Reflecting on some of the many strong and impactful events that happened at the BOOST Conference this year, there is one event I need to highlight – because this conversation, while it’s been one we have been having for decades, STILL needs more energy and intentional activity. We need to keep fighting for this topic to stay top of mind within school communities, in expanded learning communities, and where parents, community members, and local business need to become more involved and a part of these conversations. It takes a village…
Here’s what happened. It was 10pm or thereafter, I was tired, walking through the dark lobby bar of the Renaissance Hotel, returning from a poolside conversation, heading up to my room, when I stumbled upon an impromptu, live podcast directed by Bruno Marchesi (the podcast is The WEL, subscribe now!). I froze in my shoes. The dialogue was so fresh and vibrant and REAL. The conversations/interview/panel had some top dogs (as we say in our circle): Rodrigo Arancibia, Carlos Gonzalez, Principal of John Adams Middle School in South Los Angeles, and Cesar Fernandez, a middle school teacher from Chula Vista in San Diego, CA – check out his podcast too!
The two topics that sit close to my heart and inspire my own mission were:
- In order to create a holistic approach to building well rounded, creative and dynamic youth, we have to continue to develop strategies to work in collaboration with school administrators. Afterschool programs and schools need to deepen their relationships and realize that the child who attends school and then goes to the after school program – is the same child. We need to work together to continue to develop methods to nurture the whole child during school hours as well as out-of-school time. During out–of-school time hours, we have the opportunity to teach, mentor and coach in order to support the school day. We tutor in academics, we coach sports, we teach life-skills, we implement family engagement activities, we expose students to new ideas and possibilities, and we ignite passion in our students. We work so hard in out-of-school time to lose the lingering reputation that we are only babysitters (UGH!) when we, as you know, do so much more. What I heard on this panel was a vibrant dialogue on the very real impact expanded learning programs are having on our youth across the nation. Yes, there is research (check out the report from the Afterschool Alliance). In this discussion, I heard courage, transparency and relevancy about the importance of joining school administrators and after-school program staff/executive directors to make the meaningful and long lasting impact on your students, “Get a school day, ‘after-school champion’ on your campus”.
Don’t you think that schools and out- of- school time programs are much more powerful in tandem, than standing alone?
2. The second topic I heard that resonated with me, was that after-school programs have the extraordinary opportunity of making the learning relevant and practical for our students. During the school day, teachers are often limited to, but not always, teaching the core subjects and mandated curricula. In out- of- school time, we get to connect the dots and show students WHY they need most of these classes and then HOW to connect classroom learning to real life. Further, in after-school programs, we have the opportunity to ask students “What are you interested in?” and “What are you passionate about?’’ From there, it’s our privilege to figure out how learning feels and looks like fun, while also inserting rigor and practical application. I know from personal experience, traveling across the U.S., training in and out-of-school time educators, that while there are many phenomenal school day educators, there are just as many phenomenal after-school time facilitators, program/site directors and executive directors. These folks are leading the charge in youth development and building innovative programs that help our kids see themselves as possible, viable, talented, global contributors to our communities. We have the freedom and power to think out of the box and connect their learning to their passion. Yes, we have the power.
Click here and listen to this 22 minute YouTube video: BOOST After Hours Conversation with Educators about the field of Expanded Learning. If you listen closely, you’ll hear some names dropped on some heavies in the field: Thierry Gonzalez, Ray Trinidad, Diego Arancibia and LA- Afterschool All Stars. (Also, if you listen closely, there are few ‘R’ rated words in the discussion, I told you it was real).
You can also follow all these think tankers on Twitter:
- Rodrigo: @Mr_Ayyy
- Carlos: @cxg0564
- Caesar: @czareff
You never know where the learning and growing happens during BOOST Conference conversations. Sometimes, it’s late at night, just when you’re ready to turn in, a spark of inspiration stops you dead in your tracks. Stops you frozen…
Please share in the comments section how you are engaging with your school administration or district. Best practices shared here can improve practice across the nation – that is real.