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On-Site Staff / Program Design, Development, and Quality / Staff Leadership and Management

Negative Social Media Messaging, Safe Spaces, and Happy Kids

Now more than ever we are inundated with messaging from social media, news, text messages, and more.

When I wake up each day I check the top 5 headlines from various media outlets, scroll through Facebook, check Instagram and LinkedIn and, not to be forgotten, I review the latest tweets from various people and groups that I follow on Twitter. When I started tracking how much time I spend starting my day this way, I noticed that it was a fairly big chunk of my morning. Many of the words that greeted me on my screen were negative. Much of it was related to crime and tragedy rather than uplifting words of wisdom and stories of triumph. I recently took some time to reflect on how that impacted my day and came to the realization that it was actually bringing me down. What I mean is that it was negatively affecting my outlook on life and began to steal a bit of my joy. With this kind of morning routine, it can start to feel soul-crushing.

A dear colleague Mr. Roberto Rivera coined the term “hope dealer,” which I personally relate to. This is the idea that we are creating places and spaces to provide hope for young people. I would propose that it is also what we provide for our staff and parents.

If I am feeling overwhelmed by negative messaging that doesn’t represent or support who I am, what must that be like for a young person? How do we continue to create the spaces that provide opportunities for young people to be hopeful about their own future?

Using the idea of being a “hope dealer,” how can we apply this to our expanded learning programs? Often times we have blind spots as adults in looking at how students experience the physical spaces we have created. We can also take for granted how important it is to be intentional in building the culture of our program with the student experience in mind.

Here are a few strategies to consider in creating hope as you prepare to launch your program this year:

  • Have students walk through your program spaces so they can explore ways to re-think the layout or signage and make it more of a welcoming space and represent the students and families in the community
  • Check-in with students to see how the program makes them feel to explore what type of culture you are creating
  • Brainstorm with your staff ways that they can create safe spaces both emotionally and physically within the program
  • Ask your staff to share ways that they intentionally work to build relationships with each of the students

For breakfast, I had a protein shake.

Author: @juliesesser

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