This past month I had the opportunity to attend the Site Coordinator Symposium by the California AfterSchool Network hosted at the historic Queen Mary ship in Long Beach. This two-and-a-half-day event hosted 500 practitioners from the field of Expanded Learning programs in California, with the majority of them being Site Coordinators from across the state.
I wanted to share the three takeaways that stood out the most for me that had heart & meaning and reinforced my two-decade experience in the field of Expanded Learning.
- We need to continue to use and talk about the word “Love” – It is very refreshing to hear practitioners, administrators, and influential folks in the field use the word love as a way to describe what they do. From social and emotional learning to restorative justice, to the idea of the Whole Child, we continue to add labels and interventions to the field of education and my observation has been that many of us feel that what we do is love, about love, and with love, but many of us don’t use the word in public settings. These stories of love resonate with practitioners who feel that what they do is meaningful, and we need to continue to help others find the language and the data to describe these stories with tangible examples that can be recreated and taken to scale.
- We need to continue to expand our networks and learning opportunities. We were able to hear from an amazing panel of Site Coordinators, technical assistance providers, and California Department of Education representatives. They explored the concept of continuing to expand your network, asking questions, connecting with others, and goal setting as a way to visualize the next level. I continue to see folks sit with their own teams, not taking advantage of the networking opportunities to meet new people, learn about other programs, and share ideas with each other. One Site Coordinator said it best when she mentioned that she feels very confident and competent within her own county, but it is when she attends events such as statewide or national conferences when she feels inadequate or not good enough to share the story of her work or her community needs. What I have learned over the years is that we all have a gift to share and that we all can learn something from someone else. It is when you figure out what is it that you would like to share with others and being intentional about what you would like someone else to share with you that it makes it easier for us to learn from each other. While I may be good at connecting the dots in identifying available resources in a community, I may not be the best at delegating. Therefore, I always love to hear and learn from those who do that well and I am always willing to speak with others that are currently in need of learning more about one of my strengths.
- We need to continue to have a Servant Leadership mentality – I remember leading a group of AmeriCorps members and as we were trying to figure out our vision and direction together, we developed these pillars that served as our ‘North Star’ for our work. These pillars were:
- Be There
- Pay Attention to Detail
- Invest Time
- It’s NOT about you
- Customer Service
Recently, I have heard prominent leaders in our field mention that “while this is about you, it is not about you.” As I continue to develop my thinking about the concept of servant leadership, I am often reminded that while it is true that it is not about you, at the end of the day it is a fact that it is definitely up to you to make the intentional decision to make the choice to do your work with love, to continue to develop yourself and your network, and to serve others. All of these decisions are up to you; and until you make that choice, then you will have a difficult time making it about others, or difficult to make others do these as a way to move forward.
By the end of the conference, I left feeling emboldened, empowered, and inspired to continue to do the good work that is being done in the field of expanded learning, knowing that we can do it with love, that we can continue to learn from each other, and that we do it to serve our communities.
I did not have breakfast this morning as I am practicing intermittent fasting.