Sandy Kimmins - Toowoomba Little School
Sandy Kimmins - Toowoomba Little School
This week meet Sandy Kimmins the service manager at Toowoomba Little School in Queensland and learn how a mishap with an RTO led to her long and successful career in the early childhood sector.
What is your full name?
Hello, my name is Sandy Kimmins, Miss Sandy to those who know me well! I am 33 years old and have been a part of this inspiring industry for over 16 years!
Which centre do you work in? How many staff and children are in the centre?
I am grateful to be the Service Manager at Toowoomba Little School, part of the wonderful Foundation Early Learning team. Our service caters for 75 children each day and there are 16 educators and staff working in the service to educate and care for all of the children.
I began at Toowoomba Little School in December of 2017 after being transferred internally from Fraser Coast Early Learning. This wonderful Exceeding Service was my home for seven years and although I miss the children, families and staff every day I am so grateful to have begun this new journey in Toowoomba with all the support and guidance from the team at Foundation Early Learning.
What is your professional background and career experience?
An administration mishap with an RTO in 2003 saw me enrolled in Children's Services instead of the intended Child Protection course, I had initially planned. Although I was upset at first that such a simple mistake could ruin my career plans, it did not take long before I realised that this industry could provide me with the platform to advocate for children.
Once I had set my heart and mind to this career path, I was committed to being in a place professionally and emotionally that I could make a difference in the lives of children, families and educators.
I have continued to grow and study over the years, obtaining my Diploma in Children’s Service, an Advanced Diploma in Education and Care and my Certificate IV in Training and Assessment.
I have worked in various roles from Assistant to Lead Educator, Educational Leader and even a Trainer and Assessor, but the position I am most passionate about in this industry is Service Manager. From this role I am able to inspire capable and passionate Educators and Teachers and deliver families and children with the highest quality education and care.
My driving Philosophy? Gratitude.
What makes your centre unique?
Positive emotional and mental wellbeing in children is massive driving force behind my personal philosophy and practice. Over time, I have observed that children are becoming increasingly unaware of how to communicate feelings, both positive and negative and that mental health of children is not as widely publicised as it is with adults.
With my powerful Philosophy of Gratitude, I am able to inspire educators, families and children to be mindful, thankful and grateful. Embedding gratitude into everyday practice and conversations encourages positive mindsets and a willingness to take on challenges.
Positive attitudes in children provides them with confidence to be able to speak about not only what they are thankful for and their achievements but also any emotional issues that may be upsetting them.
Gratitude and mindfulness is very much embedded into our practice, it is wonderful to observe children and educators conversing about issues when they arise, strategies they will put in place and recognising achievements after children persist with challenges.
Positive mindsets within the service with educators, families and children provides a platform for us as professionals to advocate for the mental health and wellbeing of children. Utilising the tools in Kids Matter offers us opportunity to educate families and educators to create a positive environment, teach children skills for social and emotional development and recognising when children require assistance with mental health problems.
We believe children have unlimited potential – Our Vision is "Inspiring capable and resourceful minds and grateful hearts" – to put this vision into practice we use provocations and open-ended challenges, positive language and questions to stimulate thinking, creativity and inquiry and we are continually amazed by the learning we hear and see.
We understand that children are intelligent, imaginative and capable, with an amazing amount of curiosity. Providing children with the opportunity to think, question and be reflective assists them to inquire and make predictions. Providing children with these rich learning opportunities facilitates our planning cycle and inspires us as educators and teachers to continue to advocate our vision.
Children's voices are a vital component of our planning cycle. Children's questions and statements are documented, scaffolded and extended. Quite often, we find the children are the experts and their voices trigger us as educators to learn something new, reflect and grow as professionals. We believe this process nurtures children's talents and interests and enables them to take ownership of their learning, fosters creativity and increases engagement.
We play a significant role in offering children direct experiences in nature with our outdoor and garden areas. We believe by doing so, children demonstrate not only awe and wonder, but also respect and care for the natural world. This fundamental learning with significant adults is essential as children will begin to understand the complexities of sustainability, the systems that support life, and why caring for the land, plants, animals and ourselves is important.
What are some of the biggest challenges facing the child care sector?
It is always difficult to pin point particular challenges. There are always going to be situations where there are particular challenges faced by families, based on a range of situations from financial to domestic and personal which can sometimes be challenging in my role as service manager and challenging for the educators and teachers involved.
I treat all families with the respect they deserve and understand that each family and their situations are so very different. I believe that being empathetic in all situations provides me with the opportunity to assist everyone on an individual level when a challenge arises. Although it may sound mundane, I very much believe it is about really getting to know the families: their structure, their interests and their trials. It is not until you take the time to understand the families as individuals and build connections that you can truly provide a support structure.
One challenge that I am excited to encounter is that of educating families about the joys of play-based learning. I am very much an advocate for play-based learning and when questions, and sometimes concerns pop up from families about mess, paint and muddy clothes I am more than happy to speak up and advocate about the absolute wonders of play! I certainly believe that my passion for this industry assists me form strong and long-lasting relationships and connections with staff and families.
In the words of Robin Sharma - "Leadership is not about a title or designation. It is about impact, influence and inspirations. Impact involves getting results, influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work and you have to inspire your team mates and customers."
What are some of the advantages of working in the child care sector?
There are too many advantages to list about this wonderful industry! But I very much believe that this industry can inspire you to become a better version of yourself.
We are provided with so many opportunities each and every day in our roles to develop ourselves as individuals and professionals. We are challenged to be patient, communicate openly and professionally, advocate, be responsible and be committed, build and maintain positive relationships. These are all attributes that we need personally to build a positive future.
Having access to professional development is another wonderful advantage of this industry. Professional development provides us with tools to continue to grow and develop in our roles and in turn creates wonder, stimulating exceeding standards of care and education.
I am so excited to be a part of the wonderful Foundation Early Learning family with 31 other services across Australia and an amazingly dedicated team of service support staff, including a devoted area manager, I know I am in a place where I can continue to develop professionally and have access to wonderful tools for my team to develop and grow.
We have a dedicated team at service support that provided us with the tools to access contemporary professional development, for example we are currently working alongside Kelly Goodsir from Kelly Goodsir Consultancy in an eight-part webinar professional development. This program focuses on eight topics from the planning cycle to partnerships with parents and relationships with children. These webinars can be initially accessed live and then recorded versions are available, so all staff, irrespective of occupation, can access them and continue to learn, grow and develop.
I am also grateful to be working alongside the other senior leaders of Foundation Early Learning services and Karen Butters from Evolving Mindz in a growth and wellbeing leadership program. This learning environment provides opportunities to build relationships conducive to trust, openness and support, providing the strongest foundation for deep and sustainable learning of high-level communication and leadership skills.
How has your centre changed to deal with these challenges?
As mentioned previously I have a passion in the form of Gratitude. I believe that this has been the driving force of positive service improvements and challenges when they arise. Gratitude is very much linked to the health and wellbeing of those who embrace it. I believe that when a service is staffed with passionate, mindful and grateful educators and teachers the love for their profession, for the children and the community becomes second nature.
This love and passion for the industry oozes and is infectious to those who visit our service. When the service is full of educators and teachers that have a positive mindset, the management and leadership of the team becomes about impact, influence and inspiration, rather than micromanaging staff to contribute, reflect and grow.
In a short amount of time after introducing this concept, and staff embracing it, the improvements throughout the service have been noted on so many levels from fewer absentee days, a disposition to openly communicate on a professional level with one another as well as a willingness to introduce and follow on with ideas linked to the Quality Improvement Plan and planning cycle and not to mention the wonderful words of inspiration for one another to achieve excellence each and every day.
It has been a wonderful learning experience for all involved. It is fantastic to see such growth and so many improvements in one service from a simple project. Some staff have even re-written their own personal philosophies to incorporate gratitude while other sister services have had discussions with me around how they can begin to incorporate this style of management to drive improvements across their service.
What advice would you offer someone thinking about a career or looking for a promotion in child care?
Believe in what you do every day! If you are passionate about the industry and you are confident in the education and care you are providing, then tell the world! When you begin to advocate for yourself and your role, your confidence will shine through and you will inspire other educators and even families!
My plans for the early childhood industry
My intentions professionally are to continue in this inspiring industry with a goal of working in a capacity that I can mentor, support and develop professionals to reach their goals. When I take on a role in this capacity, my aim is to be able to provide ongoing professional development - providing my team with opportunities to develop self-awareness, skills to deal with complex relationships and conflicts, creating an effective team and working with different team dynamics.
In the future, I would also like to be in a position to invest some time and funds into researching and delivering training and learning around an integrated life that enables balance with work and home life and incorporate this where I can with gratitude.
Gratitude increases both mental and physical wellbeing resulting in more passion, more productivity and less burn out. I believe that educators that are presented with this balance are more creative. When staff are happy and engaged in their role, they are more likely to want to see the service succeed and are more likely to advocate for their profession, for the children and the families.
This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Tuesday, 28 January 2020
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