Since founding her home-based family childcare business 12 years ago, Roxana Flores has cared for more than 50 children at Roxana’s Day Care in San Jose, CA, many of them now tweens and teens who still visit her. She provides professional coaching for other family child care providers, and during our May 14, 2022 Leadership Forum on Early Education, Research, Policy, and Practice, Flores shared her expertise as a panelist in a session about how to better recognize and elevate family childcare.
The journey to becoming a successful business owner was not an easy one. As a new immigrant to the United States from Mexico and the single parent of a young child with special needs, Flores launched her career as a family childcare owner in part so that she could better care for her daughter. At one point, her days stretched from the early morning hours until well past 10 at night as Flores held down a job, got her daughter to daily speech therapy appointments, took courses toward her early care and education license at night, and maintained her household.
Despite these accomplishments, it wasn’t until Flores enrolled in our California pilot program of Leading for Change, our professional development program that trains program administrators, educators, and family child care providers on how to lead for change and quality improvement in their practice, program, or in the field, that she came to understand and appreciate all she had achieved.
What opened her eyes, said Flores, was Leading for Change’s Leadership Development Self Portrait (LDSP), a leadership development exercise to help participants identify their individual strengths and ability to impact change, create personal and professional development plans based their unique strengths and talents; and understand the types of work situations and environments that bring out the best in them and in others.
In the LDSP, Leading for Change participants gather feedback from approximately 10 to 20 people who know them well in myriad contexts. They ask them to describe three instances during which they saw the Leading for Change participant at their best. Using that material, participants write their “best self stories” and search for common themes about how they add value at work, school, and home. Last, participants create a “self-portrait” in a creative form of their choosing.
Flores said it never occurred to her to ask people in her life what they observed about her behavior or capabilities. So when she began receiving texts, emails and videos from the people participating in her LDSP exercise, she was overwhelmed with emotion.
“I didn’t realize who I am, or how much I did in my life because you are doing your life, you know? Just running, running, running because I need to provide, I need to do this, I need to do that,” said Flores. “We don’t have time to think about how we are adding value, how much we impact people, or the community, or the kids I take care of.”
Hearing from others about the impact she has made inspired her to “value myself more,” said Flores. Like many people just trying to live fulfilling, productive lives Flores didn’t recognize her accomplishments—or her power.
Recognizing the strengths and value she brings to both her coaching clients and the families she serves has inspired Flores to take greater initiative in the work she does with them. She has begun making lists of things she wants to do, enumerating the steps, time and materials needed to achieve a particular goal. Flores said the course helped change her mindset from feeling like she needed to implement changes quickly and move on to taking a more incremental approach that slowly builds on what works.
For instance, in an effort to encourage less independent screen time for children and more parent-child interaction in the home, Flores is focused first on building stronger relationships with the parents of the 12 children in her program through five-minute daily individual check-ins with each of them. She has also begun casually sharing information and resources on the benefits of sports, spending time with family, and family-oriented activities in the parents’ group chat she hosts.
“Right now I’m trying to build confidence with them,” Flores said. “Maybe sometimes they read the material, maybe they don’t—who knows? But I’m trying my best to do it, to have that connection with them.”
“I know it’s not a lot of kids, it’s just 12,” Flores added. “But if I help their families little by little, I know there will be big changes for them in the future.”
Leading for Change was developed by the Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation at UMass Boston and adapted from the entrepreneurial leadership curriculum that anchors all of the Early Education Leadership Institute’s programs. Participants learn how to lead for change to improve program quality and promote equity in early care and education. Leading for Change is currently offered to early educators in Massachusetts in partnership with the MA Department of Early Education and Care through its statewide network of StrongStart Professional Development Centers. Leading for Change is also offered to early educators in Maryland through the Maryland Early Childhood Leadership Education Program at the Sherman Center for Early Childhood Learning in Urban Communities at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. All Leading for Change training is offered for free to early educators.