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October 24, 2018

With a new program year under way, and your activities up and running, it’s a good time to check on staff professional learning needs. If you’ve hired new staff or made big changes in activities or partnerships, ask, “What’s one thing you’d like to learn that would help you feel more comfortable or confident in your role?”

Staff needs and responses are likely to vary from one person to another. Encourage everyone to register on Y4Y and explore what’s there. Also, be ready to point to specific Y4Y resources that can help address their needs.

Meeting staff members’ individual short- and medium-range needs. If someone says, “I wish I could do more to support students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs),” you could point to Topic Guide 8 in the Y4Y series of implementation guides on inclusion. If several people say “I’d like to facilitate project-based learning more effectively,” you might suggest that they do the Y4Y Project-Based Learning course together. For staff who are new to the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program, the Y4Y Introduction to 21st CCLC course could be helpful.

Aligning your program’s professional learning plan with staff needs. Consider staff responses to the “What do you need?” question as you review your upcoming professional learning events. For example, if you’ve scheduled an in-house literacy seminar for March, but staff identify it as a pressing need in September, you might want to hold the seminar earlier than planned.

Working toward long-term staff and program goals. You can inspire and motivate staff members to think about their individual long-term professional goals. Y4Y provides professionalization resources that can help 21st CCLC staff members develop a plan to help them reach those goals. Having a more skilled and qualified staff will, in turn, help your program reach its goals.

Enrolling in an online course or pursuing a formal certification program might take some staff members out of their comfort zone. Program leaders can offer coaching, support and reassurance that professional learning is the key to greater satisfaction and success.

 



September 17, 2018

According to the Pew Research Center’s “Teens, Social Media & Technology Report 2018,” 97 percent of teens and 69 percent of adults use some form of social media. How can your program effectively harness the power of social media?

Getting Started

Before you start planning, do this:

  1. Check to see what social media policies and procedures your organization or district requires you to follow. There may be guidelines on which platforms are allowed or what process to use for getting platforms or content approved.
  2. Be clear about your purpose for using social media and how it will help you reach your goals.

Social Media Platforms

Let’s look at the most popular social media platforms and their possible uses.

Facebook is used by 68 percent of adults and 51 percent of teens ages 13 to 17. Teens from low-income families are more likely to use Facebook than those from higher-income families. It can help you connect with stakeholders and share photos, videos and messages, and engage in online discussions. You can create a public page or a private group, depending on your purpose and needs. Facebook Live videos have increased in popularity, and may be useful for broadcasting events or activities live (recordings can be posted to the program page). Take time to read the various account and privacy settings, such as the option to approve comments before they post to your page.

YouTube is used by 85 percent of teens. Posting and discussing videos can be a great way to market your program and to highlight activities and events all year. When uploading videos, consider YouTube’s three privacy options. Public means anyone can view the video, and it will appear in general search results. Private means only those you invite (up to 50 people) can view the video, and all viewers must have a YouTube account. Unlisted means only those with the video link can view it, and there are no account requirements or viewer limits. Think about what privacy level is right for your program.

Snapchat has grown exponentially, with 69 percent of teens using the app. A picture or video snap or message sent to a friend or group will disappear once viewed, while stories, pictures or videos available to all your friends will disappear after 24 hours. Some 21st CCLC programs have used the app for marketing or communicating with teens. It’s important to monitor the account closely.

Instagram allows users to post pictures or videos with captions, and viewers can comment. There is also the option to broadcast live. You can set an account to be private (must approve friends) or public. Currently, 72 percent of teens and 35 percent of adults use Instagram, which makes it a viable option for marketing and communication. Individuals must have an Instagram account to view material on this visually focused platform.

Twitter remains consistently popular with adults and teens. Tweets can consist of photos, videos or text, but text is limited to 280 characters. Hashtags (words preceded by a # sign) can be used to categorize tweets.

Many platforms work well together, so you can cross-post items to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, or share links to YouTube videos. Several free online services will automatically cross-post for you.

Safety Measures

Don’t forget these three important safety measures:

  1. Post from the program or organization account — never from your personal account.
  2. Make sure you have a signed, current media release on file for anyone mentioned by name or pictured in a photo or video.
  3. Monitor your posts as well as user posts and comments to make sure your messaging is consistent and user posts and responses are appropriate.

“See” you online!

 



September 17, 2018

Whether you’re an old hand or just had your first experience with summer programming, you know the best time to start planning for next summer is now. Here are some ideas from 21st CCLC sites that participated in the Y4Y Summer Learning Initiative and used a planning process designed to produce high-quality programming.

Market your program to build interest before summer begins.

In Kansas, a summer program for elementary school students once struggled to enroll students in what was described as a “summer school” focused on academics. Using strategies from the Summer Learning Initiative, staff decided to call the program a “summer camp” instead of summer school and created a fun “summer safari” theme. They emphasized engaging, hands-on learning experiences that build students’ academic skills. The program sent personalized invitations to the students who would benefit most from participation, and followed up with phone calls. For the summer 2018 program, they were at capacity with a waiting list, and parents were calling to ask if their child could get into the program. The program director attributed this success to the Y4Y Summer Learning Initiative’s marketing and intentional student recruitment strategies.

Offer activities that keep students engaged throughout the summer.

Incorporating student voice is essential to creating a summer program that students want to attend. A high school program in California provided a variety of opportunities for student input. For example, the site coordinator turned his office into a resource center and encouraged students to stop by to talk. The program also used student surveys. Staff members set up an outdoor canopy during lunch to conduct informal focus groups with students. The site coordinator said these efforts to incorporate student voice improved program quality.

Some programs used educational field trips that were connected to their learning goals and program themes. For example, a program in New Jersey with a theater theme took students to local performing arts centers for learning events, then had them write about their experiences in a journal. Structured experiences like this provide real-world learning opportunities that motivate student attendance and engagement.

"They don't have to be here — they want to be here." 

State Coordinator, California

Your work’s not over when summer ends.

Once your program ends, taking the time to learn from your successes and struggles can help you make improvements the next time around. Summer Learning Initiative participants created continuous improvement plans that included performance measures and measurement tools. They assigned staff, targeted groups for assessment, and set time frames to help them determine if they met their goals. Comparing actual outcomes to intended outcomes will help you understand the effectiveness of your program. Analyzing data and discussing lessons learned can help you make adjustments that will lead to greater satisfaction and success for staff and students.

For example, a program for high school students in Oregon struggled with student attendance — until staff members decided to incorporate more student voice and offered engaging science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) activities that matched student interests. A program in Kansas learned that many students were struggling during the school year, so the staff tried a new approach for the summer, using project-based learning to target specific skills and content. Students and teachers alike enjoyed the hands-on activities, and the program director reported increases in staff capacity.

"This helps them see different ways to teach. It's making them better teachers."

Project Director, Kansas

Summer Learning Initiative resources are free and available on Y4Y.

Even if you’ve never helped plan a summer learning program, you don’t have to start from scratch! Visit the Y4Y Summer Learning Initiative webpage to watch short videos of Initiative participants and download the tools they used on. You can learn more about the steps for planning and implementing high-quality summer learning experiences by exploring the resources on that page and ones in the Y4Y Summer Learning course.

 



September 17, 2018

Projects and activities that engage and interest students can go a long way toward reducing behavioral problems in your 21st CCLC program. A strategic behavior management plan, however, can target problem areas and help your staff and students stay focused and productive. Your plan doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it should be targeted. Here are three information sources you can use as starting points:   

Behavior reports from the school. What trends do you see that need to be addressed? How might your program work with school-day staff, families and students to better understand these trends? Does the school use Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) or some other system to address these problems? What strategies might be appropriate for addressing behavioral issues and trends in a 21st CCLC setting? These are questions you can explore alongside school-day staff.

Observational data from your program staff. What behavioral issues has your program identified through formal or informal observations? What additional information or training does your staff need to understand the underlying issues? What strategies can you use to address these issues? For example, if problem behaviors are most likely to occur during certain activities or routines, are there changes you could make to reduce the likelihood of recurrence? 

IEPs and Section 504 plans. If a student in your program has one of these plans, discuss the plan with the school’s special education teacher(s) to make sure you know about any behavioral goals and strategies that are written into these plans. Identify specific ways your program can support these goals and strategies. 

You can use this information to identify and prioritize behavioral goals and strategies to implement in your program. For example, if you decide bullying is a significant problem, you might start by asking staff to read our Y4Y blog post on preventing bullying. Follow up with a meeting to discuss the resources and strategies mentioned in the post. Agree on specific steps for immediate intervention and long-term prevention. (The Y4Y Incorporating Multiple Viewpoints Checklist can help your staff consider practices that support a safe, respectful and inclusive environment.) Write down your goal and what steps you’ll take, and check in with staff regularly to assess progress and adjust your approach as needed.

Whatever your goal, the key is to keep it simple and be strategic. You can’t prevent or “fix” every problem behavior, but you can make a positive difference if you have a goal, a plan and the commitment to follow through.

 



August 21, 2018

The start of the program year always brings a mad scramble to get staff. You know you need the right number of people and the right qualifications to be successful. But what does “right” mean? You may be tempted to hire anyone who is interested, so you have enough adults for the number of students you plan to serve. However, many program directors would advise you to take time to be selective. If you truly get the right people, you will have a higher quality of programming and fewer turnover issues.

Define the Job and the Qualifications

Do you have job descriptions for every position in your program? If not, don’t worry; job descriptions don’t have to be long and complicated. Sit down with your planning team and discuss what you need for each role you want to fill. If you need an algebra tutor, your ideal candidate would most likely be a math teacher. For a gardening class, teacher certification is not vital; this person needs to know how to connect with young people and grow plants. Be sure to describe any work outside of the actual program. For example, does the position require creating lesson plans? Be very clear about the schedule and time commitment. Explain how long each class or program day is, how many days per week are needed, and how many weeks the commitment will last. If all staff are required to attend weekly staff meetings, spell that out. Being clear and specific in your description makes it more likely you will find the right person.

Look Beyond the School for Candidates

When you have defined qualifications, think outside the box about where to look for staff. If the math teachers in your school are not interested in algebra tutoring, think about other teachers. Is there a science or special education teacher with experience teaching algebra? Because your position is different from what they do all day, they might enjoy the change. A retired math teacher would know the content and how to work with students, and might enjoy a fun, part-time connection with youth. For a gardening position, ask around the school for avid gardeners, check with families about their gardening skills, or talk to a local Extension agent. The math teacher who turned down the algebra tutoring might love to lead a gardening club. Explore hobbies and other interests to discover new ways school staff can engage with students. High school and college students are other great resources. While not all students can create lesson plans, many can implement existing curriculum and bring fresh excitement and energy to activities. An education or math major might be a great fit for that algebra position.

Consider Motivation and Engagement Style

You want your staff to have skills that match your needs but you don’t want the extra money they will make to be their sole motivation. You want people who are excited to engage with your students and will contribute to a positive program culture. To get a feel for fit, many programs use scenario-based interviewing. Ask an applicant how they would respond to situations that occur in an out-of-school time setting. You might ask about managing behavior, engaging with families, or teaching a specific topic. Think about your program values and how you want staff to engage with students. If the program emphasizes project-based learning, ask the candidate to describe how they would design a project. Some programs will have an applicant volunteer for a day or two to see how they interact with students and other staff, or will observe them during a school-day position.

While being intentional with your staff recruitment takes some time, you will be rewarded with great staff who provide high-quality learning experiences, engage positively with your youth, and are committed to your program. To learn more about intentional staff recruitment, check out the Y4Y course on Managing Your 21st CCLC Program. The course tools include a Sample Human Resources Packet that contains sample job descriptions, interview question examples, ideas about recruiting staff and much more!