The National AfterSchool Association is the leading voice of the afterschool profession dedicated to development, education, and care of children and youth during their out of school hours.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Benefits and Power of Networking

Dr. Paul G. Young
President and CEO
One of the most beneficial outcomes of attending a national convention is the opportunity to expand your professional network. I define networking as the activities in which professionals build, maintain, and use relationships whose potential benefits can improve their work. A professional network provides many resources, advantages, and outcomes. One of the most important and valuable outcomes of my own networking has been the opportunity to develop close friendships with outstanding individuals across the country. Much of the time, the work that we do can be isolated and lonely, even though we might work in the midst of the dozens of people. Quite often, when I was dealing with work-related challenges, my co-workers personified them. Because I had built a wide variety of close contacts with respected people who did the same kind of work that I did, I could reach out to them, commiserate, gain support and learn. My network alleviated many moments of loneliness and self-doubt.

I hope we can begin to include you in the network of NAA members.
Another benefit of a professional network is the ability to seek out candidates for jobs and gain special insights about potential employees, trends, issues, and opportunities. Since interviewing has become an antiquated and often meaningless practice, I relied upon my network for much more trustworthy information about job candidates. It led to better hires.

Networking will increase your visibility. And the more you increase your visibility, the more power and status you can attain, assuming you are credible in what you say and do. The more you increase your visibility, the easier it becomes to network.

So, I encourage you to regularly join your colleagues at local, state, and national professional development gatherings. Be there. Talk with people in elevators, hallways, restaurants, and while touring, shopping, or working out – even relaxing in the bar. Share your work experiences. Discover similarities. Celebrate diversity.  Listen and learn. Trade business cards. Remember names and locations. Follow up afterwards.
In case you’ve never heard it before, it’s hard to be a prophet in your own land. But you can gain recognition, support, friendship, and new ideas from your networking efforts. Join us in Orlando, Florida, April 15-18, 2011, where NAA will provide you a national platform to build and expand your network among more than 2000 professionals that do what you do – afterschool.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Leadership Reflections from a Trombonist

Dr. Paul G. Young
President and CEO
My trombone sits in its case whenever I am not playing it. It sits there just waiting for me to pick it up and play it. And when I do pick it up and perform, others listen and expect me to play the right notes with the correct rhythms and style. No one wants to listen to dissonance or incompetence for very long periods of time. People expect high levels of musicianship from me when I perform.

Afterschool program leadership is about playing an instrument called "you." You, too, have to play in tune, march to the correct beat, stay in step, lead with style, and arouse emotions with your audiences. Your leadership must at times be brassy and bold and other times quite mellow and lyrical. Most importantly, leadership is art form.  And when you lead, you are always giving a performance.

The early American jazz musicians took musical performance to a new place. Sometimes, they didn't know or understand all the traditional rules of music. But they didn't let that stop them.  They loved what they did too much to allow their lack of formal training or scorn from the classicists to slow them down or get in the way. They made up their own rules.  When they were performing and suddenly didn't like where their songs were going, they simply changed things up by transposing the key, improvising the rhythms, creating new tunes, and developing even better music. Supporting each other, learning, and performing in tight-knit ensembles they created an art form within the music business that was different, unique, creative, and truly American.  Jazz has become big business in the music industry.

We can do the same after school. First, we must always make sure to take our instrument every day, play it well, and lead! We also don't need to think that we are lesser performers that must conform to all the theories, rules, and practices of the past. If we do, we will sound boring and irrelevant. We must create new tunes, new beats, unique rhythms, and most importantly, a style uniquely our own.

Let’s make beautiful music. Our kids will listen. So will the public!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Take Care Of Yourself First

Dr. Paul G. Young
President and CEO

If you’ve ever flown in an airplane, you’ve probably heard flight attendants say, “If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your oxygen mask first, and then assist the other person.” Many routine fliers often seem to tune out and ignore those instructions by reading, listening to music, or texting final messages before taxi and takeoff. To some, it might seem counterintuitive to secure your oxygen mask before those of your children, but attendants logically teach that adults must be able to think and operate from a position of calmness, collectedness, and strength. And studies affirm that this practice makes sense and is the standard in the airline industry.

We need to learn this lesson from the airline industry and utilize similar rational thinking to sustain ourselves in our work. As afterschool professionals, we must take care of ourselves – first – then attend to those in our care. We need to take care of ourselves by investing in our learning – the “oxygen” that sustains our capacity to do good work – in order to grow as learners and lead the development of a growing profession.

We all know the great recession is forcing us to make tough budgetary decisions. Yet, when any of us choose to forgo our personal professional development for the sake of saving other line items in our budgets, we are in essence trying to secure others’ needs without first assuring that we can operate from a position of competence, confidence, and strength. No matter how tight budgets become, our failure to protect and invest in learning – our personal learning – will assuredly lead to a crash of the profession.  That leaves our children, youth, and families to fend for themselves.  

The mission of the National AfterSchool Association and its affiliated state organizations is to provide professional development opportunities for our members. It has always been a point of pride that the afterschool workforce attends state conferences and national conventions in record numbers and packs the workshop rooms to maximize their learning opportunities.  We can’t retreat from that practice no matter how bad the economy. As afterschool continues to evolve as a choice profession and become an extension of the student learning day, it is increasingly important for us to convene, discuss our work, share ideas, learn from the brightest minds, and let the world know our issues, challenges, and successes. We cannot afford to become insular or isolated professionals.  NAA will invest in and develop electronic and digital communications, social networking, and distance learning opportunities, but nothing can replace the positive benefits and outcomes of human interaction. A vibrant profession with interconnected members will benefit us all.

Take care of yourself. Join us at the 2011 National Convention in Orlando, FL, on April 16-18. We take very seriously the challenge of preparing the very best professional development experience in the field. Come refresh yourself. Meet new colleagues and make new friends. Connect. Recharge your passion for your work. When you are equipped to contribute to your fullest potential, your staff and kids will benefit.  So will your community.

So will you!


Thursday, November 4, 2010

New NAA Radio Posted!

Using After School Programs to Get Kids Excited About Science
    As the Executive Director of the Noyce Foundation, Ron Ottinger oversees all program areas and operations of the Foundation. For fourteen years, Ron was the National Associate Director of the non-profit AVID Center, which disseminates AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination), the nationally acclaimed college preparation program for low-income students. 

Friday, October 29, 2010

Starting an Afterschool Program

Dr. Paul G. Young
President and CEO
Here at NAA, as well as at many of our state affiliate leaders' offices, we frequently receive inquiries from individuals and groups about how to start an afterschool program. Most often when we talk to these individuals, it sounds like they have read about various movements and initiatives in afterschool and participated in or worked in an afterschool program. The tone of their voice/s expresses strong passion and interest in creating extending learning opportunities and making a difference in the lives of kids.

But I sometimes wonder if they fully understand how hard the work of developing and leading an afterschool program really is - or if they can sense the joy and accomplishment they will experience if they are successful. Having been there and done that, I can reflect and re-envision the work that must be done to develop the structures that need to be put in place. I know how relationships must be developed to establish and sustain a high quality program. I wonder if the callers do - and how I can help.

If you, or someone you know, is contemplating starting an afterschool program, that’s GREAT. We need many more good programs everywhere. So what follows are a series of questions we want you to think about and answer. But first, understand that before the dream of an afterschool program can become a reality, there must be a committed leader. I hope that is YOU!

The first question is who are you? This is the most important question your students, staff, parents, and stakeholders will need to have answered if you want them to follow you. There has to be a leader, and if people can't determine your core set of values from what you say and do, your dream is doomed. Values are the core of who you are. They influence everything you say and do. If your values and code of ethics are not aligned with and shared by others already doing best practice in the profession (see the NAA Code of Ethics on our website, I suggest you go no further.

Second, what's your vision? Can you describe in vivid detail what the program you intend to start will look like, sound like, and how, when and where it will function? Can you envision the outcomes you will see during differing points of time? Can you anticipate the challenges and obstacles? People want to know you are a credible leader first, then they want to know where you will take them, what the journey will be like, and if you can clearly talk about it all.

Third, are you committed enough to help others imagine the possibilities and follow you? Have you had successful experiences developing relationships with constituents, attending to their needs, forming bonds, and attaining positive results? You have to be able to connect with people and demonstrate that you have been associated with other leaders - or that you soon will be! These are major reasons why professional associations exist and why your membership in NAA and our state affiliates is so important to your career success. And what are you willing to do to professionally to develop others that will be working with you?

Fourth, are you planning to develop this program alone? It’s a mistake to think you can. Are you trustworthy? If you are willing to take risks and be open with other people, admit mistakes, listen and learn, you can gain trust and move toward realizing your dream. But you have to show you can be trusted.

Start with these important questions. Reflect. Jot down some responses, ideas, and further questions. The work of planning, acquiring space, raising resources, and selecting staff can come afterwards. Our work at NAA is to help you find your voice, focus, grow professionally, address your challenges, achieve your dreams, and celebrate your success in the profession.

Join us in Orlando, FL, April 16-18, 2011, and learn how your professional association can help you further develop your leadership skills and clarify your vision of afterschool. Your leadership matters. Together, we will shake the status quo, envision possibilities, and pursue opportunities.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Scoring From Deep in the End Zone

Dr. Paul. G Young
President and CEO
Please excuse me for thinking in football analogies at this time of the year. Quite often, however, analogies can reach, teach, and connect with kids and adults in the afterschool world in ways in ways that other forms of conversation cannot.

If you are like me, you root for one or more favorite football teams each fall. The better you understand the game, the more you know that starting field position and good offense are keys to scoring touchdowns. This becomes most apparent when the ability and experience levels of the teams are heavily mismatched. When less capable team kicks to one with a dominant, experienced offense, that team often gets the ball with excellent field position. Anyone should be able to see that it is easier to score touchdowns when your team receives the ball at midfield rather than deep in the end zone. But, nothing causes more exhilaration for the underdog than moving the ball against all obstacles all the way down the field for a touchdown. Those scoring drives become legendary and sources of pride for the entire team.

We all know that many of our at-risk students are dominated by those with more advantages. Those who have benefited from better experiences find it much easier to take the ball and score. But many of our kids, though, always seem to get the ball deep in their end zone. They must run further and harder, avoid fumbles and numerous tacklers – often without very much offensive support. But when they do, the crowds stand and cheer.

You are the coaches and the offensive support for our afterschool students. You teach and encourage them to start their offensive runs and learn what other dominant teams players already know. You help kids overcome all odds. And nothing beats seeing your kids start from deep in the end zone and run the entire length of the field for a touchdown. That is pride! No amount of money means more to you.

NAA wants to be there for you to cheer your team on to greater success. We respect and appreciate the work you do.

One of the celebratory events which we all can enjoy each year is the NAA Convention and Exhibition. Join us in Orlando, Florida, April 16-18, 2011. Consider our gathering of afterschool professionals in that great city to be the best afterschool coaching clinic anywhere. Come celebrate and learn new offensive and defensive strategies that will help all our students successfully carry their ball from deep in the end zone – and score!

Dr. Paul G. Young, President and CEO, National AfterSchool Association

Friday, September 10, 2010

What is Afterschool - and what is it not?

Dr. Paul G. Young
President and CEO
I frequently get calls from curious individuals from all parts of the country wanting to know what I think makes a good afterschool program and where they might find the best programs. Typically, the caller is simply on a quest for information and clarity. I always find the conversations to be interesting, enlightening, and challenging. Over time, I’ve formed some generalizations.  Callers seem very confident when I ask them to describe what they think is a good school. They think they know one when they see one. And most of them admit that they have been in a school. But they are all over the page when discussing a good ‘afterschool’ program. Most have not been in one. Defining and describing afterschool is like trying to put a square peg in a round hole. Some clarity can help us all.

I always try to explain and celebrate how diverse the afterschool programs are throughout the country. I also describe how it is good practice when learning communities come together with a shared vision and design programs that meet their unique children’s needs during out of school time. But then it often seems that I begin to confuse the callers because they want and expect a narrow, common definition.  I find it challenging to provide specifics in a very short amount of time to a total stranger at the end of a phone line.

When I suggest to the caller that schools with good reputations always have a strong principal and a staff that works well together, they get it. Likewise, when I explain that, from my viewpoint, all good afterschool programs have at least one champion (often many more) and have effectively addressed turf issues, they get that too! Those descriptors seem universal for all kinds of schools and all kinds of afterschool programs.

Most people really do know good schools when they see them. The challenge facing our association is to teach and inform the public, in simple and concrete ways, what a good afterschool program entails. We all know there are many factors, but the public doesn’t.  But they do recognize the two essential factors I’ve described – a strong, champion leader and unrestricted, structured use of space.

NAA currently has a group of committed members engaged in writing an association platform that will include a variety of common definitions, position, and belief statements that will help inform the public about our profession – what we are , what we do, when, where, and how we do it, and what we believe. As we move throughout the weeks and months preceding the 2011 NAA Convention, this platform will be filtered through a variety of writing and review processes and ultimately adopted by the NAA Board of Directors. The unveiling of our first NAA Platform will be a featured event during the convention.

We hope that you will use this blog to check that progress, weigh in on important issues, and help us identify and define positions and beliefs that we all can embrace and ultimately will bring clarity to what afterschool is and what it is not.

So, what do you think afterschool is, or should be – and what do you think it is not, or shouldn’t be?