Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Debriefing and the Common Core

Research has demonstrated that learning is experienced more deeply and connections are made more broadly when someone debriefs an activity or lesson with youth.  A debrief gives you an opportunity to check on your objective and see if the youth can demonstrate an understanding of the objective.  A debrief gives young people an opportunity to share what they know and the questions they still may have.  In Common Core this is an essential aspect of learning.  Debriefing is a kind of metacognition which allows each person to consider what has just occurred and the thoughts he/she has about it.

Research tells us that when debriefing one of the most important things we can do is give the youth wait time and an opportunity to collect their thoughts so they can share with others in the group.  To be sure there are always those young people who quickly raise their hand in response to any question, but pausing before we call on them or anyone at all, gives all young people a chance to think and respond.  Youth learn language and communication skills by having lots of opportunities to practice.  So give them time to think, then have them put heads together to work out the kinks in the thinking, or have them take time to write about or draw the ideas they have.  Again, one of the essential aspects of Common Core implementation is the ability to think deeply and to explain what you were thinking when you took the action you did.


Consult 4 Kids has both written and video material around debriefing, including the importance of debriefing and strategies to implement.  Contact us at support@consultfourkids.com, check out the website, www.consultfourkids.com, and give us a call at (661)322-4347.  

Monday, April 28, 2014

Goal Setting

What’s the difference between a “goal” and an “objective”?  A goal is an aspirational statement of a “place” you would like to be in the future.  A goal is something that we want badly enough that we are willing to work toward reading it.  A goal defines the purpose of the work I am going to do and it isn’t really measurable or tangible, unless I actually accomplish it completely.  For example, I used to have a goal to visit all 50 of the United States.  In October of 2012 I accomplished that goal by visiting North Dakota, the last holdout on my list.  So I made a new goal.  After considering multiple options, I made a goal to visit all of the Presidential Libraries.  I did some research on where they are located and which Presidents have official libraries.  I don’t have a specific timeframe around the goal I just know that I want to accomplish it sometime in the future. 

An objective, on the other hand, is a specific action that I will take to accomplish my goal.  For example, my 2014 objective is to visit 4 of the Presidential Libraries, the Nixon in February (which I did), the George W. and Roosevelt in July, and the Reagan in September.  This objective is measurable (I either do or I don’t), tangible (I am getting a stamp in my Presidential Library Passport), and has a timeframe (2014).  At the end of 2014 I will be part way to the accomplishment of my goal, but it will require that I create an additional objective (maybe several) that will result in realizing my goal.
 
Too often we get these two terms confused.  To further illustrate, at Consult 4 Kids we have a goal to serve millions of youth and afterschool professionals by helping them to become positive role models and mentors for youth.  This is a lofty goal.  Our objective for 2014 is much narrower and much more focused on spreading the word about our high-quality staff development program to practitioners in the field.  It is our goal that propels us forward, but our objective that puts “flesh on the bones” and gives us direction and drive. 


To help us reach our 2014 objective, contact us at support@consultfourkids.com or call (661) 322-4347 to find out how by helping you develop your staff we are also helping ourselves to realize our objective, and in time our goal.  

Friday, April 25, 2014

Nifty 9 Managing Transitions—A Public Face

Have you ever witnessed a child throwing a temper tantrum because he/she isn’t ready to stop what he/she is doing and move on to the next activity or location?  Or have you witnessed an older youth become sullen and uncooperative because he/she has been told it’s time to stop?  Have you ever wondered what you would do if you were faced with the same situation?  In afterschool these transitions from one activity to another or one location to another happen often.  And to compound the challenge it is seldom just one youth that we are trying to transition—it is an entire group of them, often times about 20 of them.  Orchestrating an effective transition is not easy—and yet it is one of the most public faces we have in afterschool.  Generally we are outside when we transition, or in a public space like a cafeteria, multi-purpose room or gymnasium, or in a classroom or library where our ability to manage this transition is witnessed by school day staff, other students, and parents. 

Consult 4 Kids has a number of instructional videos on how to make transitions more effective and has even published an e-Book singly focused on transitions.  We provide tips on how to work with the slow adapters and the kids who just don’t like to get started and once started are not interested in stopping.  We share strategies for developing a sense of ownership around effective transitions.  We have just what you need to help staff be more effective in this area.  Communicate with us at support@consultfourkids.org or by calling us a (661) 322-4347.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Nifty 9 Importance of Transitioning Staff from Direct and Tell to Question to Connection

Have you ever had the experience of telling someone exactly what to do only to find out when you check back in that the task has not been completed in the way you outlined?  Have you ever asked a child to clean his/her bedroom only to find that they have simply moved the mess around rather than taking the time to organize the items and put them away?  Have you then directed them to pick up the socks, the pillows and the papers strewn all around, only to come back and see the shoes exactly where they were the last time you were there and the child says emphatically, “You didn’t tell me to pick up the shoes!”  When we give directives and then specify each action that is to be taken we are practicing “direct and tell”.  The downside of this method is that young people ultimately do not accept responsibility or ownership for what is or is not being accomplished.

The opposite of “direct and tell” is asking questions and soliciting from the other person what they believe should be done and what they are capable of accomplishing.  For example, instead of telling someone to “Clean up your room”, we could ask the question, “What do you think needs to happen so this room will be clean?” When we ask this question we are clearly communicating to youth that we expect them to take an appropriate action to make the room clean.  When we establish agreements we are entering into a pact that states we agree these things are important and will be accomplished.  Then if we have to ask a question we can ask that question about whether or not we are honoring the agreements we have made.

School-day learning is focusing more and more on questioning to connect as youth are asked to consider not only a “right answer” but why they selected the answer they did.  They are asking questions and answering questions, and thus making connections to their everyday life and circumstances.  They can understand the relevance and the meaningfulness of the action they just took when the connection has been clear.

At Consult 4 Kids we have several written and virtual opportunities for people to learn more about the art of asking questions.  Check with us by sending an email to support@consultfourkids.com or calling us at (661) 322-4347.  Together we can ensure high quality programs for youth.

   

Monday, April 21, 2014

Nifty 9—The Trilogy

One of the building blocks of afterschool programs is having a solid handle on creating a safe learning environment for youth.  Whether you call this classroom management, maintaining control in a classroom, or discipline, it is important that a space for learning is created that encourages youth to actively, collaboratively, and meaningfully engage in hands-on, minds-on activities.  At Consult 4 Kids we call this the “trilogy” because we think there are three distinct aspects of this building block:  managing the environment, guiding behavior, and discipline. 
The question is, “How do we help new and experienced staff strengthen this critical corner stone?”  We believe everything begins with clear expectations, set forth in a few simple, straightforward statements which define the behavior you expect from youth.  We believe that  safety, respect, and responsibility captures the right behaviors.  We believe that time must be spent exploring exactly what behaviors demonstrate what these standards look like and sound like, and then agreements are made not as a one size fits all but based on the environment in which youth are participating.  Managing the environment also requires that the leader understand his/her place in the space and how to use the space to his/her advantage.
Guiding behavior begins with a deep understanding that no one can control another person.  What we do in afterschool is give our leaders strategies for working with youth so youth understand the consequences—good or not-so-good, of the choices they make.  Learning the lesson that we live in a stimulus-response world is part of becoming an adult, and knowing the decisions made today absolutely DO influence what happens tomorrow is part two of making good behavior choices..
The last piece of the trilogy for C4K is Discipline—which we distinguish from punishment.  Discipline is about making choices and then experiencing the consequences that you were aware of when you made the choices you did.  So for example, if I am alone in my car on the freeway and I want to escape the traffic jam by traveling in the carpool lane and there is a sign that clearly tells me that the minimum fine will be $251.00 if I am not a car pool, then if I get pulled over I have to accept the consequences of the choice I made.  Self-discipline is strengthened when youth understand that each of them is responsible for the consequences of the decision he/she makes. 

Providing staff with the information they need to be proficient with the Trilogy is something that you can access through the Consult 4 Kids web-based staff development system.  You and your staff have access to the site 24/7/365, and the basic building blocks of high-quality programs can be found in our written and video instruction.  Contact us at support@consultfourkids.com or by calling (661) 322-4347.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Foundation for High-Quality Program


The Quality Standards for Expanded Learning Programs were published recently.  You can find the full document on the California Afterschool Network website.   The standards identified are:
  • Safe and supportive environment
  • Active and engaged learning
  • Skill building
  • Youth voice and leadership
  • Healthy choices and behaviors
  • Quality staff
  • Diversity, Access and Equity
  • Clear vision, mission and purpose
  • Collaborative partnerships
  • Continuous quality improvement
  • Program management
  • Sustainability

In the publication there are also descriptors of each of the standards and a group of afterschool professionals are working on indicators. 
Consult 4 Kids has aligned its written and video training to these standards of excellence.  Whether your staff is Rookie, Seasoned, or Veteran, we have something for them that can be accessed 24/7/365.  These informational training sessions are complete with quizzes to check progress (which is tracked on a Learning Management System), discussion questions, and promising practices that have been tried and verified.  For more information on how to make this training available to your staff for pennies a day, please contact us at support@consultfourkids.com or by calling (661) 322-4347.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Concepts of Print

What is “concepts of print”?  For younger children Concepts of Print include awareness that:
·         print carries a message
·         there is a one to one correspondence between words read and printed text
·         there are conventions of print such as directionality (left to right, top to bottom), differences between letters and words, distinctions between upper and lower case, punctuation; and
·         books have some common characteristics (e.g. author, title, front/back).
This awareness can be supported in afterschool programs by simply focusing on this skill development while we are working with youth. 
However, for older youth understanding how print reinforces and supports learning is more complex.  It is essential that youth understand the importance of bold-faced words, how to read charts, graphs, and picture captions, and understand the importance of the various segments of text:  overview, summary, questions to consider, and so on.  Helping young people understand the different aspects of print is part of our work.  For example, in homework we focus on helping kids finish the assignments, yet when we look at the new Common Core guidelines identifying key evidence and articulating your thought process is every bit as important as getting the correct answer.  How to use print to help you locate answers and solidify your thinking can be useful for youth.  We will need to help youth become more competent with the texts that they are asked to read.

Help young people in your program develop and hone the skills needed to develop the habits of a literate individual.  Let Consult 4 Kids support you in your efforts.  We offer curricula and training to support you and youth participate in a high-quality program.  Contact us at support@consultfourkids.oeg or by calling (661) 322-4347/  

Friday, April 11, 2014

Implementation of Common Core—Reading Informational Text

One of the key requirements of the Common Core State Standards is that at least 50% of the reading youth do in school is informational text.  Historically, reading in school (and in afterschool if you have used Kidz Lit) has been stories, novels, poetry, and plays and other forms of narrative text, yet in the “real world” much of the reading we do is informational reading.  So while we want to continue to support the reading of narrative text we also need to support informational text reading as well.  So how do we support youth in reading informational text and develop the habits of a literate individual?
At Consult 4 Kids we think that this can begin by helping youth ask questions about the informational text they are reading, such as:

What does this author want me to think about?
What is the author’s point of view?
What should I infer from what I’ve read?
What do other people say about this topic?

C4K has developed after-school appropriate curricula for grades 3rd-8th grades to support the reading of informational text.  The reading is interesting and relevant and not just a rehash of the school day material.  The activities are hands-on, minds-on, with clear objectives, a plethora of collaborative activities and opportunities to practice while having fun.  We provide training around the use of this curriculum to ensure that your staff is prepared to be effective.  We have incorporated these activities in a Book of the Month-type format that provides multiple source materials on the same topic to encourage youth to develop their own opinions based on information from a variety of resources.  To find out more about our Informational Text Curricula and Training please contact us at support@consultfourkids.com or call us at (661) 343-3424.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

LCFF Funding

California has identified 8 priority areas in public education:  student achievement (not to be confused with) student engagement, other student outcomes, school climate, parental involvement, basic services, implementation of Common Core State Standards, and course access.  After school programs, can and do support these priority areas.  Let’s look at several of these priorities beginning with parental involvement.  How many afterschool programs have access to parents on a daily basis?  How many afterschool programs showcase youth and invite parents and caregivers to attend the event?  How many afterschool programs invite parents to participate with their child at the end of the day?  How many afterschool programs have tough conversations with parents about their student?  The answer to these questions is certainly “most of them. 
And of course as an afterschool program you are most likely grounded in youth development principles which include developing youth leadership, providing youth with opportunities to share their voice and make a choice, all of which help youth develop 21st Century work place skills and stick with school even when they struggle.  Not only is youth engagement supported by a youth development mind set, as we implement the LIAS (Learning in Afterschool and Summer) principles:  learning that is active, meaningful, collaborative, and that supports mastery and broadens horizons, we engage youth in hands-on, minds-on activities throughout the afternoon—which supports other positive outcomes for youth. 
As afterschool providers we are also supporting the implementation of the Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards by implementing strategies that support student learning across all content areas.  Developing activities with clear learning goals which are assessed at the end of the session, debriefing the learning not just the activity, and using strategies to support collaboration, are all part of this effort to support Common Core implementation.

One of the best ways to make sure that we can support these eight buckets effectively is to be sure that our existing and new staff have the basic, foundational training they need so they can create a viable space for learning.  At C4K we have online training available 24/7/365 for both Program Leaders and Site Coordinators.  For Program Leaders we have the Nifty 9 which focuses on professionalism, safety, managing the environment, guiding behavior, discipline, holistic instruction, debriefing, transitions, and moving from direct and tell to questioning techniques.  To learn more about how you can access this for your staff, be they rookie, seasoned, or veteran, for pennies a day, contact us.  Check us out at www.consultfourkids.com or by contacting as at support@consultfourkids.com

Monday, April 7, 2014

Being A Valued Partner

The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) and the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) are changing the way schools think about the work they do.  This different way of funding collapses many of the categorical programs and gives the local schools the opportunity to wrestle with the best way to spend the dollars received from the State.  The LCFF and the LCAP go hand in hand, the first gives you more flexibility with the dollars and the second holds districts accountable for being a good steward of the funds, and not only serving all children fairly but giving that extra boost for youth who are living in poverty or who are English Learners or who are in the foster care system. 

As a valued partner you as the afterschool provider should be at the table to be part of the discussion.  There are many overlaps of the work done in the afterschool program and the priority areas designated by the school day as important.  Below is a chart of the eight priority areas the State has identified as essential.  A descriptor of each of the priorities can also be see in the figure. 

Review these priorities and consider how you can be a part of the conversation.  Remember that staff development is key to doing this work well.  If you need help contact Consult 4 Kids at support@consultfourkids.co or call us at (661) 322-4347.

Afterschool in the Eight State Priority Areas

Monday, March 31, 2014

Nutrition Education—Cooking with Kids

Have you tried a cooking club with the youth in your program?  If not, you might want to give it a try.  The youth are engaged (at every age level) and love having the opportunity to measure and mix, and of course EAT!  Here are several different ways you can get started.

Harvest of the Month:  This program is absolutely free.  It highlights a fruit or vegetable each month (one that is being harvested), offers a recipe for a taste test and a newsletter in either English or Spanish for you to send home.  The recipes are easy to make and if you want, youth can give parents a “taste test” which will further encourage the menu at home to include the fruit or vegetable.  You can access their materials at:  

My Plate:  This federal program encourages youth to understand portions, the variety of foods that should be eaten each day, and offers simple recipes as well.  My Plate also has a number of other resources that you can access to support your program.  You can access their materials at: 

Unless you have access to a kitchen with a range and oven, you can often feel like cooking is beyond what you can do.  Remember that there are a number of recipes that you can make that require little or no cooking—and when cooking is required you could get by with an electric skillet.  When looking for recipes type no cook recipes for youth in the search bar and you will find a number of websites at your fingertips.

Share pictures of your young chefs with us by sending them to support@consultfourkids.com.  

Friday, March 28, 2014

Physical Activity—Virtual Vacations

The weather outside is far from frightful in California at least.  We have sun and cool breezes and it feels like spring.  So for those of you who live somewhere else, consider taking a virtual vacation here in California, and for those of you in California, consider taking a virtual vacation to some other point of interest.  There are many wonderful things for youth to explore and learn from in the world of virtual vacations, and if we think about it, we can include physical activity to make these vacations ‘happen’. 
So here’s how it can work. 
  1. Determine the place that you want the youth to visit. 
  2. Chart the number of miles between your location and the place you want them to visit.
  3. Determine how many miles a day you would have to travel to arrive in approximately 10 days.
  4. Use a pedometer with one youth per day to measure steps (translate into miles) and then multiply by the number of youth in your program to chart the miles.  If it looks like you won’t make your goal, invite others (including parents to help you).
  5. Plan ten travel points of interest, one for each of the days it would take you to walk to the destination, and have youth share those experiences (remember you can always use a video to help them experience the location or event).
  6. Plan a culminating event to celebrate your arrival at your destination that will incorporate the highlights of the location as well as the places you’ve visited along the way.

To encourage writing, have youth record in a journal each day’s activities. 
Pay attention to the details, but you can have a wonderful time and if youth can access the internet, the sky is the limit. 
Take pictures of your “travels” and share them with us at support@consultfourkids.com  We’d love to highlight them on Student Chatter.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Understanding STEM as an Integrated System

STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.  This acronym wasn’t simply chosen because it makes it easier and quicker to talk about these subjects.  It wasn’t chosen simply because there seems to be a natural connection between science and plants (including the stems).  It wasn’t chosen so you could add the arts and call it STEAM.  The acronym speaks to what we want to do in STEM education which is to integrate these four areas into a cohesive whole. 
Here are some of the reasons that an integrated approach to STEM education works:
“The number of jobs requiring proficiency in the STEM field is projected to grow almost twice as much as non-STEM occupations between 2008 and 2018.  Computing and engineering represent a majority of these STEM jobs.”  Afterschool Alliance
Integrated STEM education programs apply equal attention to the standards and objectives of two or more of the STEM fields – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

In nearly every model of effective STEM integration, the goal and intent is to provide students with the opportunity to construct new knowledge and problem-solving skills through the process of designing artifacts (Fortus, Krajcikb, Dershimerb, Marx, & Mamlok-Naamand, 2005).

[Learning is accomplished] through a series of open-ended, hands-on activities related to a thematic topic that addresses important concepts related to STEM disciplines (Satchwell & Loepp, 2002).

In the afterschool environment we are well-positioned to implement this integrated approach through project-based learning.  We have been engaging youth in these types of projects for years.  Putting a STEM theme in place in these projects can make all the difference in the world.


For more information about project-based learning check out the Consult 4 Kids website at www.consultfourkids.com and starting with the “Begin The Journey” icon in the upper right-hand corner.  

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Habits of the Mind: Questioning and Posing Problems

Last month, a blog post entitled “What’s More Important:  Knowing the Right Answers or Asking the Right Questions” explored the importance of questions and answers.  This blog referred to the work of Hal Gregersen who argues “That the what-ifs, the why’s, and the why not’s are more vital to shaping a child’s lifelong creative intelligence than knowing the right answers at the right time.”  He goes on to share insights about Steve Jobs who, although he didn’t often have the right answers for his school setting, grew to be a leading innovator of our time.  He tells us, “If [children are] not listened to and encouraged to ask questions, children will lose curiosity, potentially stunting their intellectual growth and assuredly stunting their creative growth.”  He goes on to say that asking “the provocative questions are essential to forging a path to wherever you might want to go. 

It is through the asking of provocative questions that problems which need to be resolved are posed.  Asking the right questions gives us an opportunity to have a 360 degree look at the challenge we have identified.  These questions allow us to plan via scenarios and as a result will help to reduce the number of unintended consequences of actions that we take.  Asking questions, posing and surfacing problems is what informs innovation and creativity.  The youth we work closely will benefit from developing this critical habit of the mind. 
To learn more about questioning strategies and technique sheck out the Consult 4 Kids staff development system.  Contact us at support@consultfourkids.com or by calling (661) 322-4347/



Monday, March 17, 2014

Habits of the Mind: Striving for Accuracy

Although making a mistake is not the end of the world in most cases, striving for accuracy is an important habit of the mind.  Notice that it doesn’t say striving for perfection, rather striving for accuracy which could also be translated into excellence.  Certainly we care about how other perceive the work we do, but striving for perfection can move you further from rather than toward your desired goals.  Perfection means that you are never finished and can never contain an error.  Striving for the “error-free” state can also take an inordinate amount of time and instead of moving forward you continually go back and review your work to ensure that there are no mistakes.  Have you noticed in the Olympics how important it is that the Olympian is relaxed and focused, but not worried about a perfect performance.  When we get hung up on being “perfect” in reality we often do not do as well because we are focused on the wrong things. 

When we focus on accuracy and excellence we know that our work and performance is meeting the deliverables for this time and situation—we can always improve on the next iteration of our work.  Accuracy is about doing work that people can count on—it requires you to do your “due diligence”, consider contingencies and thinking about options to ensure the solution.  According to Scott Herrick, “We always strive for accuracy in our work — think of a nurse or a doctor administering medication to a patient, for example. But accuracy is different than perfection. Someone who focuses on excellence is proud of their 100% accuracy in delivering medication to patients.
 Someone who focuses on perfectionism delivers the same 100% accuracy in delivering medications — but wonders if they really did it right.  You build confidence from excellence; you will cover mistakes if you are a perfectionist.”Strive for accuracy and excellence—we will all be better off.  Let C4K help you build the accuracy and excellence of your staff.  Contact us at support@consultfourkids.com or by calling (661) 322-4347.  

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Habits of the Mind: Thinking About Thinking—Metacognition

Humans are the only creatures that can think about thinking or develop the skill of metacognition.  Metacognition is cognition about cognition or knowing about knowing.  It is the ability to consider how you learn as well as what you learn.  In the past we have talked about multiple intelligences (nine have been identified) and learning modalities (the most common being visual, auditory, and kinesthetic), and now we are on to the concept of metacognition.  Michael Martinez says that metacognition is more complex than just thinking about thinking.  He says, “Metacognition is the monitoring and control of thought.”  He goes on to say that there are three categories of metacognition:  metamemory, metacomprehension, and problem solving and critical thinking.  He lumps metamemory and metacomprehension together because both refer to understanding one’s own knowledge state.  Problem solving and critical thinking, he believes, are the most human of pursuits and demonstrate what we do daily or at least have the potential to do.  Martinez, an associate professor in the School of Education at the University of Irvine, full paper can be found at
"What is Metacognition?"  The article is well worth the read. 

So suffice it to say that metacognition will continue to be defined but it is important to help youth understand the best way to learn for them and how to take that knowledge and set themselves up to be more effective problem solvers and critical thinkers.

Consult 4 Kids provides information to the participant about the many different aspects of working with youth as a positive role model and mentor.  See how we can help you and your staff by checking us out at www.consultfourkids.com and clicking on the “Begin the Journey” icon in the upper right hand corner of the website. 


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Habits of the Mind: Think Flexibly

What do you think of when you hear the word “flexibly”?  I don’t know about you but I think of gymnasts and dancers who seem to be relaxed and able to move into any number of graceful positions.  I also think about contortionists who can bend, twist, and wiggle into the smallest of places.  I also think about the pretzel—not the stick kind but the ones that resemble a figure eight.  So how do these images reconcile themselves to the habit of “thinking flexibly”.  For me it is the ability to be what Angeles Arrien refers to as being “open to outcome not attached to it.”  When we have a preconceived idea about how something needs to work and how the steps should be ordered and the results that we should get, we limit our ability to think flexibly.  We see things the way we would like them to be rather than the way they are we are not thinking flexibly.  We have a preconceived notion about how things will be and that is what we see.  There is an expression that goes this way, “If you think you can, you can.  If you think you can’t, you can’t.  Either way you are right.”  So being positive or negative is not the point of flexibility.  The point of flexibility is to be open to what is going on, capturing the “current best thinking”, being willing to change your mind, and being nimble in your thought process as it twists and turns and takes you through a plethora of possible scenarios. 

Thomas Edison is the perfect example of “thinking flexibly” to me.  He had a goal—develop an electric light.  He tried over 10,000 times to make this a reality.  Each time he was unsuccessful, he thought flexibly and came up with another game plan and tried again.  Thinking flexibly didn’t mean giving up on his desired outcome, it meant looking at the information in front of him and making adjustments as needed.


At Consult 4 Kids we have “bundled options” and ways we can help you provide a comprehensive Staff development system for your staff.  Contact us a support@consultfourkids.com or by calling (661) 322-4347.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Habits of the Mind: Listen with Understanding and Empathy

Communication is a two way street.  Someone needs to speak and someone else needs to listen, really listen with understanding and empathy.  Too often we hear the words, apply our own thoughts and experiences to them, and then react or respond to what we’ve translated.  When you take the time to listen with understanding and empathy you keep your own agenda and understanding at bay and focus in on the communicators expression of his/her truth and experience.  When we do this, we are “seeking first to understand” which is part of Covey’s guidelines for effectiveness. In his course he shares that when we hear without understanding it is much like putting on a pair of glasses with corrections that do not fit our needs.  No matter how hard we try to see it through this lens, we will not really grasp the real picture.  Until we listen not just with our ears but with our hearts as well we will miss the message that is being sent to us.
When we listen with understanding and empathy we need to check in with the person speaking to be sure that we are grasping the message correctly.  We can do that by saying, “So what I’m hearing you say…” or asking a clarifying question or requesting more information.  When we share our understanding of what was said we give the speaker the opportunity to clarify further.  Our language is so loaded with nuance and experiential understandings, that this clarification will often broaden our perceptions as well as deepen our understanding of others.

At Consult 4 Kids we want all youth workers to be positive role models and mentors for the youth they work with.  We have a comprehensive Staff Development Program that supports the progress of both frontline staff and site coordinators.  Check out our revamped website at www.consultfourkids.com

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Habits of the Mind—Managing Impulsivity

There is a big difference to my way of thinking between impulsivity and the phrase “carpe diem” credited to Horace in 23 BC.  This phrase, “carpe diem”, translates into “seize the day”.  In the film, Dead Poet’s Society, the professor John Keating encourages, “Seize the day, boys.  Make your life extraordinary.”  The notion of impulsivity on the other hand speaks to acting out of whim—with little or no forethought.  While “seize the day” is proactive, impulsivity is reactive and learning to live in a proactive state helps all of use accomplish our goals.
We often tell people when they are angry to “Stop.  Count to 10”.  This is good advice in helping us to learn to manage our impulsivity.  If we would just “stop” and consider we would be in better shape.  When we “act in haste” we often are required to “repent in leisure”.  For example, have you noticed how when you start to look for a new car it is easy to pick the car that attracts you only to find out after we’ve signed on the dotted line that we didn’t get the best deal or, even more distressing, picked the wrong car altogether.  It is so easy to feel that sense of urgency to act that we do not manage our impulsivity and regret the action almost immediately.
When you think about the decision we make, we tend to make those decisions based on emotions (which can certainly lead us to being impulsive) and then begin to rationalize that decision based on logic.  When we do this we are not managing impulsivity we are simply justifying it.  Learning to step back and consider will allow us and youth to be happier with our decisions.

Building relationships with others is one place we need to apply managing our impulsivity.  Getting to know a person well takes time.  Learn strategies for building strong relationships through Consult 4 Kids Virtual Education.  Check us out by logging into www.consultfourkids.com and beginning your journey by clicking on the icon on the top right-hand corner of the website.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Habits of the Mind—Persistence

Persistence is one of those habits that we need to help young people develop.  Persistence is labeled as resiliency in Youth Development circles.  Persistence is the ability to keep on, keeping on.  It is important that this persistence is proactive and that the situations youth find themselves in are analyzed to determine which “next steps” make the most sense. 
We can share stories with youth to help them understand the idea of persistence.  Two that come to mind include the Tortoise and the Hare and The Little Engine That Could.  In both of these stories the notion of “slow and steady wins the race” and “go slow to go fast” ultimately carry the day.  It is important that youth understand this concept.  There are other expressions that also speak to persistence.  “No pain, no gain” is one of those and can certainly speak to youth who are interested in sports.  Think about the Olympic athletes who train for years in order to get to the Olympics, and certainly getting to Olympics is only a part of the strategy they will have to employee to be successful.  An expression that speaks to both persistence and the importance of collaboration is “many hands make hard work light”.  Helping youth to understand that persistence does not have to be a singular pursuit, can also make persisting more appealing. 
The final thought about persistence is captured in this phrase, “from adversity—steel”.  Persistence requires us to work hard, to face adversity and tough times, and move forward anyway.  Persistence helps to build the character of the individual—without it, we would not be nearly so fortunate.

Consult 4 Kids encourages you to share your story of persistence with us.  We would love to highlight you through our Guest Spotlight.  Send your story along with a picture to support@consultfourkids.com

Friday, February 28, 2014

Thinking and Communicating with Clarity and Precision

Lack of communication is one of the biggest complaints we have both personally and professionally.  Individuals, small enterprises and large businesses all face challenges with communication.  Part of this is because communication is hard work and is so much more than simply speaking or writing something for others to hear or read.

When we want to communicate clearly and precisely, it is important that we understand the Cycle of Communication.  You can see this cycle in the graphic below.
Communication begins when we have the need to share something, a feeling that we have something that others need to know.  We then work to translate that desire to share or “feeling” into words so we bring it to our brain to process.  Our brain puts words to those feelings and then our mouth speaks the words.  Most of us think that the words then go to another person’s ears, but rather those words go into a milieu of circumstances that we have little or no control over.  Actually once communication has left our mouth we have limited control over it.  Our communication leaves the pool of circumstances and then goes to another person’s ears which send them to the brain who translates them into a “feeling.”  No wonder communication is so difficult.  There are so many places for the communication to get twisted or lose meaning.

If we are to communicate with clarity and precision it is important to follow-up our communication with conversation and checking for understanding.  The question for us needs to be, “Is the message I meant to send the one they received and processed?”  It’s not about putting a spin on our communication, but really being sure the message was correctly received.

Consult 4 Kids has several staff development and training options that are available to staff 24/7/365.  This system affords you an opportunity to establish common language and understanding which creates a solid foundation for clear communication.  Check us out at www.consultfourkids.com or by contacting us at support@consultfourkids.com

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations

What would our lives be like if we, like Drew Barrymore in 50 First Dates, had to begin all over every day?  Can you imagine how many blisters you would have if you had to learn about the concept of “hot” every 24 hours?  And how would we know how to read, speak, write, cook or anything else?  Of course it was not that extreme for the Barrymore character, she had only just become frozen in time and from a single point could not remember anything that had occurred in the past 24 hours.  Even that condition would be severely limiting.  The ability to make connections is critical for each and every one of us. 
Helping youth to make those connections between the most current experience and something they have already learned or experienced is what allows us to progress, to think critically, and to be innovating and imagining.  When we apply past knowledge to a new situation it helps us to experience things more fully.  Whether it is something as simple as learning that a new shirt can go with a variety of shorts in our closet, or that Newton’s first Law explains how shooting a basketball can consistently end in 2 points, those connection points matter.Learning to predict outcomes helps life run more smoothly.

Consult 4 Kids has an amazing and comprehensive staff development program that helps afterschool professionals make the connections between how they interact with youth and the behaviors youth exhibit.  For more information go to our website at www.consultfourkids.com or contact us at support@consultfourkids.com  

Monday, February 24, 2014

Gather Data through All Your Senses

We use our senses—sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell—to experience the world.  These senses are what grounds us and allows us to observe and understand the world around us.  In our world today we rely heavily on sight and sound, yet the other three senses can add depth to our understanding.  Think about someone like Helen Keller who was denied both sight and hearing at a very early age and so experienced the world through touch, smell, and taste.  She learned to speak through words signed in her hand and in that way was able to participate in experiences which helped her learn.  When we use our senses we have firsthand knowledge of something rather than only vicarious opportunities to learn. 

Our senses help us to gather data—not right or wrong data simply data that we then classify in different ways.  For example I might describe the taste of calamari as yucky or chewy while someone else might describe it as delicious and spicy.  The data we collect through our senses connect us with past experience, and we connect with others when we try to share or communicate the information we have gathered with them. 

So how do we support youth in using their senses?  We certainly ask them about things they have seen and heard—this seems relatively effortless.  The third thing we ask is how something “feels,” although this usually refers to an emotion rather than a tactile experience.  We help youth to focus on smell and taste far less often.  When we guide youth in experiencing the world with wonderment and awe, maybe part of that experience is asking how things smell and taste.  Recently I was at a building that experienced a gas leak.  The people talked about the taste the gas left them with.  This is interesting and of course relevant since you couldn’t see, hear or touch the gas, and so they experienced it with taste. 

We need to help youth strengthen the use of all of their senses so they can fully experience the world around them and make observations that help them make connections. 


Do you need support with staff so they can help youth experience the world fully?  At Consult 4 Kids our first Sci-Gineering module focuses on using your senses to observe and then make those connections to prior knowledge.  Check out Sci-Gineering by going to our website at www.consultfourkids.com or contacting us at support@consultfourkids.com

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Creating, Imagining, and Innovating

Creating, imagining, and innovating are supported when we foster divergent thinking.  Divergent thinking is the ability to think “outside the box.”  It means that we value it when youth think for themselves instead of operating on the “lemming principle.”  There is a movie that came out in the 1989, Dead Poet’s Society.  In this movie the teacher encourages youth to seize the day.  In one scene the students are moving around with the exception of one who is standing very still.  The character states, “I’m exercising the right not to walk.”  In other words, he was exercising divergent thinking.  This is something we need to encourage.  Rather than the conformity mentality—everyone doing the same thing at the same time in the same way, let’s ask youth to create, imagine, and innovate.  Let’s ask questions like, “What are 15 things you could do with a brick?” or “What are 20 things you could make out of Legos other than a simple building?” or “What could you design and create with a 3 D printer?” or “How can hydroponics be a viable option for food production?” 

There are people out there asking and answering these questions.  They are people who don’t just see things like they are but ask, “How might this be different or better?”  We need to encourage youth to think in this way and ask those questions.  Our young people are facing a world that is yet to be invented and will change countless times during their adult lives.  Change is a fact of life. So let’s help youth learn to do something amazing with the intellect and imagination they have. 

Divergent thinkers see possibilities and opportunities.  They have a mindset that asks.”What’s going on here?” and “How can we make it better?”  They look to find a number of solutions to the challenges they encounter.  They imagine a time when this would work perfectly. They seldom think of things as one and done.  Ask yourself where would the auto industry be if Henry Ford’s Model T was still the only auto you could buy?  Or how informed would we be if you could still only get one channel on your TV, and that one was only live from 6:00-8:00 at night?  Or…you fill in the blanks.  Divergent thinking broadens horizons and helps us all to see the world differently.

Check us out at www.consultfourkids.com and see how you may participate in a growing company in ways you have never considered.  

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Responding with Wonderment and Awe

When did you experience your most recent “WOW” moment?  You know, when you were absolutely blown away by what was happening.  In fact, you were so pleasantly surprised it nearly took your breath away.  I can tell you when it was for me.  During the winter school break I was flicking through the channels—looking for something to watch that would be relaxing rather than stimulating.  I tuned in to the Irvine School District channel and began to watch the broadcast of its vocal and instrumental music concerts.  I can truly say I was AMAZED.  I’ve worked with youth in choruses before, but never was I able to help elementary-age youth sing in 5 part harmony.  Nor did we participate with an orchestra of peers.  The musicianship of those young people, elementary through high school was indeed impressive.  I’ve watched the show several times—and each time I feel the same way.  It reminds me of the way I felt at the end of Mr. Holland’s Opus when his past and present students unite to play his symphony.  WOW!

Young people need to understand that not only are they amazing, but they live in amazing times.  A hundred years ago no one would have thought it possible for men to walk on the moon, or to communicate almost instantly with others around the world through something called a “web,” and certainly we wouldn’t have thought that Los Angeles would have become a sprawling city.  The list goes on and on.  Have we even considered the difference between a record, a CD, and downloading from iTunes and saving music to the cloud!

We need to see the miracle of life and transformation, and we need to help youth see it as well.  Whether a caterpillar is turning into a butterfly, a tadpole into a frog, or a child transforming into an absolutely amazing adult, let’s stop, take a breath, and celebrate the world and its wonders.  This attitude of wonderment and awe can only serve to prepare us for a brighter future filled with learning and opportunities. 

On our Consult 4 Kids website each month we spotlight youth and the amazing things they think and do.  Check us out at www.consultfourkids.com and click on Student Chatter.