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April 11, 2019

When family members join the band, student learning rocks. Y4Y’s updated Family Engagement course can help you plan a variety of high-interest, high-impact activities that families will look forward to doing — whether at home with their child, at your program site or in some other location in the community.

If you’re thinking about taking the course, but have limited time, or aren’t sure where to start, here are some ideas:

  • Want to sample the topic with a high-level overview? Check out chapter 1 in the Introduction section. This chapter describes the benefits and importance of family engagement, and how it aligns with 21st CCLC program goals. 
  • Would you like a playlist that describes all the steps for planning to implement a family engagement plan? Download the Y4Y Family Engagement Implementation Planning Checklist
  • Are you the “band leader,” the one responsible for leading professional learning at your program or site? Explore the Coaching My Staff section to get tips, tools and ready-to-use presentations.
  • Want to preview or sample all the components? Start here for links to the Introduction, Implementation Strategies and Coaching My Staff sections, as well as course tools. There’s also a Learn More Library with links to selected external videos, publications, web-based resources, and lesson plans and activities.

When you fit it into your schedule, you’ll find that Y4Y’s Family Engagement course helps you tune up your practice, get everyone on the same page and amp up the learning!

 



April 11, 2019

Did you know the last full week of each April is Afterschool Professionals Appreciation Week? Of course, it’s never too early or too late to recognize 21st CCLC staff members for their efforts and contributions. There are all kinds of creative ways to say “You rock!” Use these tips to boost energy, confidence and morale year-round.

Be specific. It’s good to hear “Thanks for all you do.” It’s even better to hear “I’m so glad you agreed to mentor our newest staff member. Alyson has really grown professionally in the three months since she joined us, and she told me she’s very grateful for your support. You have a knack for encouraging people to grow.”

Take notice when staff members…

  • Learn a new skill.
  • Offer a new idea.
  • Solve a problem.
  • Do something for the first time.
  • Do something well, and consistently, over time.
  • Make a positive difference for a colleague, student, family or the community.

Whether you recognize someone in public or in private, verbally or in writing, use stories and examples. This shows you were paying attention, and it signals that their actions were memorable and noteworthy.

Find creative ways to say “thank you.”

  • Feature staff members’ good work in a newsletter, newspaper, website, blog, bulletin board or another public place.
  • Spotlight their contributions at a staff meeting or program event.
  • Treat the team to breakfast.
  • Surprise them (e.g., with an act of service, a treat or words of affirmation).
  • Provide an opportunity (e.g., to try something new, or to learn something new).
  • Share the mic (e.g., provide a forum for staff to hear directly from students, families, colleagues and others).  

Acknowledge individual and team accomplishments. Did a staff member earn a professional certificate, or wow the local school board with a presentation about your program? Recognize these accomplishments at your next staff meeting! Teamwork is equally important. When staff members team with colleagues, families, partners, school-day teachers or community members, cheer for their success, and acknowledge what they accomplish.

Don’t wait! Year-end awards are great, but people need encouragement along the way.

When you catch someone doing good work, let them know right away. As Leslie coaches students in slapstick comedy, or as Jim lets his students teach him some dance moves, maybe you can snap a photo and send it in a text message: “Those kids are having a great time, thanks to you!” Hint: Action shots are also great for bulletin boards and newsletters, which are ways to provide public recognition.

 



April 11, 2019

It seems obvious: When everyone who works together feels good about what they’re doing, more gets done. Whether the task is to cook a family meal, manage client investments, repair a car or help students master new skills, positive culture and climate support engagement and productivity. If you’ve ever worked in a toxic environment, where negativity is high and trust is low, you know that can interfere with achieving goals.
 
Culture doesn’t need to be planned; it develops naturally among a group of people who regularly spend time together. However, intentionally considering culture and climate can ensure positivity. The new Y4Y Click & Go — Building a Positive Organizational Culture and Climate — introduces research-based ideas and strategies to help you and your colleagues reflect on program culture and climate, then act to keep the beat strong and positive. 
 
Here are some quick culture and climate factoids:
  • Some researchers liken an organization’s culture to its personality, and its climate to its attitude. Note that changing one won’t necessarily change the other.
  • It’s important to work as a group to define common values and goals. Be sure to include staff, students and family members when you do this.
  • Capture your values and goals in mission, vision, culture and climate statements. Then, reflect on what the actions and behaviors should be if you live the values and goals.
OK, now you’re starting to get the idea! The Click & Go’s bite-sized podcasts and mini-lesson are seven to 15 minutes long, just right to have with a meal, while you exercise or during your commute. Go here to get a taste right now.

 



March 21, 2019

People who are nervous about medical appointments can have higher blood pressure readings at their doctor’s office than at home. It’s so common that there’s a name for it: white coat syndrome. Likewise, some students feel stress at school whenever they take a test, and it can affect their test results. If you Google “test anxiety,” you’ll find it’s a common experience.

That means even if students have studied hard and know the material, their anxiety might keep them from doing their best when test time rolls around. The good news is, there are things you can do to help students manage their anxiety.

A recent study reported in ScienceNews showed that using simple stress-reduction strategies can improve student performance, especially for low-income students. In the study, the failure rate among 1,175 low-income students taking biology at a large public high school was cut in half after teachers prompted students to use one of three strategies before each biology exam:

  • Take a few minutes before the exam to write about your fears.
  • Read an explanation of how stress responses like sweaty palms or a quickened pulse are nature’s way of helping you focus.
  • Do a combination of the first two strategies.

All three strategies worked equally well, and each worked better than simply ignoring the anxiety. (In the study, that’s what the control group did, and their test results didn’t improve.) Researchers noted that higher-income students didn’t seem to benefit from the stress-reduction strategies, possibly because they were already using strategies to regulate their emotions.

As spring testing approaches, it’s a good time to talk with your students’ teachers about the testing schedule and possible ways to reduce test anxiety. Learning to regulate emotions is a skill students can use at school and in other settings. After all, life is full of tests!

Find additional ideas for reducing stress to improve student learning and performance in Raise Joy, Lower Stress, a post by Y4Y guest blogger Phillip A. Collazo. 

 



March 21, 2019

Designing activities that engage families and address their needs can improve your program’s performance. As you plan activities, be sure to look at your family needs assessment. If you haven’t checked needs recently, the Y4Y Family Engagement Survey can get you started. Find it and many other resources in the updated Family Engagement course.

Here are five activity types that can add horsepower to your program’s family engagement engine:

Skill-based activities: These activities help adult family members gain new knowledge and skills, serve as good role models, and support and nurture their children. Topics can include GED preparation, English as a second language, nutrition and healthy living, and understanding the school system. For some topics, you might want to partner with the school, the district or local agencies.

Enrichment activities: Engaging in enjoyable activities can help family members strengthen connections to program and school staff, build friendships with community members, and explore and expand their interests. Topics might include arts, crafts, exercise (such as Zumba or yoga) and attending cultural and sporting events.

Family and student shared activities: These activities pull family members into student learning while introducing ways they can support their children. Topics can include activities with a high fun factor, such as educational games, and future-focused activities like college and career planning.

Leadership activities: Family members can become “learning mechanics” for your program when you engage them in roles that involve making decisions, taking leadership or mentoring peers. When family members serve on your program planning team, lead special events or advocate for your program in the community, they take ownership and feel valued.

Resource-linking activities: You provide important support for families when you make them aware of community resources. Consider working with partners to design events that introduce employment services, food banks, literacy support and more. Your program might host a vision or dental health screening, or create a resource table where families can take discount coupons and information when they pick up their children. For more, see this Training to Go on Connecting Families to Resources.

Remember to communicate! The best family engagement events are the ones family members attend. So, make sure everyone knows what’s coming. You can send notices home with students, of course, but also use other ways to communicate. For tips on using social media, see our recent Y4Y post: Social Media: Where to Begin.