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July 22, 2020

Last month, Y4Y hosted a four-part Human Resources webinar series on identifying talent, recruiting and hiring staff, training and developing your team, and retaining staff. Are candidates proficient at engaging students remotely? Flexible and creative? Committed to the work? The following must-know tips from the series are the place to start, and the Y4Y Human Resources course will take you to the finish line in the race to hire, develop and keep top dogs.

Identifying Talent

Your program may or may not be planning to recruit this summer, but one thing’s for sure: if you ARE hiring, your priorities look a little different than in the past. You might have an even larger bank of candidates to draw from and be focused on different core competencies. Your first step should be expanding your program team. Some organizations shy away from larger deciding bodies because it’s hard to get broader buy-in. But in 21st CCLC programs, you want the perspectives of all your stakeholders, which means including those stakeholders. We’re in a different world than we were a year ago, so don’t assume that the opinions or priorities of partners like families or school-day professionals are the same as in the past. Reconvene and set a new tone. You won’t go wrong by adding local health department officials and other community members to your team. Check out Y4Y’s Program Team Roster tool if you’re building or adding to your team.

Your program leader has a lot on her plate right now. Reviewing human resource policies and recruiting staff should be a shared responsibility. Once your program team is established, develop program-wide guidelines for recruiting and retaining staff. Your sites can tailor these guidelines to their specific needs. Y4Y’s Human Resources Planning Checklist will keep your team on task.

As your sites are identifying the talent they need on staff, reflect on the hard and soft skills you’ll be looking for. Hard skills are measurable knowledge and skill sets. You may suddenly find you’re adding “extensive social media experience” to the list of hard skills on your frontline staff job description. Soft skills are less measurable, and relate to the personal characteristics that will ensure your staff’s success at engaging students and families. In a virtual or reduced-contact environment, staff members who are good at establishing relationships with students in person but require constant supervision might be less successful than candidates who are good with students AND self-directed.

Recruiting and Hiring Staff

It’s time to market your positions! Even this task looks different these days. There’s no more gathering at the water cooler and casual word of mouth, so your program must be proactive and creative to attract the best candidates. Involve those partners! Families are a great resource for bringing in talent who know the community. Also, many university students have had their internship opportunities curtailed — this is a great time to mine that resource for a win-win situation.

Be sure to have a system established ahead of time for ranking your candidates, or you may never get through the stack once resumes start rolling in. Ask yourself: What core competencies are the most important for each position? For example, if your program demands that staff be multilingual, candidates who don’t meet that criteria can be eliminated in the first round. Save time by moving to phone screening next. Ask scenario-based questions. Scenarios help you see how candidates might apply the knowledge they’ve claimed “on paper” to the real-life, in-the-moment situations they’ll encounter in your program.

Zelda Spence, 21st CCLC project director for Plainfield Public Schools in New Jersey, warns against rushing to “get the position filled.” A warm body is never your goal in out-of-school time, but especially not in the current environment. Invest the time and effort to find the right person, and that staff member will be more likely to stay with the program. She advises, “Be yourselves with candidates.” If your program has a funky personality, fly that colorful flag and bring in new staff members who dig the vibe and can see their place in it.

Training and Developing Your Team

Be sure to take advantage of Y4Y’s downloadable and customizable Sample Human Resources Packet. Firm and well communicated policies and procedures are crucial in 21st CCLC programming where there are many moving parts, judgment calls and autonomy in sensitive situations — now more than ever! The most important piece of onboarding new staff is proper training. Give thought to what training is appropriate for each position, and budget time accordingly. Examples of role-specific trainings include intentional activity design, project management, de-escalation techniques, instructional strategies, budgeting and emergency response. Be sure to check out the full set of trainings Y4Y offers that can be tailored to your organization’s needs. These PowerPoint presentations lend themselves easily to virtual trainings.

How are your staff trainings being impacted by a slow open in your state? Despite the uncertainty, you’ll want your training plan to provide a clear roadmap for staff that illustrates where your program is today, and where you’d like to take it together. Consider the four dimensions of source, delivery method, dosage and level of detail as you design that training plan. You may have other resources available to you to optimize training of existing and new staff, such as university or school district partners. Your training modes may be restricted right now, but you can host webinars, direct staff to self-paced e-learning and offer job aids. Dosage and level of detail will depend on the staff member’s position and experience level. Your training design plan will provide the clearest roadmap when you ensure that positive culture and climate are at the core of all implementation efforts.

Speaking of Positive Culture and Climate…

You’ve set your program up for success. Now follow through with staff retention efforts. Continue to offer opportunities for your staff to grow and flourish, both professionally and personally. Everyone should feel safe and supported, not just students. Hold meaningful team-building events that invite staff to share in the forward direction of your organization. Keep a staff and student “bright ideas box” to signal you want their ideas and input. Follow the continuous improvement cycle that you do for programming, and consistently assess and reflect on ways to better your efforts. Partner staff whose skills and abilities complement each other — you’re always stronger together!

The most successful organizations, whether a 21st CCLC program or major corporation, have clear, reasonable steps to be taken when it doesn’t feel stronger together. Program directors and site coordinators like Felisa Sanders, a site coordinator in Plainfield, New Jersey, spend a lot of time on their feet observing staff. Felisa offers constructive, in-the-moment feedback, always praising in public and correcting in private. In this summer’s environment, the equivalent might be popping in daily on every Zoom session or Google classroom. Annual evaluations are NOT when a manager should bring up deficits for the first time, and certainly staff should not face any surprises. Instead, missteps should be addressed as soon as they’re noticed, and treated as opportunities for staff development rather than occasions for punishment. Adopt a proportional, progressive discipline process for those worst-case scenarios where the well-being of students or your positive work environment are jeopardized by a staff member’s behavior.

In 21st CCLC programs, we know that love of children, eagerness to educate and the energy of super heroes make our staff top dogs all around. As Lewis Grizzard notes, “If you ain’t the lead dog, the scenery never changes.” Kudos to your staff for navigating this crazy new landscape.

 


July 22, 2020

The youth of today are facing a number of learning experiences from the dog-eat-dog world around them that we adults never fathomed at their age. Besides supporting their social and emotional development, you can arm them with the knowledge and skills to become active and engaged citizens of the world. Y4Y’s new Civic Learning and Engagement course offers many of the tools you’ll need.

Set in a virtual courtroom, your guide, Wayne, will step you through strategies for designing meaningful, high-quality projects to help students develop leadership and citizenship skills and connect to the community they live in. When you implement with fidelity, these projects will have a high impact and keep students engaged even after the program ends by raising their awareness of community issues, basic democratic principles and, most important, how these impact their own lives.

You’re familiar with the foundations of professional learning in the Y4Y environment, so connecting civic learning and engagement to your program will be a snap. The course covers eight key strategies:

  1. Identify and engage stakeholders.
  2. Define needs, goals and assets.
  3. Prepare for civic learning and engagement activities.
  4. Set the foundation for civic learning and engagement activities.
  5. Intentionally design activities.
  6. Use best practices for student engagement.
  7. Implement with fidelity.
  8. Celebrate and sustain your initiatives.

The course also has a module on Coaching Your Staff to ensure that your civic learning and engagement initiative is robust. Look for downloadable and customizable tools such as checklists for Brainstorming Civic Engagement Topics and Building School-Day Civics Into Out-of-School Time Projects, as well as Civic Learning and Engagement Project Examples. It may be a dog-eat-dog world, but developing today’s students into the conscientious leaders of tomorrow is our best defense against complacency. You know what they say about old dogs and new tricks!

 


July 22, 2020

For years to come, it may be difficult to measure the impact of the COVID pandemic on the children of today, given that nearly every student on the planet will be touched in some way by it. Like other challenging times throughout history, the degree of that impact will vary significantly. So, too, will the effects on child development. Y4Y urges 21st CCLC professionals to take some time at this crucial juncture to review our Social and Emotional Learning course and Trauma-Informed Care Click & Go and arm yourself with tools to help students stay as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as circumstances allow. While there’s no simple solution, keeping these basics of a healthy childhood in mind will help you be of greatest value in the lives of your students until that day in the future when this is all behind us. Here are some simple actions you can take:

Practice Frameworks for Social and Emotional Learning

  • Positive youth development supports positive outcomes by fostering competence, confidence, connections, character and caring. Simple action: Individually “catch students with character” from a list of admirable character traits you develop as a group and keep posted over your shoulder in your virtual program. This will build confidence and caring as well as character.
  • Mindfulness development increases the ability to focus on the present moment over past or future events. This can improve executive function skills and self-regulation. Simple action: Build age-appropriate mindfulness techniques into your daily program routine.
  • Trauma-informed practice seeks to minimize the effects of childhood trauma by offering safety, trustworthiness and transparency; peer support; collaboration; empowerment; and respect for diversity. Simple action: Connect individually as often as possible with students you believe may be experiencing trauma. Your small, heartfelt gestures can have immeasurable value when you think of yourself as an anchor in the child’s life.

Five Skill Domains of Social and Emotional Learning

  • Self-awareness. Simple action: Ask questions that promote introspection, like “How did you feel in a situation?”
  • Self-management. Simple action: Ask questions that promote reflection, like “Do you wish you had done anything differently in that situation?”
  • Social awareness. Simple action: Ask questions that promote compassion, like “How do you think your friend felt in that situation?”
  • Responsible decision making. Simple action: Ask questions that promote planning, like “How will you react the next time you’re in a situation?”
  • Relationship skills. Simple action: Ask questions that promote collaboration, like “How might you work with others the next time you’re in a situation?”

Simple Practices for Developing Resilience

  • Pay it forward. Doing for others builds self-worth.
  • Express yourself. The skill of accessing and talking about feelings gives you power over them.
  • Hang out. There’s simple beauty and value in social time. That looks different right now, but you can make it a priority for students to have a safe, relaxed space with their peers.
  • Imagine. Talk about the future in happy, sunny terms.
  • Take care. As tempting as it is to “let go” with so much time spent at home, model and encourage good sleep, eating and exercise habits.
  • Lean into the fall. “Failures” can be reframed as new opportunities to learn and grow.
  • Wear your thinking cap. Create micro-opportunities for students to exercise and show off their critical thinking.
  • Call it half full. A positive spin can be put on many things, even a quarantine. Let students know that today’s experts believe they’ll grow up to be stronger, more resilient, and more empathetic adults for what they are currently experiencing in their young lives.

Bring a team with you! Check out Y4Y’s tool for assigning roles and responsibilities around social and emotional learning.

 


July 22, 2020

Flexibility is at the heart of every 21st CCLC program. Organized chaos is the name of the game. You’ve always found your greatest successes by moving and grooving with the prevailing winds, rather than sticking like glue to a rigid plan. But 2020 has brought a new meaning to the idea of flexibility. If only you WERE on plan B – maybe you wouldn’t be quite so hot under the collar this summer! But if you’re like a lot of other programs, you’ve made several course corrections since March 15. Maybe you’ve hit your virtual stride for summer programming, but see more uncertainty on the horizon this fall. Take heart: Y4Y, too, has been adapting on the fly, shifting to more virtual offerings for your professional development opportunities. Consider these tips – from two Y4Y spring webinar series on intentional program design and literacy – as you continue to go with the flow.

Time Is On Your Side

With less time on site, you and your school-day partners have a little more cushion in your schedules to check in — and doing so has never been more important. Everything feels like it’s happening in a silo right now, but for students to get the most out of the educational experience everyone’s working so hard to pull together, you’ll need to keep all communication channels open. Ask administrators if you can attend their virtual staff meetings in planning for fall so your program is prepared to align and support. Circle back with classroom teachers for key student-level data. Considering all standardized tests may not have been administered this spring, some school-level data may be lacking. Put your heads together on the most important skills or content your summer program can help students with to minimize the summer slide.

Homework Support

Your virtual programming might actually be connecting you with families MORE, not less, than usual. You are, after all, coming right into their homes virtually. How can you fill a need for academic intervention and homework support, especially when classes resume? Some families may be willing and able to support their student in content areas, but could use a refresher on today’s teaching methods or the ABCs of virtual learning. Have them “hop on” for quick tutorials, vocabulary reviews or tips on finding easy-to-use resources. If content can’t be easily supported at home, consider breakout rooms for your virtual program. You can offer a math room, a science room, a reading room or whatever is needed from day to day.

In the Service of Others

Now is the perfect time to think about service-learning opportunities, and to give students more ownership of their projects. Have them think about the unique needs around them – whether in the school community, neighborhood or town – and reflect on what they can do to help. Remember that project-based learning and service learning go hand and hand. Many programs are electing to produce homemade masks. But what are the best materials? Where are they available? What simple sewing is involved, and how can that be learned online? How can they be packaged safely, and where’s the best place to donate? Another idea is partnering with your local senior residential facilities, where residents are feeling totally isolated. Arrange a letter-writing campaign or regular video chats. Many citizen science projects are thriving during the pandemic. Each of these ways to contribute and learn make tremendous impact on young lives.

Training Day

Proper training is essential to setting your staff up for success. Summer is always a great time to take advantage of courses and Trainings to Go from Y4Y — both of which can be done 100% virtually. Also think about content-specific skills, such as those needed to successfully implement literacy activities virtually. Consider holding virtual staff meetings with breakout sessions on how to facilitate virtual book clubs or how to implement reading comprehension strategies. Read-alouds are a great example. This age-old favorite can and should be so much more for students than just story time. An enriching read-aloud demands planning ahead, such as using sticky notes to remind yourself where in the book you’d like to have students learn a new vocabulary word, reflect on literary elements, or do some critical thinking. Instead of assuming all staff possess this skill, consider targeted training and peer practice sessions.

Read Read Read

Think outside the box when it comes to book clubs in your program. You might task students with reading the same book or the same short story, article, blog or poem. Another idea is to suggest they each find something to report to the group on a common topic, theme or genre. By posting questions ahead of time to your social media page or discussion board, you can conduct asynchronous learning and reduce student anxiety about the virtual spotlight, setting them up for success during your group literary meeting. Make the most of your shared screen time — students can give a commercial-style book review, or create a short video with family consent to share at the end of each unit.

The Best Advice

Friends of Y4Y shared some of their do’s and don’ts as your COVID-19 plan B, C, D through Z takes shape. Shannon Browning of Macomb, Oklahoma, shared a bit about their rural 21st CCLC summer program, which has been offering virtual activities in the arenas of cooking, story time, science experiments, and crafts, based on student interest inventories taken last September. They’ve made sure they’re staying in contact with school-day partners to build on what students took away from the school year. Since internet access is an issue among her students, Ms. Browning emphasized the importance of maintaining phone contact and delivering activity materials with clear directions and personal notes from staff. A key to engagement: have staff produce activity videos themselves; don’t just direct students to online resources. After all, 21st CCLC is very much about relationships, and even though some staff members had to learn how to use their phones to record videos, they got a kick out of it, and the students and families love staying connected this way.

Tim Zoyac of the Pathways 21st Century Program in Bridgeton Public Schools, New Jersey, noted how challenging programming has been when 30% of his students are without internet connections. Now, more than ever, it’s crucial to meet students where they are. He suggests programs reach out to their parent organizations, professional partners and state agencies to learn where the gaps are, and be prepared to offer support in new and possibly very different ways. This will look different from community to community, and even from school building to school building.

Building on these themes, Johanna Friedel from Greenville, Texas, said their program has closely monitored virtual attendance as a data point to determine what engagement efforts are working and what are not. Their program continually monitors site-specific and overall problems, goals and needs. From the beginning, they saw the value in centrally locating resources and plans on a Facebook page. The program also created its own YouTube channel in response to the heavy need for video offerings. She advises programs to make sure they keep instructions for at-home learning activities simple and basic. Finally, recognizing the social and emotional needs unique to the current environment, Ms. Friedel spoke of student leader video interviews being shared out to inspire students to be open about their own feelings around everything from teachers and staff to quarantine in general. Kids didn’t sign up for plan B either, but we’re all in this together!

 


October 10, 2019

Emergencies happen, and it’s your job to be ready when they do. Natural and human-caused threats to safety can take many forms. A sudden thunderstorm may knock down power lines and flood roads, or a family dispute may leave the home and enter your program site. Prepare now to respond to an emergency by making sure you have a targeted, up-to-date safety plan and training to support it.

The new Y4Y Click & Go, Developing and Implementing a Safety Plan, offers guidance and tools to help. Here are a few highlights from the mini-lesson, podcasts and tools; consider what you already know, and explore to begin your next steps.

Look for an existing safety plan. Most schools and community organizations that regularly host activities for children and families have safety plans in place. You need to know whether and how your 21st CCLC program is included in the host organization’s plan. Start by using the Safety Plan Meeting Request to get a copy of the plan and connect with the site’s safety leader.

If necessary, adapt or update the safety plan to your situation. Perhaps the out-of-school time program is new and wasn’t included in the host site’s plan. Work with the site safety leader to determine how your staff and students should respond to various situations. Use the Site Coordinator Safety Checklist to make sure you consider important areas and procedures, such as using a fire extinguisher, locking and unlocking doors and windows, sheltering in place, and evacuating your space.

Create and implement a Training and Practice Plan. Train staff members and practice safety procedures with them and with students. This will help to reduce chaos and confusion during an emergency and will reduce anxiety for everyone, families included.

Communicate, communicate, communicate. Stay in regular touch with the host organization’s safety leader, so both sides know if anything about a safety plan needs to change. When you practice safety procedures, ask to be sure everyone understands their role or knows whose lead to follow. Use the Communication With Families About Safety tool to guide set-up of contact procedures during an emergency.

Get set to become “emergency ready” with the Y4Y Safety Click & Go.