A manager’s time is worryingly stretched as it is, without emails and social media notifications outside of school hours
Recent advances in technology have transformed early years provision. The way in which we embrace them varies from person to person and setting to setting, but there’s no denying their impact.
Much of this is positive – the digital world offers us many ways to enhance what we do, from switching to online learning journeys and sharing news and reminders via social networks, to allowing children to use tablets and cameras to take photos and record videos.
However, technology can also encroach on our personal lives, causing stress for the managers of early years settings in particular.
The extent to which technology impacts on our personal lives depends on how, when and for how long we use it. The sensible option, of course, would be to switch off completely at the end of the working day, but are you able to do this? I know I can’t!
Perhaps the use of technology has changed our expectations with regard to communication. When you receive an email, do you assume the sender expects an immediate response?
Prompt replies are more efficient and convenient, but maybe we strive too hard to provide them outside working hours. I find it hard to leave an email until the next working day, preferring to reply as soon as I see it, regardless of whether it’s the evening or the weekend.
In doing this we’re offering a good level of customer service, but are we losing the ability to switch off?
Many settings now use social media to communicate with parents, carers and the community. It’s a fantastic way to share news, events or activities and offers a free means of promoting the business. But this new tool has required us to wrestle with the logistics of managing a Facebook page, Twitter account or both.
Facebook may be an efficient tool for engaging with parents, but it can also be troublesome to manage. Comments, likes, visitor posts, reviews and messages are time consuming to action. There are many evenings when my phone feels like it’s going to explode with the number of notifications I have coming through!
As parents, or prospective parents, have chosen to interact with the page, I see it as imperative that I reply in a timely fashion, which, again, impacts on my personal time.
Twitter is a time sink too, but it can also be a tremendous tool for reflecting on practice with fellow professionals, entering into discussions and sharing ideas.
Pinterest is a valuable helping hand when it comes to sourcing ideas for provision, but it’s incredibly easy to get drawn in, pinning enthusiastically and whiling away the time.
Also, while some ideas are wonderful and can be really effective in enhancing practice, other photos on Pinterest can have the effect of making us feel a little inadequate (Where do people find the time to create such elaborate activities and scenes?!).
So how can the encroachment of technology on our personal lives be addressed? Ultimately it’s down to us to be sensible.
A manager’s time is worryingly stretched as it is, involving an overwhelming amount of paperwork and responsibility.
Not only do we need to say ‘no’ to others when we’re pushed for time, but we also need to say ‘no’ to ourselves. We need the chance to relax and recharge our batteries in the evening and over the weekend, which is a difficult enough task as it is.
So let’s be kind to ourselves and keep a close eye on the amount of time we spend using technology for work purposes. Those within early years understand that it is not just ‘a job’ – it becomes a way of life – but this doesn’t mean we have to accept the way that technology encroaches on our personal lives.
Emma Davis is an Early Years teacher and setting manager.