Monday, November 29, 2010
Community Service is an opportunity for your youth to Pay It Forward by first identifying an unmet need in the community and then making a plan to address that need. Youth can work alone, in a club, or with a community organization to resolve the need. Sample projects can include neighborhood clean-up, supporting community health fairs, collecting recyclables, refurbishing and repainting a homeless center, collecting blankets for the animal shelter so animals can have a warmer winter, and any number of other projects.
Although the community will definitely benefit from community service, perhaps the greatest benefit will be for your students. In the Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets, two key areas stand out as those who will benefit from community service:
• Self Esteem: The development of high self-esteem and self-efficacy
• Sense of Purpose: The development of a strong sense of purpose, and
• Caring: Placing a high value on helping other people
• Equality and Social Justice: Placing a high value on promoting equality and reducing hunger and poverty.
Helping young people to develop and hone these traits will prepare them for productive and successful life.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Following are some quotes to remind us of the importance of being grateful.
“It is easy for us to complain about things we do not have. Instead, let’s be grateful for our many gifts and be willing to share them with others.”
Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.
William Arthur Ward
“There are so many reasons to give thanks. Make a list of all the things and people who make a difference in your life and find a way to show your thanks this week.”
“True happiness can only be found when we learn to be content with what we have.”
“Gratitude preserves old friendships, and procures new.”
“Good cheer is something more than faith in the future; it is gratitude for the past and joy in the present.”
“Gratitude is the most exquisite form of courtesy.” Jacques Maritain
“A person, however learned and qualified in his life’s work in whom gratitude is absent, is devoid of that beauty of character which makes personality fragrant.” Hazrat Inavat Khan
“Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.” Brian Tracy
Monday, November 22, 2010
In 1963, the Civil Rights Movement was just coming into its own, and we will never know what affect the Kennedy Assassination had on those events. Would events have occurred in the same way or was the timeline accelerated or slowed because of it? Where would we be as a nation had this single event not occurred? Certainly we kept Kennedy’s promise to land a man on the moon before the end of the decade, but what other promises would have been made and consequently kept had he lived? While there is no answer to those questions, as we cannot have a retake on history, we are faced with similar challenges in 2010 as a result of the achievement gap. We are faced with deciding whether or not we will become a nation that embodies the words of the Pledge of Allegiance which state, “with liberty and justice for all”.
For me, the decision is “yes”, and the work of public education and after-school programs is to ensure that social justice is a reality for all students. We must take seriously this new civil rights issue and refuse to rest until the achievement gap is closed and every youth is able to reach his or her amazing potential. We can accomplish these results. If you look back over the course of history, many of the accomplishments of men have had an equal or larger number of skeptics boasting that it will never work. If we are dedicated to “liberty and justice for all”, we must also find strength in the words of Margaret Mead,
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Friday, November 19, 2010
Youth are also looking to see how you measure up on these character traits as well:
• Positive Attitude
Character Counts shortens this list, identifying six pillars of character: trustworthiness, responsibility, respect, fairness, caring, and citizenship.
Stephen Covey tells us that until about 150 years ago, leadership was defined in terms of character, but that today, it has been redefined by the personality ethic. In other words, leadership was defined by an integration of such traits as integrity, humility, patience, and following the Golden Rule, while now, leadership is based on personality, technique, appearance, and having a positive mental attitude. He goes on to say that character creates long-term lasting relationships that are there for the long haul, while the personality ethic has much less staying power. Emerson perhaps says it best, “What you are shouts so loudly in my ears I cannot hear what you say.”
As we move forward in our work with young people, let’s remember that one of our most important roles is that of role model, and that character truly is what coun
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
While change begins when we are first made aware of some new information and we make a decision that this different way of thinking or doing things could benefit us, and ends with a sustained habit, this does not constitute a Theory of Change.
A TOC has been defined as “a strategy or blueprint for achieving large-scale, long-term goals. It identifies the preconditions, pathways and interventions necessary for an initiative's success.” A TOC is a way of looking at very complex issues that are interwoven, braided and blended together so it is difficult to break them apart into stand alone units. A TOC helps you to determine the necessary conditions and pathways to follow to have the effect and results that you desire. The Harvard Business Review, October, 2010 published an article by Robert Kaplan and Allen Grossman, that those of you in the world of after-school, and particularly non-profits engaged in the work of after-school might find interesting. “The Emerging Capital Market for Nonprofits”, discusses how “market mechanisms from the private sector could energize the nonprofit world”. On page 116 of the magazine, an interesting graphic outlines a possible TOC which could at least help you begin to think about your purpose and your theory of change.
Monday, November 15, 2010
I am struck by how much in common wheel alignment has with the educational and social alignment of school day and after-school. This article could have as easily read, ‘In instituting an after-school program, proper educational and social alignment with the school day is important so as not to sacrifice learning opportunities for youth, and hence, their success both in school and in life. Often times, alignment between the school day and after-school is confused with replicating the school day program, however, these are two different terms. Alignment consists of adjusting the strategies of after-school to support the good work of the school day and to be parallel with it, although supporting learning through the multiple intelligences, a variety of learning modalities, and engaging skill building activities that are not duplicated in the school day. Improper alignment of the school day and after-school results in excessive wear and stress on both students and staff members, and can end in results that could have demonstrated stronger student outcomes if the programs had been aligned.’
Alignment is not the work for the faint of heart. Beginning with the end in mind, young people who are better educated and better prepared for the advanced citizenship of being an American, a great deal of communication and information sharing must occur to create an aligned system. It is possible, and if you work in an after-school program, please make a commitment to contribute to the work.
Friday, November 12, 2010
Dr. Deborah Lowe Vandell, Chair of the Department of Education at the University of California, Irvine, has also done research around the effectiveness of after-school programs. On her faculty profile, Dr. Vandell states, “I have longstanding interests in three areas: …after school programs and activities - their impact on children and youth and strategies for improving the quality of after-school programs…” is one of them. In a recent conversation, A Discussion on After School Programs, Vandell answered the following three questions:
1. Why are after-school programs valuable?
2. What do schools of education need to know about after-school programs?
3. What's the value of summer programs
You can find the full answers at http://www.edutopia.org/deborah-lowe-vandell#graph2 .
At a California After School Network function, Vandell spoke about the Positive effects of after-school programs on academic and social benefits from a study completed over a two year period. You can tune into Dr. Vandell’s discussion at http://www.afterschoolnetwork.org/node/7758 .
These and other research efforts are taking a look at after-school programs and the impact they are having on youth. As an after-school provider, it is imperative that you become familiar with the current research and learn from it to strengthen your program.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
: Happy Veteran's Day! We salute our troops, past and present. Thank you for fighting for our freedom and the liberties that we have. It is a true honor to be a part of this great nation. We support our troops overseas and hope that they will return soon.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Earlier in our history, Abraham Lincoln and other dignitaries, gathered on the battle field at Gettysburg to commemorate the loss of life on this battlefield. In one of the most poignant yet simple speeches, Lincoln declared:
“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain - that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
So, here we are, over 90 years since the end of World War I, nearly 150 years since Lincoln’s words at Gettysburg, and well over two hundred years since the birth of this country and the question is, have we kept faith with these honored dead who gave “the last full measure of devotion”? Until all American children have an equal opportunity to recognize their full potential, I believe we still have work to do. According to Rod Paige, former Secretary of Education, in a press release on February 1, 2010, “closing the achievement gap is the civil rights issue of this generation”. After-school has a role to play in closing this gap, in making a difference for young people throughout this country. The cause of after-school, of out-of-school time learning, must be championed. After-school is a breath of fresh air in the K-12 Public Education System that is struggling to reform and reinvent itself. It is an opportunity to pave the way to new ways of learning that will capture the whole child—body, heart, mind, and spirit, and revitalize learning in this nation.
The promise of America is that ALL people will have equal opportunities to become, to recognize the potential they were born with.
Monday, November 8, 2010
Personally, I agree with him. Every day, every experience we have contributes to the knowledge, skills, behaviors, and attitudes that we have. I believe that many of the experiences we have, especially as we get older, act as confirmation for learning that we have had in the past. It affirms your point of view and gives you the confidence to move forward, knowing that at least some of your understanding of the world remains intact (especially important in the age of what seems like constant change). Sometimes an experience requires that we adjust our current thinking, either by adding a new increment of meaning and understanding, or helping us to see another application for that learning that previously escaped us. Finally, there is the kind of experience that opens up our minds in a totally unexpected way, it provides that “AHA!” moment in which you are both amazed and left wondering why you didn’t know it earlier. This process of “Confirm, Tweak or Adjust, and AHA!”, provides a forum to reflect on key learning and is often used in after-school programs to transform activities into intentional learning opportunities.
If you believe that learning requires information and experiences, then doesn’t it just make sense to intentionally extend learning time each day? Out-of-school time provides young people with an opportunity to extend the time of formal learning by several hours each day. After-school provides a forum for formal learning in an informal setting, with instructors who are from the neighborhood whenever possible. This extended time provides opportunities to learn through different learning modalities (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, digital) or better yet, all of these modalities while maintaining the 3 R’s of after-school, relationships, relevance, and rigor. Additionally, after-school can employ less traditional methods and teach reading through song lyrics, drama, and/or science to name a few. Promoting the development of multiple intelligences and building on youth interests can only serve to engage the learner more completely.
Extending learning time and opportunities into the after-school arena is challenging for educators who believe that only a credentialed teacher can teach. It is important that we get past this notion. While I would absolutely agree that there are specific areas that you need trained professionals to address, I also believe that supporting the good work done by teachers during the school day can and should be supported by well-trained, energetic, and enthusiastic after-school staff.
Friday, November 5, 2010
First, long time advocate for after-school programs, Senator Barbara Boxer was elected for another 6 year term. Boxer captured approximately 50.2% of the vote while her Republican opponent captured 44.1% of the electorate. Boxer has been a strong supporter for after-school, helping to author the legislation in 1997 that authorized 21st Century Community Learning Center funding, and taking many opportunities to visit actual programs when checking in with her constituents in California. Her record speaks for itself.
Secondly, on the State level, Tom Torlakson currently a State Assemblyman formerly a State Senator from the bay area, was elected the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. This will be the first time since the beginning of after-school programming in California that the top job has been held by an advocate for the value-add of after-school programming. In fact, in 1998 Tom Torlakson authored legislation that has led to the development of the largest system of after school programs in the nation. In 2006, he authored the bill that led to a 300 percent expansion in these programs—so they now reach 4,000 schools around the state.
While this is good news for the field of after-school, these two strong proponents of after-school cannot do the job alone. In the field we need to give them the “ammunition” they need to convince others of the value-add of after-school programs that enrich the lives of young people each and every school day. How do we do that? I think there are several key things that we can all do to help our voice be heard.
First, I believe that each day we must work tirelessly to offer the highest quality programs for youth. These programs must support students academically, emotionally, and socially, while expanding their opportunities to develop leadership skills, participate in community service projects, apply skill learned during the school day, prepare for college and/or career, participate in healthy living activities, while all the time building strong, caring relationships with peers and staff.
Next, we must help to educate all of the stakeholders, parent, school day staff, the community at large, politicians, and others about the value-add of after-school. Invite an influential stakeholder to your program. Wow them with student leaders who take them on a guided tour while sharing with them the difference the program has made for them. This group of supporters may someday need to rally with after-school folks. So get the contact information of each of them and routinely reach out to them and update them about the successes of your program. Our stakeholders must believe that the after-school program is an essential service for students and families.
Finally, we must share our successes more broadly. Often times in after-school we enjoy the celebrations with students—the performances, the science fair demonstrations, the art gallery, the monthly recognitions—but we forget that we need to share these successes with others. Consider getting the newspaper and local television and radio to come out and regularly support your program. Keep your good work front and center. If you have positive evaluation data, share it. Look for the positive impact of your program and then celebrate it loudly and publically.
In California, after-school programming is heading into a year of uncertainty and vulnerability. Let’s support our existing champions!
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Of the youngsters in the film, only one was selected on the first round of the lottery for the few available spots in high-performing charter schools, and a second was brought in from the waiting list toward the beginning of the school year. The three others returned to their neighborhood schools. The odds, at least for those youngsters in the film, were 2:5 or 40% chance of being selected to attend one of the charter schools, and I cannot think that this is anywhere close to real odds which are much, much lower, as there are so many children applying for each and every slot that is open. But even if we took the film odds, you have a 40% chance of making it in which means you have a 60% chance of NOT making it. So what about the 60%? The answer lies in strengthening and supporting the reform of K-12 education.
It is easy to target K-12 public education as the villain in this piece, but I think that this would be short-sighted. It appears that there is plenty of “blame” to spread over a variety of canvases. And anyway, what good does playing the “Blame Game” really do. Each year, children in this country are not receiving an education that will help them to be competitive in the global work environment of the 21st century. They have more stress and fewer skills to deal with that stress and to exercise good judgment, critical thinking, and sound decision making. To move the reform agenda along maybe all of us reviewing the work of Peter Senge in his book, the Fifth Discipline, when he writes about the importance of asking the 5 Whys to get to the root of a challenge, would be helpful. Senge cautions that it is easiest, in going through this exercise to focus on people and place blame rather than get to the systemic changes that need to be made. So I would propose that we begin with the question, “Why is it that K-12 public education is only providing a high-quality education for 32% of its students?” and then, instead of simply blaming the schools, probe more deeply to find solutions to support the transformation of public education into a viable, results-driven opportunity for youth. Ten years ago education results were dismal:
• Only 70% of all students in public high schools graduate, and only 32% of all students leave high school qualified to attend four-year colleges.
• Only 51% of all black students and 52% of all Hispanic students graduate, and only 20% of all black students and 16% of all Hispanic students leave high school college-ready.
We can do better than this if we will accept the challenge to be Superman, in one community, in one neighborhood, in one school. There is a line toward the end of the movie, An American President, when the lead character (Michael Douglas playing the role of the U.S. President) states, “I’ve been so busy trying to keep my job, that I forgot to do my job.” It’s time to do our job and put aside all of the differences that prevent us from doing our job…providing young people with an education that will prepare them to grow-up to be adults who are productive citizens of this country.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
For those of you who are new to after-school, you may legitimately be wondering, “What’s the big deal? So time is changing and it will be dark a little earlier!” The big deal is the attitude or mindset change that happens when the sun goes down which sends out the alert that youth need to be home before dark, and certainly before the evening chill takes hold. Since birth we have learned that darkness can be fraught with danger and that light brings comfort (consider how lights are always turned on when we come to the assistance of an infant). And we have all seen pictures of families “cuddled up” around the fireplace in the winter drinking hot chocolate and eating popcorn. Warm matters! So, families want youth home before dark.
In California, even the After School Education and Safety Program legislation in Ed Code 8483 (a) (1) recognized the power of DARK:30, and specifies the need for an Early Release Policy that will accommodate all manner of locally identified needs for leaving early, including other conditions, especially safety, as prescribed by the school day administration. Some programs have identified the need for students who walk home, alone or with another, to leave the program 20-30 minutes before sundown, which means even earlier in mid-December as the days continue to shorten, to ensure safe passage. Others have determined that bus transportation will need to leave earlier to ensure that all students arrive home in the daylight, and/or that a parent be there to meet them at the bus stop to guarantee a safe transition from program to home.
So, DARK:30 is just around the corner. Be sure to advise parents and students of your plans if you haven’t already. Alter your schedule to include outdoor activity earlier in the program day. Remember, safety and supervision are key to a high quality after-school program, so safely addressing DARK:30 moves to the front burner when time changes next Sunday.