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02 Feb 2023

Spotlight on Sam Penn, Toad Hall Nursery Watford

Spotlight on Sam Penn, Toad Hall Nursery Watford

With more than 11 years’ experience in childcare, Sam is the nursery manager at Toad Hall Nursery in Watford, where she works with parents to offer children a great start in life.

What would you do if you weren’t a nursery manager?

I’ve always had a passion for organising and setting people on the right path. I like the idea of being an estate agent – I did look into it when I was rethinking childcare. But I stayed and ended up working my way up through the ranks – and I’m glad I kept at it.

I don’t think it was ever on my radar to be a manager, so having that opportunity to go further and make a difference gave me a lot more confidence. It pushed me to be a bit more out there and meet new people.

What is your favourite thing about your job?

Obviously the children – and the staff as well! The children are the heart of everything you do, so everything comes back to what they’re going to get out of it. And walking in in the morning and getting all the cuddles! The graduation day when they go off to school speaks volumes, just hearing the parents’ comments. It makes it all worthwhile.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your time working in the early years?

Not everyone works in the same way. I remember getting het up about people not working at the same speed as me, but as a manager, you realise people work differently but the outcome is the same. You have to take people as they come and trust the process.

What is the best mid-shift snack?

You’re asking me in January so I’d probably say a cucumber stick! But I’m always one for a creations chocolate bar or a packet of crisps and a diet coke.

How do you manage wellbeing at work?

We have a wellbeing box in the staffroom and it can have anything in it – hair bands, a heat pack for people’s bad backs, an easy lunch like a pot noodle in case you forget your lunch. That’s one of the things our staff notice and utilise a lot.

But we also do peer-on-peer motivation through a ‘wow board’ that helps the staff recognise each other. If we notice it takes a bit of a dip, we’ll do it in the staff meeting – that recognition for each other keeps a positive focus for everybody. We put it in the corridor so parents can write on it too.

Who would play you in the movie of your life?

My assistant manager. She knows me inside out, she’s like my right arm. She knows the days I’m really struggling, and we’re good friends outside nursery too. She would play it very well.

Is she a good actress?

Well she is a drama queen!

What would be your message to nursery managers across the UK reading this?

Remember why you went into it in the first place, keep that at the forefront of everything you do. And if it ever gets too much, because it does, just reach out to somebody and ask for support.

 

 


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