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.

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.