With three years of experience running the Learning Tree Experience, a family child care in Dorchester, Jasmine Cox knows a lot about what it takes to create a successful ECE business: building trusting relationships with families, the importance of structure and professionalism, transparency and good communication with parents, licensors and other colleagues.
Such practices, said Cox, “speak for your program. They show that your program is a place where children will not only be cared for, but they will learn.”
But at this early stage in her ECE career, Cox is also thankful for the chance to learn from more experienced peers in the Professional Learning Community (PLC) she joined shortly early last year, shortly before the pandemic hit. The PLC is facilitated by Cox’s regional StrongStart Professional Development Center (PDC), which covers the Metro Boston region.
“The Learning Tree Experience is the only professional experience I have so to be able to just run ideas by others with 10 or 20 years of experience in the field, to ask questions like, ‘How does your business plan read?’ and have help from my peers has been a really great help,” said Cox.
Members of her PLC share information, ideas, advice, and experiences on numerous topics such as improving QRIS ratings, resources for parents, ages to stages evaluation, and creating blended learning plans. Members with shared goals often team up on projects, including a Family Night open to families across different programs.
“If you don’t know what to do as a provider or if you are questioning something, you can bring it to your PLC leader,” said Cox. “If your PLC leader doesn’t know the answer, if your peers in the PLC don’t know the answer, the facilitator will definitely get you the tools and the resources to help you problem-solve or trouble-shoot.”
If PLC members ever feel like they need more information or training on a given topic after a regular meeting, the PLC leader or MetroBoston PDC trainers are very responsive. “They’d show up with the resources you needed at the next meeting,” said Cox. “And once COVID happened, when we all had so many questions, the PLC was a great help.”
Cox added that PLCs are a must for all providers, even those with years of experience, because they offer community in addition to resources. The PLC leader, trainers, and its members meet regularly and also check in as needed between meetings. Even before the pandemic, the regularity and easy access to a supportive network was helpful. But the community was crucial after the pandemic hit, Cox said.
Although Cox’s PLC has formally ended, “we’re all still in touch,” she said. “Community matters.”