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Partnerships and Building Relationships / Program Design, Development, and Quality / Staff Leadership and Management / Sustainability

The Terrifying Click of Heels in the Hall

The Terrifying Click of Heels in the Hall

When I was site coordinator at an elementary school in San Francisco, we were not afraid of the mice in the office, or the cold air that whipped through the poorly insulated windows on a foggy SF morning, or the cafeteria full of wildly enthusiastic pre-teens.

No, but we were afraid of the click, click, click of the principal’s heels on the linoleum hallway.

We could hear it about 2 minutes before she turned the corner into our closet-like office.  We’d look at each other across our desks, each one considering the nearest exit, the best way to be too busy to be interrupted, or the possibility of disappearing under our desks.  Despite our best efforts, the rage would come – “WHO threw toilet paper on the bathroom ceiling?  WHO moved the chairs in the auditorium?  WHO was laughing and yelling in the schoolyard?”  The answer was always, “YOUR kids did all these terrible things.”  We would obsequiously agree, apologizing for the dire situation and committing to fix whatever was wrong.

We didn’t dare ask in return, “Aren’t OUR kids also YOUR kids?”

Though that story might still resonate, the after-school field has come a long way since the early 2000s.  There’s greater awareness about after school and summer programs and how they support kids.  There’s better training and infrastructure to help expanded learning staff, and specifically to help them work with teachers and administrators.  And there are quality standards that describe exactly what we are trying to do in language that is familiar and valuable to our school day partners.

Building on this foundation, the Partnership for Children & Youth has a new tool that we hope is a quick and easy way to facilitate partnership conversations with the school day.  Our infographic explains what social and emotional learning is, and sums up the role that quality expanded learning programs play in supporting social and emotional outcomes.  Specifically, this graphic draws the line between expanded learning quality standards and the easy-to-remember outcomes of We Are, We Belong, We Can.

The full infographic can be found here.  It draws from an earlier report, Student Success Comes Full Circle, that was developed by the field and provides more context on SEL and the strengths of expanded learning practices.

This framing – linking quality standards to social and emotional outcomes – is particularly helpful as more and more school leaders, principals, and teachers are seeing the connection between academic success and social and emotional learning.  Or, as Karen Pittman of the Forum for Youth Investment so wisely says, they are recognizing that “learning is social and emotional.”  Of course, this is the sweet spot for youth workers who have always known that kids’ sense of identity, belonging, and ability are essential to their future success.

Having this language and frame to explain our work would have been a good starting point for conversations with our disgruntled principal, as well as with other school staff, to demonstrate the value of collaboratively supporting the kids we shared.

For breakfast , join me any day for a joyfully huge cup of coffee, yogurt and granola 

Author: @katiebrackenridge

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