My mom loves all things sheep. She collects stuffed sheep, sheep printed on t-shirts and bags, sheep figurines and sheep Christmas ornaments. She loves sheep to the point that she refuses to eat any lamb-based dish. No matter how hard her daughter slaved to make it. She dearly loves these wooly creatures who give us loveliness that keeps us warm but not much else.
And yet, the people who raise them value them so highly that they are carefully guarded by someone whose sole job is to guide them to good eating, help them stay warm and dry, and keep them safe from predators. So I started thinking, what can professionals who work with children and families learn from these solitary folks?
Simply, what does a professional look like? What do they do? Many answers to those questions depend on what field (pun intended) they work in, but across the board, professionals have all learned the following 5 things that shepherds live on a daily basis.
5 Things Professionals Can Learn From Shepherds
1. Nurture, Feed, Guide. Learn, Grow, Train. The first part is what you do for others. The second is what you do for yourself that enables you to do for others. When you learn and share that learning with others, you nurture them. Have you observed someone as they change and grow? What a difference it makes to how you see your limitations and challenges! Your growth feeds others. Training/Professional Development happens in so many ways and in so many places. Sure, there are conferences and formal training sessions. But there is also peer support, mentoring, coaching, guiding others along a path you have already gone down.
2. There is Safety in Numbers. If you are part of a community of people who build up and support you, as the song says: “there ain’t no mountain high enough.” Safety is more than protection. It is inspiration and kind words and helpful hints from trusted allies.
3. Don't Ignore Danger. If a shepherd sees danger heading toward the flock, is there a passive "waiting to see what happens" attitude or is there immediate action? Negativity, gossip, poor attitude, these are the biggest dangers out there and if they are tolerated or ignored, they start picking off stragglers. They don't stop when they're full, they tear a hole through the group and come back later for more, leaving damage and heartache in their wake. Dealing with danger takes confidence. Face it head-on.
4. Know Your Group. Is there anyone missing? Did they go off into the weeds? How will they react to circumstance A or B? Knowing these things about your group or community will help you to contribute meaningfully to their growth and yours. It will also help you to avoid looking up and finding yourself in the middle of a field. Alone.
5. Depend on the Experts. Who is a shepherd’s trusted friend and companion? A dog, whose ears are keener, has 20 times more scent receptor cells, and is very protective of territory. Why not trust that expert and take action based on their concern rather than wait until you can tell what there is to be concerned with?
Sheep and children are very different, yet both groups require a level of professionalism when being cared for. We find common characteristics of professionals who work with children and families. One of them is the belief that learning is fun and should be pursued throughout life. This understanding fuels our Smart*Fun philosophy that how you learn directly affects what you learn.
Do you need a refresher on professionalism? Take a look at this article: https://www.childcareexchange.com/catalog/product/professionalism-the-missing-ingredient-for-excellence-in-the-workplace/5016749/
Wanting some time to make practical application? Consider taking our online course: Building a Professional Development Action Plan.
Please consider joining our Smart*Fun Professional Community. We send members emails with a more in-depth look at the topics on the blog. I’ll be picking the brain of our very own Tammy Marino to answer any questions you have. ASK us (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we will address them.