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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.

 


February 14, 2019

You might have heard that Earth’s magnetic north (where compass needles point) is shifting at a faster rate than usual. Unlike “true north,” which doesn’t change, magnetic north is affected by changing currents in Earth’s magnetic fields.

Similarly, your students’ academic needs can shift over time as new topics and circumstances arise. Maybe Jayden and Lisa were doing fine in math until fractions came along. Sarah, who won the poetry slam, might struggle to develop cohesive paragraphs in English. Noah may have fallen behind in several classes after weeks in the hospital due to a serious accident.

Even if your program is on a good path, pausing now and then for a compass check can keep things headed in a good direction. Have you noticed students struggling with certain concepts or behaviors during program activities? Have you asked the school-day staff lately about specific academic skills or content where your students could use extra support or enrichment?

It’s possible that tweaks to your planned activities could address your students’ shifting needs. Or you might decide a new or different kind of activity could target an area where multiple students need help. The Y4Y Activity Planner can help you organize your thoughts and work through the activity design process. See the Y4Y Continuous Education course for other tools and ideas for connecting program activities to school-day learning.

Remember, even if needs and circumstances shift, the “true north” of student growth and success doesn’t change. Checking your compass and adjusting course as needed keeps your students and your program on track.

 


February 14, 2019

You already know that making your program meaningful, memorable and motivational can engage students and families. You can also use the “triple M” strategy to engage community members and partners. Their support can energize your program and ensure its success over time. Are you ready for the sustainability dare? Answer these questions to find out.

Is our program valued (meaningful) in the community?

If community members think your program creates value, they’re more likely to support your work. Pay attention to informal feedback from students, families, school staff, partners and community members. In conversation, listen for phrases like “I learned,” “I noticed” and “I appreciate.” Also watch for nonverbal feedback. Is participation high in your students’ winter coat drive? Do people in local organizations and businesses often say yes when invited to contribute their time, talents or expertise? Are student showcase events well attended? If you do a survey, what can you learn from the response rate and feedback?

Is our program visible (memorable) in the community?

It’s likely that more community members would value and support your program — if they knew more about it. What are you doing to make your program and its work visible in the community? Does your communications plan include outreach to local media so people learn about student projects and accomplishments? Do you conduct purposeful outreach to community leaders and social service providers? Do program activities like service learning, job shadowing and field trips connect students to local people and organizations? Do your solicitations for funds or donations include stories or statistics that show your program’s purpose and value?

Is our program attractive (motivational) to the community?

If people are knocking on your door to get involved with your 21st CCLC program, congratulations! You can motivate even more people by making a “call to action.” A general call to action might be an open invitation (e.g., a newspaper notice and flyers) to a student-organized Community Fitness Night. A personal call to action might be speaking to a local trainer: “Our students could really use your expertise to create a 15-minute Zumba routine for Community Fitness Night.”

As you consider meaningful, memorable and motivational (triple-M) ways to engage community members and partners, students can be powerful ambassadors. Emanuel Betz, 21st CCLC state coordinator in Vermont, says, “Have students share what participation in your 21st CCLC program means to them. Provide opportunities for them to speak and write about their experiences. I know of a program with a youth newspaper that has students interview community members. Sometimes students attend school board meetings and report on them. Activities like these build visibility in the community and demonstrate your program’s value in terms of youth leadership.”

Dare to think outside the “grant funding” box as you consider ways to sustain your program over time. For more ideas, see the Y4Y webinar It’s Never Too Soon to Think About Sustainability, or read the summary.