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

Raising Our Kids: A Long-Term Approach

I have had an experience several times in the last few weeks that, I am sure, happens to all of us who have worked with students for a certain number of years. If it has not happened to you yet, give it time. It will.

Someday, you will run into your former students and they will have turned into adults.

It is always a little strange to me when I see my “kids” as adults. I know that time keeps marching on and those kids I have worked with will grow up and continue to live their lives. They will graduate from high school and get jobs or go to college. They will start families. They will move across the country for a job or to go to school or for a boy or for a girl. Some will do well. Some will struggle. In my head, they will always be the age they were when I worked with them. In reality, they will grow up.

And that is what we are trying to help them do…grow up.

Day to day work with students, whether elementary or secondary students, can tend to make us a little myopic in our vision. By that, I mean that we can get caught up in the short-term results we are working to produce. Get the homework done. Get the grades up. Improve behavior. Decrease suspensions. For a lot of us, these are the goals provided to us by our school districts or by our funders. And they are good goals. We want our kids to do well in school and behave themselves while they are there. But that is not the end goal for us.

While it is not our primary responsibility to raise our students (Hello, parents!!), we do play a role in helping our students find their way in the world. In afterschool, we provide components of academics, the arts, health and fitness, social/emotional learning, and service learning. We have the opportunity to expand our students’ horizons beyond what they may get at home and to enhance and enrich what they are getting in school. In all of this, we need to learn to play the long game.

Playing the long game means we look past tomorrow and next week and even past the end of the school year. Playing the long game means we have a realization that our kids will eventually be grown-ups and it is our job to help them grow into educated, connected members of society. Playing the long game means we understand that we are helping to raise adults.

Maybe this will help you, as it has helped me over the years. In the work we do with students, we are planting seeds that we may or may not see come to life and begin to thrive. We always hope to see the results of our labor but, when it comes to working with young people, we don’t always get that privilege. And that is ok. We work to plant the seed, to water the seed, to nurture it, but it may be long after the students have moved on from us that the seeds break through and become what they were intended to be. If we are fortunate, we may get to see our students as adults, and marvel at how those seeds have grown.

Are you playing the long game? What seeds are you planting in the lives of your students?

Breakfast today was a banana and a chocolate milk.

Author:  @bradfrommissouri

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