It is incredibly important that your program supports the good work that the school day is doing. Teachers work each day to provide the “first, best teaching” for students and anything that we can do in after-school to support that work is a value-add to the student’s’ educational experience. So anything you can do to be sure that your after-school program is in support, is complementary of the school day.
Tip #1: Meet with the school day administration consistently and routinely. You don’t need to have a problem or a challenge to meet with the administration. Meet with them when everything is going well and educate and inform them about your program. Ask them to walk your program with you and let them see what’s really going on. Ask for feedback, and hear it without defending and explaining your position. Remember that feedback is information that informs you about how others think about what they are observing. You don’t have to change your mind, you simply need to be open to hearing what they have to say. When you are open to listening with your heart and mind, you will be able to see your own program through a different lens.
Tip #2: Learn all that you can about the school day and all of the people that you are working with in this setting. Learn the names of the people and a little about them so you will know what to share with them. Take time each day to greet these important people. Check in regularly. Visit classrooms during the day so you can see how the children in your program behave during the school day. It can be very insightful. Review the school day scope and sequence for the four cores—English Language Arts, mathematics, science and history/social studies. Attend grade level meetings if at all possible and if your school has data reflection meetings ask if you can attend. Take the time to learn and listen, and when appropriate add your own point of view.
Tip #3: Acknowledge the support that you get from the school day staff. Celebrate this support with simple notes of thanks, inviting school day staff to visit your program and then honor their presence, and do this consistently and continuously. Create a “touch cycle” so you are certain that you thank everyone throughout the year.
Becoming a complementary program takes time and energy, but when done well, the best interests of the children and youth are served.