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, January 2, 2012

Hanging Out Together

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There is a human tendency to band together. If you reflect back to your high school days, you’ll remember the cliques of kids with commons traits and interests, such as jocks, band geeks, tech nerds, and shy, quiet, and smart kids. They hung out together, socialized, and shared common experiences that would shape their lives. We need each other. We need to make the effort to hang out with each other.

Over the years, I feel I’ve increased my leadership skills because I’ve built a network of innovative, creative, and caring professionals that shared a singular purpose with me. I’ve learned different ways to manage my work and solve problems by listening to them. Often times, hanging out with other leaders helped me by just knowing that they faced the same challenges and frustrations as I did. But I’ve also watched colleagues that wanted to live and work in a cocoon – they suffered and succumbed to their problems. Those of us with professional networks who met and talked on a regular basis were emotionally strengthened by those connections.

NAA exists to be your professional network. When you get three or four afterschool program leaders in the same room and talking about what they do and how they do it, you are certain to profit. The benefits that come from putting like minds together are powerful. When we multiply those potential benefits by the numbers of professionals you can connect with at a state conference or a national convention, the results are priceless.

One of the greatest ways to keep your focus is to reward yourself for small accomplishments. As a band geek, my friends and I would celebrate good performances together. As an afterschool professional, celebrating a good “performance” might be a less tangible concept unless you consider your collective accomplishments envisioning, managing, and growing a program. That is definitely worth celebrating! Join us at the NAA National Convention where we will do just that!

Of course, not everyone from the field can make it to Dallas. But we can still “hang out” together when we connect through websites, list-serves, E-News, conference calls, and local gatherings. We connect when we read similar materials, dream big, and share ideas. Engaging in these professional activities while doing the work we do provides us the emotional strength and reassurance we need to meet the goals we are shooting for.

There are certainly those occasions when we can’t control what happens and we fall upon rough times. But how we handle what happens to us during tough times is within our control.  Hanging out together builds emotional capital. Our capacity to handle our professional challenges has everything to do with our emotional balance. Banded together, we can conquer the chaos and get through anything. Alone, you will be consumed.

Come hang out with us at the NAA National Convention in Dallas, Texas, April 2-4, 2012.

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

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