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October 21, 2021

Did you know that recent research suggests the best teams are made up of both optimists and pessimists? Are you strategic in placing students together for team projects? Using tools in Y4Y’s STEAM and Project-Based Learning courses, and a strengths-based approach, consider how you can be intentional in your team building for the best creative outcomes, and how these lessons can also inform staffing.

Let’s start by identifying the strengths of both optimists and pessimists.

What can “optimists” bring to the table?

  • Broader acceptance of information
  • Flexible thinking
  • Enthusiasm
  • Relationship building
  • Strategies for dealing with unnecessary negativity
  • Energy
  • A strength-based lens

What can “pessimists” bring to the table?

  • Persistent pursuit of details
  • Critical thinking
  • Caution and planning
  • Realism
  • Strategies for dealing with disappointment
  • Delight over small victories (even if it’s because they’re unexpected)
  • Stress management

If you’re a frontline worker or site coordinator, you might be thinking about students in each of these categories. If you’re a program director (and again, site coordinator), you might be thinking about staff. To begin with, don’t worry that you might have labeled someone in your head as a pessimist. Instead, celebrate the strengths of that person, like the ones listed above, and keep those strengths in mind as you’re team building.

Building Those Teams

The research cited above says that when you group only optimists together, you might get amazing, big ideas, with very little thought as to how those ideas might carry challenges. Even if some of your optimists envision challenges, they may not voice them in an effort to always be positive and supportive of their team. By the same token, a team made of up of only pessimists can stifle each other. They may be less likely to have big, imaginative ideas to begin with, but even when or if they have them, they’ll be less confident about voicing them, for fear that their fellow pessimists will only poke holes in them. This is the basis for the theory that with some big-thinking optimists, balanced with some challenge-minded pessimists, the best outcomes can result.

Depending on how deep you are in recovery mode, ambitious design thinking STEAM projects or months-long civic problem-based undertakings might not be on your radar. But that doesn’t mean you’re not finding ways to group students for cooperative activities in your catch-up efforts. Today and going forward, you can think about how to group students (and staff) to allow for the most balanced groups (or teams) and the best outcomes. Grab tips from Y4Y’s

  • Ice Breaker Activities list to better understand each student or staff member’s perspective on the world. A rousing game of “this or that” could do it!
  • Selecting Student Roles for Group Work tool to reflect on how different personalities work best in different roles that need fulfilling. Brainstorm about what those roles might be for any given project or activity, and adapt this tool accordingly.
  • Team-Building Activities list for ideas on how you can use a low-stakes environment to help a new grouping of students or staff find their collective rhythm.
  • Group Discussion Guidelines to ensure that these conflicting approaches keep conversations respectful.
  • Working With Groups Training Starter to train staff on navigating group dynamics.

Opposites attract. Yin and Yang. The good with the bad. Offense and defense. Language is rich with expressions that illustrate exactly what these researchers have discovered: We shouldn’t isolate ourselves from people who think differently from us if we’re to ensure balance and best outcomes. What a great message to send young people during an era of great division. After all, there is no “I” in TEAM.



September 12, 2021

The country’s collective consciousness and conscience are waking up to inequity. Institutions are eager to address this societal albatross, and there are many very different ideas on how to do it. Resources such as Street Data: A Next-Generation Model for Equity, Pedagogy, and School Transformation by Shane Safir and Jamila Dugan ask educators to shift thinking from deficit-mindedness to asset-mindedness. “Street data is the qualitative and experiential data that emerges at eye level and on lower frequencies when we train our brains to discern it. Street data is asset based, building on the tenets of culturally responsive education by helping educators look for what’s right in our students, schools, and communities instead of seeking out what’s wrong.” While your 21st CCLC program will continue to require evidence-based intervention methods, how can you begin to shape the culture and implementation in your program around student strengths rather than perceived deficits?

Authors Safir and Dugan, who were featured at the 2021 Summer Symposium, offer guiding principles and core stances for each chapter of their groundbreaking book. These are crosswalked below to Y4Y resources that can help your program shift its framework to an asset-minded approach that promotes equity.

Why Street Data, Why Now?

Guiding Principle 1: Reimagine our ways of knowing and learning. Core Stance: Holism.

How can your program give value to learning that’s emotional, spiritual, and physical as well as that which is cognitive?

  • Know the five skill domains of social and emotional learning.
  • Principles of inclusion reach beyond disabilities. Gather a full team and build an inclusive team by roles so your program can see every student for their strengths, like leadership, teamwork and clear communication.
  • Tools available in Y4Y’s Career Pathways for Students course already put you in the mindset of focusing on each individual’s strengths. Asset-based thinking takes this principle a step further and recognizes that different subcultures in your community might practice different and exciting ways of knowing and learning. 

Guiding Principle 2: See the barriers; imagine what’s possible. Core Stance: Awareness.

Is equity just one more new initiative, or is your program committed to a culture shift?

  • Your culture and climate language must reflect your commitment. Consult the implementation strategies section of Y4Y’s course on creating a positive learning environment.
  • Only with strong community champions that share your values can you make progress toward equity.
  • Team building is one more way to stress that your program is a community that values all its members.

Choose the Margins

Guiding Principle 3: Center voices from the margins. Core Stance: Antiracism.

Are the loudest voices that are front and center the only ones that are heard in your program?

Guiding Principle 4: Seek root causes over quick fixes. Core Stance: Deep Listening.

How is your program working to fully understand its students?

Deepen the Learning

Guiding Principle 5: Equity work is first and foremost pedagogical. Core Stance: Agency.

Does your program place resilience at the center of perceived success?

Guiding Principle 6: Less is more; focus is everything. Core Stance: Coherence.

Progress cannot be made in the silo of your program. How can you reach to partners to bring them along on this journey?

  • Review the introduction section of Y4Y’s course on continuous education to develop strategies for approaching your school-day partners. Aligning your efforts to foster asset-based thinking with hopes of affecting pedagogy is key.
  • Adapt the Y4Y tool to establish professional learning communities and bring all your stakeholders together from around the community to reflect on your different views of data collection.
  • Families are your strongest partner in advocating for equity. Understanding and overcoming challenges to family engagement are important first steps.

Guiding Principle 7: Mobilize a pedagogy of voice for educators. Core Stance: Symmetry.

Have you empowered your staff, many of whom were perhaps chosen for their familiarity with the community, to act on their best impulses for supporting equity?

Transform the Culture

Guiding Principle 8: Break the cycle of shame. Cores Stance: Vulnerability.

Do you strive so relentlessly for perfection in the delivery of your programming that you don’t take the risks that can lead to imperfect progress?

  • A theme we can borrow from STEAM/design thinking is undoing right-answer thinking; it’s better to try and falter, learn from that experience and try again.
  • Another Y4Y Voices From the Field guest, Marcy Richards, focuses on the “can-do’s” and not the “can’t-do’s” in her approach to equity, diversity and English learners.
  • Virtual learning in 2020 and 2021 was a stark lesson in just how quickly and effectively 21st CCLC programming can pivot. Nobody said “effortlessly.” Nobody said “easily.” And certainly, nobody said “perfectly.” But take those lessons, just as California practitioners featured in Y4Y’s March webinar series, Literacy Done Virtually, did, and consider what kind of shifts toward equity can be put into place immediately and program-wide. There may be bumps in the road, and it’s OK to be OK with that.

Guiding Principle 9: Every moment is an equity moment. Cores Stance: Warm Demander.

As the authors note, “Rather than call people out, warm demanders call folks in and up to the work of equity.” Is your program committed to a universal approach to challenging your full staff, partners and community to embrace equity?

  • By definition, 21st CCLC programs are a place where diversity is understood. You already fight for the students in the margins. Consult the Diagram of Philosophy and Practices Within 21st CCLC to guide everything you do.
  • Use the Knowing Families and Cultures tool to develop strategies for familiarizing staff and partners with the unique qualities and strengths of the families you serve.
  • Become a warm demander by creating a program elevator speech. Craft your language not around calling people out, but around calling partners in and up to the work of equity. Most important, get comfortable talking about equity with a tone of gentle insistence.

As you balance your formal and informal data collection activities with an eye toward equity and improvement, consider the book’s closing message:

“Listen deeply. Trust the people. Act on what you learn. With that invocation, I invite you to walk forward on your street data journey with clear eyes and a full heart, knowing that the biggest mistake we can make is to cling to the status quo. Be brave, be bold, be visionary. We’ve got this.”



July 19, 2021

There are many moving parts to your program. Here are some quick and easy ways to support your staff and keep a light but steady grip on your program and its success.

Your Best Resources Are Your Human Resources

The term “human resources” is so common that we don’t often stop to think about the meaning. If your program isn’t doing everything in its power to invest in staff, it’s guaranteed that you’re not getting the most you can out of your greatest asset. There are many ways you can invest in staff. Here are just a few:

  • Provide direct benefits. Many programs are revisiting their funding, budget and payroll structures with added funds from the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ARP ESSER III). Passing some of that funding on to staff directly demonstrates that their nose-to-the-grindstone grit and perseverance throughout the pandemic hasn’t gone unnoticed or unappreciated.
  • Support professional development. Making full use of free resources like Y4Y’s dozens of Trainings to Go and online courses means offering staff paid time to hone their knowledge and skills. Increased personal investment in your program and improved job performance are sure to result.
  • Create opportunities to recharge. Students aren’t the only ones in the process of recovery. As the old saying goes, you can’t squeeze blood from a turnip. Many 21st CCLC educators feel like root vegetables right now. A year of virtual programming has permanently blurred that line between home and work, making it all the more difficult to recharge at home. Now that programs are back in person, leadership needs to insist that staff give themselves the quiet or family time they deserve. As your program is able, you can even build on this effort by offering staff activities around socializing, mindfulness or whatever they express an interest in doing together as a team.
  • Delegate and empower. While the above offer ways to give something to your staff, don’t underestimate the ways your staff and your program can benefit from taking—with the right kind of framework. Take staff’s thoughts, ideas and advice about new policies or activities. And take their offers to show initiative on projects or committees. The good news is: This kind of taking also builds confidence, rapport, skills and passion in your greatest resources.

For more ideas on this important topic, be sure to check out Y4Y’s Employee Retention Training to Go.

That’s a Great-Looking Staff. Whatever Will You Do With Them?

Moving beyond your methods for valuing and keeping the staff you have, good 21st CCLC management also means having a program culture and policies in place that allow them to realize their full potential. How will you work as a cohesive team to achieve optimal outcomes?

  • Centralize. Has one member of your staff chased down access to online resources to align with the school day? Has she shared that access with her peers? Has another forged a partnership in the community for his high school students’ tech club but hasn’t had a chance to tell your sister sites about it? Are student files, program policies and schedules in SharePoint or a central, protected website so that any information that might be needed is appropriately accessible to everyone in your program? You can all work more efficiently and effectively by pooling your information and making access simple. Centralizing can also benefit your program fiscally. You might get bulk discounts from partners, or have materials you no longer need but another site can use.
  • Communicate. Many of the concerns around centralizing can be addressed when you implement adequate communication methods. Debriefs provide an excellent opportunity for in-the-moment “what worked, what didn’t” conversations, which are essential to continuous improvement. Weekly team meetings that share important and not-so-important updates and solicit contributions from every member will ensure no resource goes unused. An open-door policy by leadership and opportunity for anonymous feedback are critical. Not only will both parties benefit from an easy mode of exchange; the policy will reassure staff of their value.
  • Continuous improvement. Your program is bound to enjoy some degree of improvement with efforts to invest in staff, centralize information and resources, and communicate generously. But don’t skip those management steps and choices that tie continuous improvement into the fiber of your leadership. Follow up on those passions of staff to discover how you can support progress. Put structures in place that channel all feedback, even when roadblocks are encountered, into a “lessons learned” program bank. And, of course, offer everyone, including your top employees, constructive suggestions and opportunities to improve their practice. Maybe they’d like professional development in an area of need in the program or in a topic of interest to them. Check out the Y4Y Professional Learning Feedback Survey as just one example of a tool for using staff feedback for your continuous improvement.

Strong 21st CCLC management means loosening your grip enough to give staff the freedom to be effective while holding them fast to shared goals for your students. Now is a great time to brush up, or to bring along new leadership, on basic strategies with Y4Y’s Human Resources and Managing Your 21st CCLC Program courses.  



January 21, 2021

Your 21st CCLC program can be a magical place that gives a “home” to those high school students who haven’t yet experienced a sense of belonging anywhere else. But how do you find them and convince them to join? How will you keep them engaged and invested so they want to stay? Break the ice and get to know the students in your community with tools from Y4Y’s new Click & Go, Recruiting and Retaining High School Students. To get started, check out the mini lesson for an overview of this important topic.

Now, let’s break it down.

  1. Where are you going to start, and who’s on your team? The Recruitment and Retention Plan will help you answer these questions and more. You already have more resources at your disposal than you may realize. This tool will help you centralize those resources and streamline thinking.
  2. What will effective recruitment look like? You can download the podcast, “Assessing High School Student Needs,” for ideas on where to go and what to do. Be sure to take your audience into account using the High School Recruitment Multicultural Sensitivity Checklist.
  3. My students are on board! What’s next? You want to be sure your program is meeting students where they are. There are many reasons for conducting online surveys with high school students. With Y4Y’s survey tool, you’ll learn how to get more open and honest answers from the teens joining your program about what truly interests them. Then, move on to goal setting with the Individual Student Goal Development Plan tool.
  4. Wait! Don’t go! There are some amazing stories out there about students becoming so invested in their programs that they stay engaged as adult staff members. Listen to the podcast “Finding Your Why: Youth Talk About Program Participation” for inspiration! Also check out tools such as the Youth Ambassador Action Plan Template for ideas on how to increase your students’ buy-in.

The new Y4Y Click & Go offers additional tools and podcasts to help you navigate the sometimes-tricky business of recruiting and retaining high school students. Don’t let these teens freeze you out of their lives! By getting to know them — getting to know ALL about them — you and your staff have the opportunity to warm the young hearts and minds that need it the most.



January 21, 2021

It might be poetic to say social and emotional learning (SEL) just feels right. But where are the data? Consider highlights from Early Lessons From School and Out-of-School Time Programs Implementing Social and Emotional Learning. The scope of the data collection used by the RAND Corporation in the publication of these findings leaves little doubt about the impact social and emotional learning can have, especially when early lessons from implementation are shared. In response to these clearly defined lessons that are most closely linked to successful efforts, you can consult corresponding tools from Y4Y’s Social and Emotional Learning course to thaw a data-driven path to connecting with students on nonacademic areas of growth and development.

Be sure to check out all the course tools as your program implements its own SEL initiative, and remember that each tool is customizable to your specific needs.