If you are a leader in ECE, chances are that you have a good knowledge base, strategies up your sleeve for supporting children’s learning up the wahzoo, communication skills for responding to parent concerns, the ability to notice, recognise and respond to children’s learning, AND you know how to create an engaging, stimulating learning environment. But the chances are, that you know how to do all of these things, because you have had the opportunity to learn in a work place. And you have probably at some stage been supported to learn and grow as a teacher.


Being a leader of learning, means that you recognise that each of your teachers is a work in progress. And in order for them to become an amazing teacher, they are going to need someone (hopefully you!) to;

  • Give them regular feedback on their practice (not just the newbies – ALL teachers).

  • Have regular conversations about teaching and learning (create a culture where talking about teaching and learning is what we do here).

  • Be open to listening to their ideas and then support them to fly.

  • Help them to recognise when they are not meeting expectations honestly. When you have a teacher who is not meeting the agreed expectations of quality teaching in your service, you MUST tell them. You are doing that teacher, yourself, your team and most importantly your children a disservice when you do not deal with under performance.

  • Identify their blind spots and help them to see these, reflect, learn and grow. Whenever you find yourself asking “Why doesn’t this person just....?” You need to find out if this person actually even knows in the first place. Do they have the knowledge and understanding to meet your expectations? So often we expect teachers to know more than they really do. And we forget to check – hang on a minute maybe this person has no idea?!

  • They are going to need you to notice, recognise and respond to their learning needs just as you would with children. This teacher needs you to know where they are at with their learning, and to put strategies in place to support their learning. This does NOT mean that you will do everything for them. NOPE. It means that you will need to make time to sit, talk, share your observations, ask what they think, check what they know, engage in discussion about effective teaching and learning, and come up with an agreed pathway forward. And then THEY are going to do the learning.

  • They are going to need you to check in with them from time to time. Notice when your teachers are struggling. Notice when they need a rest. Notice when you need to give more support. 

  • Give your teachers regular, genuine positive feedback. Notice when they are doing amazing stuff, so that your conversations are not just about what they are not doing or need to do better. 

  • Support your teachers to teach others. When we engage in teaching others, we actually learn more ourselves. Teachers are able to be amazing teachers when they have leaders of learning alongside them. When they have someone on their team who knows them as a learner, and who genuinely supports their growth and wants the best for them. And ultimately for children.

  • Support your teachers to teach others. When we engage in teaching others, we actually learn more ourselves. Teachers are able to be amazing teachers when they have leaders of learning alongside them. When they have someone on their team who knows them as a learner, and who genuinely supports their growth and wants the best for them. And ultimately for children.


Create a culture in your ECE service where making mistakes is expected, and where everyone understands that they are all learning and that being open to learning is the most important part of growing as a teacher. When your teaching team know that you have got their back, that you are there to support them as learners, watch how they will fly and blow your expectations out of the water.

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