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Happy educators make happy children

Discovery's tailored approach to using Be You

This is a Be You Story featuring Discovery - the article below and video was published by Be You Early Learning, Beyond Blue on their website: https://beyou.edu.au/stories/d...

Across the 23 locations that Discovery Early Learning Centres operate in Tasmania, you'll find communities with different values, needs and challenges.

As a result, Discovery’s services are all unique with a powerful mantra that guides each one. Happy educators make happy children, and happy children mean happy families.

“Developing one-to-one relationships with children is the most vital part of the work that any educator does,” says Jo Walsh, Discovery's CEO.

“The same goes with the families. If you don’t have the trust of the family and a well-developed relationship with the family, you can’t develop it with the child.”

Jo says it’s this understanding that drives Discovery’s values about not only the importance of interactions with children, but the importance of educator wellbeing.

"When you are at your best, you can give your best to children.” Jo says.

“Educators have a very stressful job. If we don’t have mentally healthy and happy educators, they’re not their very best when they’re working with children. So supporting them in that mental health and wellbeing space is our priority.

“That’s where Be You comes in.”

Having been engaged with Be You since it began, Jo describes it as a partnership.

“I’m very passionate and my managers are very passionate about Be You,” said Jo.

How Discovery have used Be You resources

Jo and her team have been able to draw on the Be You Implementation Reflection Tool to inform and celebrate Discovery’s success and focus on strengths and priorities.

The BETLS Observation Tool, Disability Inclusion Guide and Transition Fact Sheets have also been crucial resources for Discovery.

Most recently they have used Be You’s Mental Health Continuum to develop its strategic approach to mentally healthy workplaces.

"Educators have a very stressful job, and if we don’t have mentally healthy and happy educators, they’re not being their very best when they’re working with children. So supporting them in that mental health and wellbeing space is our priority.

“So they recognise and respond to people who are needing help and know what to do when someone reaches out. That’s an integral part of the work we’ve been doing in this space.”

Meeting specific needs among common challenges

At Discovery, Lizzie Melly is responsible for supporting the Be You Action Team Leaders – or, as Discovery calls them, Be You Champions.

As well as making the most of Be You’s Action Team Handbook for this task, Lizzie is also involved in the ongoing development of Discovery’s Be You Champion Guide, which outlines the role of Discovery’s Champions specific to each community’s ethos and culture and the development of Discovery’s Statement of Commitment to Mental Health and Wellbeing.

Being engaged with all of Discovery’s individual learning communities means Lizzie also appreciates the collective as well as the particular challenges Discovery’s educators navigate daily.

“I think every educator in this sector faces very similar challenges,” said Lizzie

“Challenging behaviours from children, helping children navigate their own emotions, dealing with transitions, understanding self-regulation and co-regulation, and building resilience.

“These are all topics that are dealt with really well in Be You, and in a very accessible and straightforward way. And in a way that means educators can take what they need when they need it."

How Discovery tailored Be You

In fact, Jo says that while every Be You Champion at Discovery has access to the same Be You resources, they tend to use them quite differently.

“All of Discovery’s services are very different,” continued Lizzie.

“They are all reflective of the community they operate in, and we operate in some very vulnerable communities, which adds an extra layer of challenge.

“Every program is different because of the different needs of each child. Be You resources being as flexible as they are means we can pick and choose the bits that we use and implement.”

Lizzie says that Be You’s strength also lies in the fact that it’s not a rigid framework.

“Be You isn’t a linear program that you tick and flick through. It’s a platter of resources that you are able to access when you need them,” said Lizzie.

“And the modules are structured in such a way that you can revisit, or research, or find the evidence behind some of the research when it’s meaningful for you.”

Be You in action

When one of Discovery’s services experienced a community trauma recently, educators were able to lean on the modules in the Responding Together Professional Learning domain, even though they’d been working on other goals and parts of the Be You content framework at the time.

Because of the situation that had arisen, they were able to rework a lot of their programming and planning to implement some strategies that they knew were going to be beneficial.

Jo and Lizzie say that there’s no right or wrong place to start with Be You. That flexibility has allowed Discovery to tailor Be You for their specific needs.

“One of the really great things about Be You is that it’s not a set framework,” said Jo.

"You use them to develop understanding, professional development tools for educators and use them in the way your service needs them.”

Be You: designed for educators

As Be You has become more embedded at Discovery, Lizzie has noticed some important and beneficial developments.

“I’ve found our conversations have become more critical, more reflective and definitely more empowering for educators,” continued Lizzie.

“Because we’re able to access evidence-based research in a way that’s so accessible and specific to our sector, we’re able to discuss – in very meaningful and professional ways – what we can do to support our own mental health and wellbeing, and that of the children in our care.”

This has had a positive flow-on effect with the service’s families as they look to create a whole learning community approach to mental health and wellbeing.

“I’ve seen their confidence and their language, and how they articulate and plan, change over time. And that helps them make real change to the families that they’re working with every day.”

Like Discovery’s mantra says, happy children mean happy families. It’s what Jo believes early learning services should be all about.

“At Discovery, we have always put children at the centre of what we do,” said Jo.

“We have to create a culture where they are valued and respected, and their health and wellbeing is supported so that they become strong, well-developed, well-rounded individuals.”