November 23, 2022

The Red Apple of Yesteryear

In the days of yore, children skipped hand-in-hand to the one-room schoolhouse, sometimes towing logs if it was their turn to start the fire that morning. Younger and older students sat together while the only teacher in the building led the lesson, complete with a red apple on her desk. While the American education system has gone through quite the metamorphosis since then, the heart of it still beats strong, and that’s definitely something to celebrate! American Education Week is the week before Thanksgiving — this year, it takes place Nov. 14‑18. This is the perfect time of year to recognize the progress that’s been made in public schools throughout the country and the people who’ve made it possible. Y4Y tools for supporting English learners, including students with disabilities, and aligning with the school day can help you continue the great American tradition of expanding access to quality education for all!

Queuing “Celebration” by Kool & the Gang

Thankfully, there are many ways to get your students celebrating American Education Week, whether you do it now or later in the year. Each day is themed:

  • Kickoff Day on Monday allows students to study the history of the holiday. Take this opportunity to have a conversation with students about why they’re thankful for their education. A poem or short essay would be a great way to exercise their creative writing skills!
  • Tuesday’s Family Day theme is the perfect time to welcome families into your out-of-school time environment. What are some of their education memories? What subject(s) interested them, and did that influence their current careers? Your students can host a discussion circle with a Q&A session.
  • Education Support Professionals (ESP) Day on Wednesday is all about honoring the professionals who make the school day — and quality out-of-school time — possible. Bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria workers, clerical workers, health providers, librarians, and technical experts are integral to a child’s overall education, and ESP Day allows their valuable work to be recognized by the students they serve. Encourage your students to write a thank-you letter to an ESP who’s impacted their lives.
  • Thursday’s Educator for a Day is geared toward immersing students and business and community leaders in the decisions and responsibilities that educators face each day. Community members may act as “educator assistants” or join a video call to educate students by giving a presentation about their career or teaching a skill they use on the job. Another idea: Ask students to “dress the part” for their desired career and act as an educator about what the career entails.
  • The week closes on Friday with Substitute Educators Day, which shines a light on the significant role that substitute teachers play throughout the school year. In the wake of a substitute teacher shortage, it’s more crucial than ever to recognize that the school day would be impossible without their work. A handwritten note and/or drawing from your students addressed to substitutes would go a long way in appreciating their hard work!

This Is Where We Come In!

The purpose for celebrating American Education Week is to spotlight teaching and learning. Your out-of-school time program can bring students into the celebration and nurture an “attitude of gratitude.” Expressions of gratitude benefit both givers and receivers. Warm some hearts this season!

 


November 17, 2022

Inviting key stakeholders to your 21st CCLC program team helps you include diverse people and perspectives as you make important decisions about how to serve children and families. There’s another benefit as well: Having a strong team of advisors reduces stress at work by providing access to fresh ideas, expertise, and resources so you can reach your goals. Not sure how to build a strong team? Y4Y’s new Quality Program Quickstarter (QPQ) module, Building a Program Team, covers the basics, like identifying and recruiting the right team members, managing communications, and working together effectively. When people with a purpose unite to make a difference, energy goes up, stress levels go down, and the future looks brighter than ever!

Superheroes, Assemble!

This brand-new QPQ explains that having the right program team can help ensure that your program’s values are realized. It’s important to decide what focus or initiatives will be at the forefront of your program and what school-day staff (and other partners) can help. For example, if your program wants to improve family engagement, it makes sense to include one or two family members as well as community members who understand families’ needs and interests. The best way to master something is to practice it, so this QPQ has plenty of opportunities to practice various scenarios, double-check your knowledge, and test your understanding. There are ideas in this QPQ for various initiatives and stakeholders who can support each one, so take your pick!

The Perfect Match

Once you identify your program team, the next step is to assign roles to make your team as effective as possible. Think about it: You carefully selected a team of experts and advisors to make your program plans happen. The last thing you want to do is leave ’em hanging. They know their stuff, so take advantage of this by assigning roles that honor their experience and expertise and engage them in the decision-making process. (By the way, this is a good approach to use with your program staff as well!)

The Buy-In

It can be difficult to attract stakeholders, especially school-day leaders, who already have multiple commitments. However, there are ways to communicate to school-day leaders that you value their time and expertise, and that you believe their participation is integral to the success of your program — and students. The Building a Program Team QPQ will give you the skills to efficiently communicate your needs to your potential partners.

Once you have your team, keeping them effectively engaged will require some planning. You’ll get an in-depth look at how to prepare and host meetings, maintain ongoing interaction, and develop task timelines to minimize chaos and maximize productivity. Additionally, there are a variety of ways to communicate with your team, such as one-on-one meetings, emails, phone calls, and group meetings. The best communications plan is the one that fits your team.

Reaping the Rewards

With the right team, you can take your program to new heights. If you assemble a team of superheroes and tap into their specialized powers, you and your students will reap the rewards: more energy and ideas, culturally sensitive practices, an enriched learning environment, and less stress. Bonus: Your students will surely take notice, too!

 


November 17, 2022

“October” and “scary” go hand-in-hand, whether you’re talking about Halloween or horror movies. One thing that doesn’t have to be scary, though? Encouraging your students to create a mental health tool kit! This tool kit can equip your students with ways to manage stress and anxiety while also reminding them of daily habits that are essential to mental as well as physical health and well-being.

It’s the Journey, Not the Destination

Mental health among children and young adults is a growing concern for parents, and it has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in five adolescents ages 12-17 have experienced a major depressive episode, and seven in 10 parents agree that the pandemic has taken a toll on their child’s mental health. It’s important to teach your students that attaining and maintaining good mental health is an ongoing process. It’s seldom a smooth road; it’s more akin to a journey with a few stop signs, roadblocks, and detours. The good news is that with the right map, the road is drivable, and the journey is achievable! What would this “map” look like in real life? Let’s explore.

Getting Introspective

Start with these guiding questions to help students focus on their thoughts and feelings:

  • Think of a time when you felt stressed or anxious.
  • How did your body respond to this feeling? Maybe your heart rate increased, your mouth or throat became dry, or your hands felt clammy.
  • Have you noticed certain events that cause you to feel this way? Perhaps it’s presenting to the class, meeting strangers, or taking an exam.

Once your students can pinpoint their feelings, symptoms, and potential triggers, it’s easier for them to handpick tools that can deescalate the situation. There are a multitude of ways to de-stress, and it can look different for everyone! Have your students try the following strategies:

  • Breathe in, breathe out: Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest. Take a deep breath in for four counts. Then exhale slowly through the nose for four counts. Pay attention only to the rise and fall of your belly and chest.
  • Music therapy: If you’re able to, listen to a song that makes you feel calm or happy. Many music streaming services have playlists specifically designed to curb anxiety.
  • Muscle relaxation: Stress and anxiety often cause pain and tension in certain muscles, so tensing and releasing those muscles can provide relief. Try squeezing the muscles in your face, shoulders, hands, legs, and toes for 10 seconds at a time and then releasing, making sure to breathe through it. The goal is to pay extra attention to how loose your muscles feel after the exercise.

Can your students think of other exercises or strategies to alleviate stress? Ask for ideas, and try them out as a group! Students can decide individually which ones belong in their personal tool kits.

Supplementation Minimizes Frustration

Along with healthy exercises that can decrease feelings of stress and anxiety, arm your students with strategies they can use in their everyday lives to keep stress at bay. Engage students in an open conversation about things they already do to lessen stress, and also discuss activities and behaviors that might not be helpful. Here are some topics you may cover:

  • Physical activity is a proven stress reliever. Need some ideas for incorporating it into your program? Y4Y’s Health and Wellness Click & Go can get the ball rolling — literally and figuratively!
  • Do your students’ parents or guardians limit screentime (maybe to the student’s dismay)? Research shows that this can actually fight off anxiety symptoms over time, making it a perfect tool for students to include in their mental health tool kits. Express to your students that, while they may not love time away from their devices, it’s important to let their minds focus on other stimulating activities.
  • Something as simple as combing your hair and brushing your teeth can be supplements in a mental health tool kit. Keeping up with your personal hygiene is a little reminder that you deserve attention and care!

I’ve Got the Power!

Let your students know that having a mental health tool kit packed with handpicked strategies that work for them is a powerful thing. It gives them the confidence and  know-how to regulate their own feelings and emotions. Model key strategies for your students. The next time you or your staff are feeling overwhelmed, doing something as simple as a breathing exercise can show your students that destressing doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s something that we can all benefit from, so why not start young?

 


November 17, 2022

The Little Laptop That Barely Could

Imagine a broken laptop. Maybe the charge doesn’t last very long. The screen is slowly dimming over time, and it glitches now and then. Sure, it might (barely) work, but if the laptop continues to be used in this condition, it will eventually stop working. What the laptop needs is a good repair. But a one-time fix will be temporary without proper care and maintenance from that point forward.

We humans aren’t machines, but we do have something in common with that little laptop: We may be able to operate if we’re tired or stressed, but it’s only a matter of time before we’re in desperate need of repair. The way to avoid this situation is to implement and maintain a healthy self-care routine.

Self-care is often confused with self-indulgence, but the truth is that taking care of yourself enables you to present the best version of yourself as you go about doing your work in the world. That’s why Y4Y’s newest Click & Go, Self-Care Matters, has tools and tips to help everyone in your program improve their well-being, work together harmoniously, and effectively serve youth.

War and (Hopefully) Peace

We get it — when your to-do list rivals a Tolstoy novel, self-care might be the last thing on your mind. But take heart: Self-care doesn’t demand hours of your time. There are strategies you can fit into your daily routine, like putting your phone in “do not disturb” mode after work hours or breathing deeply any time you feel yourself becoming frustrated or anxious. The Self-Care Matters Click & Go offers many suggestions. It also illustrates how to create an out-of-school time environment that prioritizes mindfulness for staff as well as students.

A Tale of Three Coworkers

The Click & Go includes four mini-podcasts that follow three coworkers as they embark on their journey to self-care. The podcast miniseries maps out a game plan for how to incorporate self-care into your program in ways that are both realistic and effective. The first podcast introduces the coworkers as feeling stressed and burned out — emotions that may seem familiar to you and your colleagues. At first, the three coworkers believe “self-care” is too frivolous and unattainable to integrate in their schedules, but they soon find how necessary it is. The miniseries is chock-full of practical tips and tricks. Experiment to find what works for you.

A Tool Kit Fit for Zen Royalty

What’s better than learning a few self-care tricks? Having an entire tool kit to share with your staff! The Self-Care Matters Click & Go has 10 customizable tools to help you and your staff with issues like learning healthy coping mechanisms, balancing self-care with care for others, developing healthy boundaries, and coming to terms with obstacles you simply cannot control. A staff that has the know-how to cope with stress and anxiety is one that can better support one another, stay on the job, and serve students and families. There’s a hidden bonus, too: As you and your colleagues practice, model, and teach self-care, your students become more likely to develop healthy habits of their own. Self-care isn’t selfish.