A Day in the Life of an Early Childhood Services Program AssistantPosted November 16, 2018
Lindsey Jackson – Program Assistant, Community Resource Center
Lindsey arrives at the Community Resource Center (CRC) for the day. Once she arrives, she turns the phones on, and gets situated at the front desk. She reviews notes from last night, checks in with the classrooms, and makes sure the visitor sign-in sheet for the day is ready. As the program assistant in this building, Lindsey sits at the front desk of the CRC and answers incoming phone calls as the frontline for the CRC, Annex, Administration & UTC Buildings, and greets all customers coming into the center for any of the programs housed in the building. The CRC also has a large conference room, and two smaller conference rooms that frequently host internal meetings and outside groups. Lindsey helps manage the conference rooms upstairs, so she checks those calendars to make sure nothing is going on that day, or if there is- that she’s prepared for it.
Early in the morning is the heaviest drop-off time for the classrooms. Lindsey greets the parents as they come in, welcomes the children to the center for the day, and helps direct traffic.
Once things have settled down a bit, Lindsey goes around to the four classrooms at the CRC to see if they need anything. She double checks the attendance on her desk against the classrooms, and sees if any of the teachers or Foster Grandparent volunteers need anything before heading back to the front desk.
The phone rings, and Lindsey answers a quick call about hours for the Food Pantry. “The phones are busiest on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays,” she says.
Lindsey has been with CEO since March 2016. She was finishing up her degree in Early Childhood Education from HVCC when she started. The part time hours helped her fit in work around school. In July she applied for the Program Assistant position and was offered the job.
As more staff arrive at the CRC, Lindsey handles some inner office mail. The CRC is CEO’s busiest building. It houses four Head Start classrooms, and a multitude of other programs, including: WIC, Foster Grandparents, WIC Vendor Management, Community Health Connections, Family Support Services, the Food Pantry, and more. All visitors to the CRC sign in at the front desk, so Lindsey interacts with customers as they arrive to receive CEO services.
Throughout the morning, Lindsey splits her time between greeting people coming into the building, and answering the phones. Lindsey gets a phone call from a customer asking about the address and location of the Food Pantry. The customer is new to the area and was in desperate need of food. In addition to the Food Pantry, she was also asking about other services and programs CEO offers. Lindsey explained to her CEO’s services and then looked up directions on Google from the caller’s apartment to CEO to help her navigate.
Bathroom and lunch breaks start for the teachers in the classrooms, and Lindsey helps cover. Each teacher gets a half an hour lunchbreak, and Lindsey and the family advocate Staci help to cover each classroom one at a time to make sure all teachers get their time. Another administrative assistant/program assistant helps cover the front desk while Lindsey goes from classroom to classroom.
In the CRC there is one infant room, two toddler rooms, and one preschool room. Lindsey started at 11:00 in one of the toddler rooms. The teachers took a break, and Lindsey helped serve the toddlers lunch and get them ready to take a nap after that. It was spaghetti and meatball lunch today, so many of the toddlers required a heavy cleanup before nap. Some toddlers had it in their hair, even. “Working in the classroom is fun, it breaks up the day. It’s nice to get to spend some time with the kids” Lindsey says.
Lindsey transitions over to the infant room. Two infants were awake eating, and the rest were already napping. Lindsey helps with cleanup, and helps the two babies who are still eating finish up their spaghetti and meatballs. The sleep schedules are different for all the babies, so Lindsey had a chance to play with one of the infants for a little bit.
Lindsey takes her lunch break. If it’s nice out; Lindsey likes to sit outside in the courtyard where she’s still part of the busy atmosphere.
Lindsey heads to the preschool classroom to help the last of the lunch breaks. At this point, much of the preschool classroom is already asleep for their afternoon nap. Lindsey reads quietly with a preschooler, and helps them fall asleep.
Lindsey works on faxing paperwork and forms to doctors’ offices. Head Start paperwork is a lot to keep track of between processing doctors’ notes and other incoming paperwork, as well as incident reports (if a child gets hurt on during the day). She makes sure the note finds its way into the nurses file.
A customer comes in interested in enrolling her child in Head Start. Lindsey helps her fill out an application on a tablet in the lobby. The online tablet approach is great, because it gets entered into the system seamlessly, and Lindsey can help them if they have any questions while filling out the report.
As she’s filling out the report, Lindsey greets a new Food Pantry customer and gives them instructions on accessing the Food Pantry.
There is an outside organization upstairs in the conference room for the day. They need more coffee, and just phoned down to Lindsey. Lindsey makes a quick pot of coffee in the kitchen before bringing it up to the group. As a Program Assistant, there are a lot of odds and ends that she helps out with throughout her day.
Lindsey works on a spreadsheet for child attendance. The phones are a little quieter late in the afternoon so she takes a few minutes to track child attendance to the minute to make sure that at the end of the day, attendance is accurate.
Some of the classrooms call Lindsey to get more diapers and supplies for the next day now that they’ve done the last diaper check of the day. Lindsey goes downstairs to the storage to grab diapers and wipes, after checking with all classrooms to make sure they have what they need.
After stocking the classrooms, Lindsey talks with the center manager about coverage for tomorrow (Wednesday). The Food Pantry gets their weekly food delivery on Wednesdays, and it’s a beast to unload. Sometimes Lindsey will help the food pantry staff with unloading when they get a larger delivery, or don’t have enough volunteer coverage. “I really like helping with the Food Pantry deliveries,” says Lindsey “it really gives you a sense of how much it takes to serve the number of people we serve. I help them out to their cars sometimes too, but it’s crazy to see how much food we get delivered every week.”
Late afternoon is really busy for Lindsey. The Food Pantry is open until 4:30 on Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays and many customers rush over after work to meet those hours. That combined with parents coming in to pick up their children, makes for a busy end of the day. The CRC is one of the few centers that stays open late across all of its classrooms. Lindsey helps monitor who is picking up which child and makes sure that only recognized and approved parents or guardians make it into the Early Head Start/Head Start portion of the CRC.
After everyone has been picked up, Lindsey walks through the center to check in each classroom and make sure all children have in fact been picked up, and to see if anyone needs anything before tomorrow.
Lindsey is done for the day and picks up a little before heading home to Cohoes.
What is your favorite part of what you do?
“Since my background is in ECS, I get to see the children and interact with the families, but I also get to interact with the community at large. I get to greet and interact with people coming for WIC, or the Food Pantry, etc. One time a woman needed the number for TRIP, and I quickly looked that up and she was so thankful, it really helped her out in the moment. Everyone is so appreciative of what we do, and I get to build relationships with people when they come in. They recognize me and I have the chance to say hello and ask them about their day when they come in. I like helping them and getting to know this community.”
What would you want someone to know about working for CEO’s Early Childhood Services Program?
“You are not just a teacher; you are much more to each family. It’s not just showing up to work every day. That might be the most positive thing in a child’s day. You don’t know what’s going on at home in anyone’s life, but you know that you can provide something positive for them when they’re here. It’s wonderful to get to see the way they grow and change over time, and you get to be a part of that.”