|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!