Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Becoming An Essential Service

When you think about the term, “an essential service”, what comes to your mind? Certainly for me it would be all the things that I use every day without so much as a thought, but would miss like crazy if it was unavailable. Running water (in both hot and cold forms), adequate roads for me to get around on, a grocery store that has a variety of choices, a sewer system that works, electricity straight to my house and appliances, mail delivery, and of course, the Internet. When something occurs and any of these essential services are unavailable, I am at a loss about what to do. In Bakersfield, California snow is very unlikely. One winter night when I was a principal, it snowed. Not only did it snow a little, it snowed for about 5-6 hours and left about 4 inches of snow on the ground. At 1:30 in the morning I received a phone call from one of my teachers who was afraid that I was missing the snow—which I wasn’t as she was the third or fourth call I had received. We were all amazed by this snow. When morning came, even though it was a week day and we were all expecting to be at school or work, the city was virtually shut down—schools, office buildings, even the mall. Fortunately, electricity, water, and the sewer remained operational, but for that one day, all of those other essential services were not available and I really missed them.
To ensure that after-school time will remain high on the priorities of parents, school day stakeholders, tax payers and legislators, we in the business of after-school need to be committed to developing each program to the threshold of ESSENTIAL SERVICE. We need to be so effective at what we do, the support we provide for youth and families, and the results that we get, that the thought of not having an after-school program would be akin to not having running water. As an after-school professional you have it within your power to develop and deliver high-quality after-school programs that will benefit the youth you serve. Each day reflect on what has occurred in the program and ask yourself how this could be done more effectively and more efficiently and then set out to make those changes. Celebrate the great work that you and your staff do and the progress your students make. Let everyone in your town or city know and become aware, day by day, success by success, result by result that your after-school program is, without a doubt, an essential service for youth and their families.

Not so usual celebration…
July 27th is Take Your Pants for a Walk Day. We hear a lot about living healthy and taking good care of ourselves. Probably this is one of those very useful celebrations. Taking your pants for a walk requires that you (or at least someone) is in them and exercising. There is a teen movie about the Traveling Pants, and in this story a pair of “magic” pants is shared by a group of friends and when the girl has the pants, she is going to have good luck and her wishes will come true. So, embrace this idea and take your pants for a walk, not just on July 27th but 3-5 times each week, and you will discover that like the traveling pants, you will have good luck and good health. So, why are you sitting here, get up and move on out and take your pants for a walk.

Activity for kids…
Start a walking club with the kids. Measure out a “track” of sorts and have kids rack up the miles. Have it be your goal to work together collaboratively to walk over 100 miles each month and then bring it down to every two weeks and then every week. Chart the team’s success and celebrate each 100 miles of travel. Of course, you will want to celebrate with fruit or a smoothie if you decide on food, but no matter how you do it, celebrate meeting your walking goals.

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