Tuesday, September 25, 2012

One month in...what should you see?

This article is written by a member of our expert blogging team.

Well, for most of us, our afterschool program has been operating for about a month this school year.  The program routine is being established and everyone is getting into the groove.  There is a rhythm to the afterschool day so it’s time to take your program to the next level. 

Photo via C4K
By this time your program agreements are most likely established and your young people are demonstrating they understand your expectations of safety, respect, and responsibility in a variety of program environments—multi-purpose room, hallway, restroom, classroom, playground, drinking fountain, gymnasium, and laboratories.  Parents have learned the routine of sign-out and if you run program in California, how to complete an Early Release Form to pick a child up before the required time has passed. 

You've also had some time to get to know or reconnect with the students.  Some are returning from last year and others are new.  But no matter who they are and how well you knew them in June, they’ve grown and changed--some in subtle ways, others dramatically.  Building those relationships are critical if you are creating a sense of “family” in your program.  These relationships can be built or strengthened through time, care and belief.  Remember how important it is to ensure that your program is running smoothly so the time youth spend with you is engaging and fun.  Also remind yourself and staff how important it is to connect with each student, each day.  Take care that you’re prepared and ready to go.  Youth understand that we spend time on what matters to us and in the afterschool program they need to be front and center.  Take care to honor your word and follow up and follow through in all aspects of your program.  And above all it is so important to believe in the youth and your staff and know, without a shadow of a doubt, that every day your program will be stronger and meet the needs of your youth.

Photo via (cc) flickr user Brande Jackson
You've laid a strong foundation, so what is the next level?  While you’ve been establishing a routine, so has the instructional day.  While you’ve been working on relationships and getting to know the kids, so has the instructional day.  You should begin to have conversations with classroom teachers when possible about the specific help your students need.  Instead of providing homework help generally, you should be at a point to know the specific strengths and challenges of each of your students and be able to anticipate ways to best help them.  Part of the next level is found in your efforts to target your support. 

Photo via (cc) flickr user Brande Jackson
Another part of the “next level” is bringing youth into leadership roles in your program.  When you observe a lesson, the students might be handling the debrief or at least the distribution of materials and supplies.  Young people are beginning to help with the opening—maybe reading announcements, distributing snacks, taking roll, cleaning up, or leading monthly celebrations.  Your Youth Advisory Committee or Street Team is selected and you are meeting to hear what they have to say and involve them in making decisions about the program. 

These are just a few things that may be happening to take your program to the next level.  We’d love to hear from you.  Now that you are a month or so into programming, what are you working on to take program to the next level?

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