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 firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (661) 322-4347.