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.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Surviving in Tough Times

Like everyone else, I wish this depressed economy had already recovered by now. Everywhere I go, I hear afterschool program leaders bemoan how times are tough and how balancing their budgets has forced them to do more with less, adding to their stress. Some have bundled jobs to get the work done in order to serve their program participants. And most often, those who are doing more and more of those bundled tasks are the program leaders. As their staffs get smaller or work fewer hours, there still remains more work to do, with less help.

What are we to do?

We must hang together. If we get better at sharing our resources and ideas, utilize technology in ways that reduce work, and protect our time to learn together - at all costs - we can ride through anything. We must continuously analyze our work and eliminate the clutter, streamline repetitious tasks, avoid reinventing the wheel, and better support each other. This is not a time for afterschool professionals to work as lone rangers.

And if it helps, let’s remember that we aren't the only Americans who have experienced tough times.

For example, we can learn lessons from the Great Plains pioneers. They used the strategy of circling wagons when they faced attacks. Afterschool professionals must utilize that today. That means we must always be on the lookout for threats, provide support, and come together to protect each other. Those veteran trailblazers taught each other critical survival skills. We must, too! Considering the scope of the life and death challenges they faced, with vigilant support and strategic thinking, I think we can weather these tough economic times. But we can't shoot at each other, compete at each other’s expense, nor allow renegades to go off and stir up trouble.

Part of the value of your NAA membership is that we have the forum at state and national levels to engage in these important survival discussions, talk about them, teach coping strategies, and show that we care for one another.

Join your professional association, help shape the survival strategy of afterschool, and reduce your level of stress knowing that you have thousands of colleagues who've got your back.

Paul G. Young, Ph. D.
President & CEO
National AfterSchool Association

Friday, September 16, 2011

Dealing with Frustration

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If you are like me, you're feeling the frustrations of the lingering recession, political stalemates, pressure to do more with less, and the lack of time to do everything that needs to be done. Everywhere I look, I find more that can be done and things that I could do even better. It would be easy to lose control and give up. But I learned long ago that nothing worth doing would ever be easy.

When frustrations mount, we have to make time for ourselves. That means we create time to relax and get away from the daily ‘gnawing gnats’ that pester us and add to our worries. It's important to refresh our bodies for good health. It’s even more important to refresh our minds for good mental health. I do that by connecting with others who do the work that I do, commiserating if I need to, and listening for fresh ideas that will help me address my frustrations. I've learned that the worst thing I can do is try to go it alone. That just leads to an isolated feeling and adds to my frustration level.

I invite you to join us in Dallas, Texas, where together we can support ourselves through these tough times. The NAA staff, the NAA Board of Directors, the Convention Planning Team, and I are committed to assuring that those attending get the support and ideas they need to survive and thrive during tough times.

So pack your running or walking shoes and join us for the GO FAR 5k race/walk during which you can relieve your stress and improve your health. If that doesn’t appeal to you, try our Zumba class. You’ll have numerous opportunities to learn from 200 expert presenters who will surely give you new ideas that will brighten your workdays.  We also hope you will gather ideas from our Science and Arts Fairs about how you can promote STEM activities and make them in to STEAM by integrating the arts throughout your program this year. A focus on the arts will not only increase creativity, but they’ll make us feel better. Nowhere else will you have the opportunity to hear celebrity speakers like we have for this year’s convention.  Our faithful vendors and sponsors will have the latest and best materials and resources that will help you become the best at what you do.

Most importantly, though, things are always bigger in Texas, and the quality of support that thousands of your colleagues will provide you when we gather for the nations’ greatest event for afterschool professionals will be immeasurable – and it will greatly help us deal with these frustrating times.

I hope to see you there.

Paul G. Young, Ph. D.
President & CEO
National AfterSchool Association

Thursday, September 1, 2011


I recently saw a new term, escalefter, on a subway message board. If you've ever stepped on a moving walkway in an airport terminal or ridden an escalator at the mall, you've likely encountered one. They are those individuals that choose to nonchalantly stand on the left side of the walkway or escalator completely oblivious to any warning announcements and fully blocking the forward movement of those with a more determined destination. They seem unaware of the hustle and bustle around them or the inconveniences they are creating for others.  But, of course, we've all probably encountered some that know exactly what they are doing and continue do it deliberately, anyway.

I think there are three kinds of people using escalators and moving walkways. Those who are (1) too lazy to walk and instead choose the entitlement of a free ride, (2) those with drive, ambition, and vision who know where they want to go, and (3) the escalefters. Of course, an argument can be made for a fourth type - those independents that choose to walk and arrive at their destination on their own terms and at their own speed.

Which are you? I think these same types of people exist in every workplace - even the afterschool field. We all know there are some people who are simply lazy and saunter through life. They just ride along. Quite the opposite are those with vision and determination to get things done. They see the escalator as a means to go faster, do more, and save time. Escalators were made with this group in mind. Then there are the escalefters who block the progress of others, knowingly or not.

What about the fourth group?  Some of them are loners who choose to avoid the fast pace and do their own thing. Some are afraid. Others choose walking for their health rather than riding (don't they know they can walk even faster on a moving walkway?). And then there are those few who are so lost that they can’t even find the entrance to the escalator.

Escalators and moving walkways were designed to facilitate the movement and lifting masses of people toward their different destinations. Likewise, we create many paths and structures in our workplaces that do essentially the same things. And everywhere these same types of people exist -  loafers, movers, shakers, and blockers.

Let's not inhibit, or escaleft, those with vision who want to move our profession to a higher level even though there may be differing destinations. If they err, they'll redirect. They'll move to another walkway or change direction. But they'll still be moving forward. And they'll still be much farther ahead of those who just ride along.

Let’s work to convince escalefters to get with the flow or stand to the right.  They might get run over if they don't.