Many students enjoy going to afterschool programs because they want a break from the rigors and routines of the regular school day. This period of time, however, can present unique challenges to out-of-school time providers who must ensure that students are safe and engaged – and not just goofing around. Classroom management may not be the first thing to spring to mind when we think about afterschool programs, but its importance should not be ignored.
basic communication skills. Say “hello” or “good afternoon” when a child
walks in the door – setting a friendly tone will get things off on the right
foot. Asking “How was your day?” is another
easy way to engage students and establish a positive relationship. When
students have bad days at school, as all do at some point, the opportunity to
talk about it can really help.
“Don’t overlook the basics,” said Lisa K. Bailey, adjunct professor for Houston Community College and former area supervisor for Fort Bend ISD’s Extended Day Program, at a recent training held at Harris County Department of Education’s Center for Afterschool, Summer and Enrichment. Drawing on more than 20 years of experience in the classroom, Bailey shared many tips for effective classroom management, including the following.
2. Build a
trustful relationship. “Children open up to those they trust,” said Bailey,
“Be fun! Be firm! Be trustworthy!” By establishing and following through on
classroom policies, OST providers show that they mean business. This tip is
particularly important when considering the ways that afterschool programs
contribute to kids’ social and emotional well-being.
3. Plan activities
properly. Creating fun, engaging and age-appropriate classroom activities
that cultivate students’ talents takes planning. Oftentimes, preparation
requires contingency plans should anything go amiss. “Make plans B, C and D,” said
Bailey. Activities should also be geared toward assisting students with future
endeavors. Practicing important skills – such as writing, presentations and financial
literacy – will help them in other areas.
good behavior. Too often, teachers view classroom management as a
discipline- or punishment-based strategy, but positive reinforcement can be a
more effective tool. “There’s something positive you can say about everybody
every day,” said Bailey. She recommended making positive lists to reward
well-behaved students instead of the traditional “write your name on the board
for bad behavior” approach.
Afterschool programs are critical to children and families. All kids need safe, supervised environments throughout the day with opportunities to help prepare them for the future. To learn more about CASE for Kids, call 713-696-1331 or visit www.afterschoolzone.org
It’s no secret that high levels of multi-generational poverty have been particularly alarming and challenging for school age youth who have been identified as at-risk and underserved. In turn, this epidemic has built a high resistance to creating solutions for children and families trying escape the clutches of poverty. Furthermore, in the K-12 school system, many students don’t perform on grade level as a result of poor preparation, lack of educational support or underperforming schools. Eliminating this crisis requires interventions to break cycles that, if disregarded, will evolve into a curse that strengthens generational poverty. High quality education is one of the greatest tools for defeating the cycle and providing school-age youth the potential to succeed from the cradle to career. This goal, however, is much easier said than done.
That’s where national service joins forces with a “village” of worldwide organizations, communities and individuals to transform the lives of millions of children every year. Since 1965, over 192,000 people have served as VISTA volunteers working with local organizations to strengthen communities and help people escape poverty. I am truly proud to serve as a CASE for Kids School Readiness VISTA and contribute to the mission of every child gaining access to high-quality expanded learning opportunities.
In some cases, being an Americorps VISTA means engaging with school communities and parents while providing resources for their children to become better learners. As an agency of change, Harris County Department of Education’s Center for Afterschool, Summer and Enrichment for Kids believes a quality out-of-school time program provides avenues for opportunities for youth to excel, explore and expand their horizons before school, after school, on weekends, and during the summer.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I began my VISTA position with CASE for Kids this past November. I was aware of the great work that the division was conducting to improve the quality of education throughout Greater Houston but was also curious to see what my role would be in this greater mission.
Working with CASE for Kids continues to be an eye-opening experience for me. Moving forward, I realize that the hours between school dismissal and dinner are some the most precarious hours of the day for school-age children. It is a large task in and outside the educational arena to secure an environment in which children can be involved in wholesome, enriching activities while their parents are still working.
While the need for afterschool programs and extended learning opportunities exists everywhere, availability is not universal. There should be more targeted efforts to attract the underserved youth to participate in OST programs. I truly do believe strongly in the adage that “it takes a village to raise a child.” Working with CASE for Kids, I continue to discover and explore the ways an afterschool program can serve as a lifeline for youth. With that said, I have recently been focusing my attention on how afterschool programs that offer Homework Help can bridge the communication between the school day and OST settings.
--Jackie Cooper, Americorps VISTA
A well-known German proverb says, “Starting is easy; persistence is an art.” Nowhere do these words ring truer than in the out-of-school time field, where funding streams are often – at best – temporary. When an after-school program loses its funding and has no alternative plan in place, well-documented benefits come to an abrupt halt. Working parents who were relieved are now worried. Youth who were safe are now at risk. The bonds that were formed between community members are either weakened or broken.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Since 1999, Harris County Department of Education’s Center for Afterschool, Summer and Enrichment has determined three key methods for keeping a program running that must be started on day one. Site directors should invest in relationships, spend strategically and be prepared to adjust the scale of their programs.
- Invest in relationships
Community-building is the life blood of out-of-school time. When children are mentored by adults who are neither family nor classroom teachers, their worlds literally expand, and their futures strengthen. Understanding the value of positive relationships is key for any site director with an eye toward sustainability.
Rather than operate in isolation from regular school time administrators and personnel, site directors should communicate with them as often as possible and invite them to observe. Oftentimes conflicts arise over scheduling, facilities or supplies; a proactively friendly approach will often prevent these from getting out of hand. When relationships do become strained, site directors must work to steer the ship back on course. Afterschool programs and schools, after all, are partners – not adversaries – in childhood learning and safety.
2. Spend strategically
Short-sighted spending is one of the most common mistakes made by unsustainable afterschool programs. As soon as the check clears, money is spent on one-time-use consumables like pencils and paper. Successful directors of sustainable programs know that money should not be wasted on items like these when they can typically be secured by donations. Instead, they use funds strategically by purchasing out-of-school time “capital,” such as tablet computers, which remain usable long after the money runs out.
3. Be prepared to adjust scale
It’s naïve to think that successful programs stay afloat by operating exactly the same way as the day they started. In fact, the opposite is almost always true: sustainable out-of-school time programs plan for the future by creating several budgets and contingency plans. They research ways to continue with or without awarded funds and lay the groundwork for adjusting the scale of their programs. No afterschool program wants to downsize, but given the choice between scaling down and shutting down, it is necessary sometimes to choose the “lesser of two evils.” Fee structure adjustments are another way to prevent closures. Asking parents to increase payment for a service is never easy, but in cases where children’s safety, learning and opportunity are at stake, the value provided often exceeds fee increases.
-- Avice Chambers, Assistant Director of Programs and Administration, CASE for Kids
To learn more about CASE for Kids, call 713-696-1331 or visit www.afterschoolzone.org