Thursday, May 26, 2011

For those that made it through the storm…

In a grueling year for school districts across the country, many teachers and administrators must be sighing in relief for the summer. Budget cuts leading to staff shortages, increased student-teacher ratio’s, minimal material supplies, and of course, cut salaries, are all reasons to take advantage of the few summer months of summer break.

Here’s some idea’s for teachers:
(please note: we realize most of you are on your own budget’s because of your pay cuts and we have taken that into consideration)

Book Clubs
Start a book club with fellow teachers, friends or neighbors. You can even think of a cool name like: Kindle Club or BYOB: Bring your own Book
Barnes and Noble Hit List

Take up a hobby (or finish those hobbies that have been hiding in your closet)
Gardening, cooking, dancing, sports... the possibilities are endless. You can even do some with your kids and friends.

Of course the best and first possibility is to volunteer with Consult 4 Kids. There are a variety of different opportunities, especially that align with teacher’s skills and abilities. Our listings (and others) can be found online at or give us a call at 661-322-4347.

Visit your city
Getting to know your city can be a great way to have fun and prepare lessons for the next school year. You might be surprised with your cities history or current happenings. Check out

And of course…for the risk takers, adventurer, and slightly more boisterous folk, you can:

Learn to dance
Okay, you might not be a perfect 10, but definitely can take a chance. Great way to explore new territory and even meet new people.

Create a cause
Be the one to start something in your community. Even if it’s raising funds or awareness for you, personally as a teacher, get your communities support. There are many businesses and organizations that will back your efforts in education awareness.

TAKE the actual vacation.
Get AWAY. We realize gas is expensive, however, if you do some research, you can find cheap flights or even share gas costs with some road trippers. Believe it or not, there are many historic places that are still FREE. Have you heard of the Grand Canyon? Free. Again, you just have to do some research. Did you know Southwest Airlines has web features to find you the cheapest tickets by being flexible with your dates, and even special deals on some Tuesdays? Ask around. If you know a coupon queen.. they are bound to be “in the know.”

School staff… Consult4Kids loves you. We appreciate the work you do. A joyful blessed summer is quite well deserved.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Frontline Staff Basics #3

As a segue between behavior guidance, managing the environment, and discipline, it is also important that staff understand the difference between direct and tell and asking questions. It is also important that frontline staff has some skills around basic lesson design and delivery and the ability to debrief the learning that occurred during the lesson. Let’s first take a look at direct and tell and asking questions.

While it appears to be easier to simply direct and tell (line up, walk with your eyes forward, stay 6 feet from swinging doors, organize your homework space by taking out all of your materials and beginning with a sharpened pencil, and so on), in the long run the question is, when you direct and tell who actually owns the behavior. It is challenging enough to “manage” your own behavior and when you rely on the strategy of direct and tell you are trying to manage the behavior of everyone. When you define and prescribe the methods, you own the results and when the outcomes fall short, it is up to you to “fix” the problem. How much easier would it be to have 20 young people on board to manage not someone else’s behavior but to manage their own? You can do this be simply asking questions. For example, you are going to transition from an outdoor activity into homework time. You have thought through everything that needs to occur to make this a successful transition. Instead of telling the students, ask them, “What do you think it will take for us to transition from this basketball game to being focused on homework in the shortest amount of time?” Amazingly, students will begin to give you responses that are right in line with what you thought (and sometimes even things you haven’t thought of). If they miss one or two, you can simply ask them if they think that something is important. After listing all of the things that need to occur, ask the kids to commit to making that happen, and when they do celebrate with a high 5 and ask them to organize themselves to carry out the plan they created. If the behaviors aren’t measuring up to the expectation, stop and recommit. While this may take some time in the beginning, in the end, students own the success of the transition which is much more important than the adult owning it.

Once the management strategies are in place, knowing how to design and deliver a lesson, followed with a debrief of the learning is critical. Lesson design, in its simplest form, follows this pattern. Identify what you are going to be learning about, check in to see what the students already know (or think they know), identify the learning objective (the take-away from the lesson), introduce the lesson by engaging the youth, share the 2-3 key points by modeling and interactive conversation, share how the youth are going to practice the learning (what activity will they be doing), guide the activity by checking in with each small group of students while they are working on the activity, taking advantage of the teaching moments, bring the activity to a close, and then debrief what just occurred.

Lessons don’t need to be razzle-dazzle. Effective lessons engage the young people in learning and then end with the identification of the key learning and how the student will apply that key learning in school and in life, and then making a commitment to practice the new learning. In after-school we believe that learning lessons are best taught through partner and small group work, with relevant experiences that are rigorous enough to engage active minds and bodies.

When you put these 10 basics together, you have a frontline staff member ready to facilitate miracles in the field.

Plug into the Consult 4 Kids staff development system at .

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Frontline Staff Basics #2

Beyond Professionalism, your Frontline Staff also needs to understand the basics of managing the after-school environment including the crucial time between activities known as transitions, providing behavior guidance, and disciplining youth when necessary. Understanding and being able to put into practice these key basics allows the frontline staff to create a space for learning. When the environment is chaotic, learning is not occurring, so in order to promote learning, and more obviously safety, it is important that staff has base line understanding of these program aspects.

When looking at managing the environment, your staff members need to visualize exactly how things would look and sound if the activity were being done “perfectly”. Each can then compare the vision of “perfection” with the reality that they are witnessing, and then go to work, with the support of others, to ensure that each environment of the after-school program is exactly what the staff member has imagined. For example, if the program agreements are Be Safe, Be Respectful, and Be Responsible, how will those agreements manifest walking down the hallway, during snack, or when students are working on homework? A conversation needs to occur with students in which they discuss what safety, respect, and responsibility means in the different after-school environments. No one expects student behavior during an outdoor activity to be the same as during a lesson indoors. So let’s acknowledge that by creating environmental agreements and being very sure that kids understand the guidelines in each situation. It is also important that staff is aware that how they position themselves in the environment makes it easier or more challenging to manage it. Staff must also manage the environment by walking around and establishing a presence in each of the spaces within the whole environment, making it easier for students to practice positive behavior choices.

Behavior Guidance is different than Managing the Environment often referred to as Classroom Management. Behavior Guidance is utilized to get a group of people to willingly cooperative with the standards of behavior that have been cooperatively set. You begin this process by being certain that everyone has a clear understanding of the expectations and then through a series of conversations, class meetings, and clarifying activities, establishing norms that will define the desired behavior. It is important to include both individual and group strategies to encourage positive choices and discourage choices that do not go along with the established guidelines that every student participated in defining. Sometimes young people check to see if the program leader (the adult in charge) really means what they say and say what they mean. When this occurs, it is important that the adult follow through with the discipline that was set in place long before the behavior manifested. Discipline is about making choices—choices that are clearly defined from the beginning—you may choose to cooperate with the group and participate in the activity or you may choose to not follow the guidelines and sit this activity out. Students, like the rest of us, are continuously doing research to determine if you are a person they can trust. Once it is established that you are, the more likely it is that young people will make positive choices.

We utilize classroom management skills and behavior guidance to help the program run smoothly and ensure that each student is having a positive experience during the program. One of the times in which these skills and guidance are most pivotal is the transition period between activities. After-school programs have many transitions—the first is the transition from the school day to the program itself, which is followed by transitions into snack and networking, from this activity to outdoor activities, to homework, to enrichment, to academic support, and so on, and then finally from school to home. Taking the time to establish guidelines around expected behavior during these transitions will go a long way in creating harmony in the program.

Frontline staff who have developing skills around managing the environment, behavior guidance, discipline, and successful transitions, will be more successful in their interactions with you and creating an engaging learning environment for youth.

Consult 4 Kids can help with this. Check them out at

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Frontline Staff Basics--#1

Certainly one of the challenges of after-school programming is having well-trained frontline staff. Many of the people that we hire have a “heart” for working with young people. They want to be a positive role model for young people and to help them with home work and plan and organize exciting events. In order to be successful, frontline staff must have mastered the basics. Consult 4 Kids (C4K) has staff development that will help you get your staff off to a wonderful start. First and foremost your staff must understand professionalism and how to interact with students, parents and school day staff. For many of the young people that we hire to work in our after-school programs, this is a first job, the first experience in which they really are the “adult” in charge.

For Program Leaders C4K has developed Vocational Training, complete with quizzes, tests, and exams to check for clear understanding. Chapter 3 for Program Leaders is entitled “Professionalism”. The chapter shares these 10 Keys to being professional and much more.

1. Learn every aspect of your job as a learning leader. Start to finish, this will help you be effective in working with young people.

2. When at work, speak and dress like an after-school professional. This probably means a staff shirt, khakis or dress jeans, closed-toe shoes, and a badge. Your overall appearance will influence how others see and respect you.

3. Keep your supplies and materials in a neat and orderly way so you can access them easily.

4. Take care to discover what needs to be done to make the after-school program exemplary and then do everything in your power to make that happen. Understand the needs and interests of all of the stakeholders—students, other after-school staff, principals, teachers, parents, and members of the community.

5. Use a tone in your speech and behavior that speaks of enthusiasm, cheerfulness, interest, and commitment, rather than anger, resentment, and hostility or say, “This is just a job.” Be careful to leave personal anxiety and issues out of the workplace.

6. If you make a mistake, apologize, learn from it, and move forward. This will give students permission to do the same.

7. Be level-headed. Know that when a student or parent challenges you, it is not personal. Listen to the message behind the tone and respond with respect. Learn the difference between the “WHO” and the “WHAT.”

8. When you agree to do something—DO IT, and do it to the best of your ability and on time. Under-promise and over-deliver—help the people you work with learn to trust your word. Do more than is expected and always produce high quality work.

9. Handle conflict at the lowest level. Talk out differences of opinion, being open to “seeing” things from another’s point of view.

10. Respect confidentiality. Keep information about students, families, and other staff members private. Your position will allow you to have sensitive information. Be a person that can be trusted with this information.

Go on line at and check it out.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Preventing Summer Learning Loss

When the school system in the United States was first established it was important that young people were available in the summer to work on the farm—to help water and harvest the crops that would keep the family going throughout the next winter. But that was then and this is now. Times have changed and few young people are out working on the farm. What we know now is that most young people do not engage in productive activities with adults and other youth like they did in summers past, they instead “hang with their friends”, watch TV or play video games, and if they are lucky, may go on vacation. What we have learned about this three month period is not comforting. Following are some facts that were published on the Children’s Aid Society web page at: :

Facts Two-thirds of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities. As a result, low-income youth are less likely to graduate from high school or enter college (Alexander et al, 2007).

Most students lose about two months of grade-level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer months. Low-income students also lose more than two months in reading achievement, while their middle-class peers make slight gains (Cooper, 1996). When this pattern continues throughout the elementary school years, lower income youth fall more than two and one-half years behind their more affluent peers by the end of fifth grade.

Most children – particularly children at high risk of obesity – gain weight more rapidly when they are out of school during summer break (Von Hippel et al, 2007).

Parents consistently cite summer as the most difficult time to ensure that their children have productive things to do (Duffet et all. 2004).

We are learning about the importance of summer learning opportunities at the same time that budget cuts have forced school districts to cancel summer programming. It is time to speak up about the importance of after-school programs that can operate summer programs. A blended model of credentialed teacher and after-school staff could be beneficial for both adults and certainly for the students. Contact your state Assemblyperson and Senator, and let them know you would like to operate program through the summer.