Author: rickrood

Member Since: 2011-07-24 18:36:51
Website: http://www.afterschoolanswers.com

Posts by rickrood:

What It’s All About

July 4th, 2013 by

thoughtfullbb

Reposted from my other blog at CreateMotivate.com

 

Sometimes we lose sight of the big picture. Sometimes we need a slap in the head from the Universe to remind us – not of what we’re doing – but why we’re doing what we do. Our “busy-ness” comes from the what. Our fire comes from the “why”.

 

Nice Day for a Ball Game

It was a gorgeous Saturday morning in our fair city. And the championship game was on. Some of you know that, in addition to working in the education field, I have also moonlighted as a Little League baseball coach for the past four years. Four years ago, I didn’t even like baseball… but that’s another story altogether.

I coach the little guys… six and seven year-olds, fresh out of T-Ball. Our division is known as “Single A”… or, basically, the “little guys”. I’m happy with that division because, at that level, it’s not so much about winning as it is about learning basic skills and having fun. Once you get into the upper divisions,

it, sadly, becomes all about winning.

On this particular Saturday, I was watching the championship game of the AAA division (10 – 12 year-olds). It wasn’t just the league championship. It was the city championship. It was the first place team of our league (the American League) versus the first place team of our cross-town rival (the National League). One of the kids on the American League team was older brother to one of the little guys on our Single-A team, and he had helped us throughout the season with basic baseball skills, so I wanted to get out and support him in the city championship.

By the time I arrived, the game was already underway.

 

What Did You Just Call Me?

“Hey Coach!” said the man a couple of people down from me in the crowd (even after four years, I still find it a bit unnerving that grown men will call you ‘coach’ when they see you).

“Hey there…” I recognized the man’s face, but I couldn’t place it. I knew that I had met him somewhere in baseball, but couldn’t place him. I hate it when that happens.

I continued to watch the game. One of our batters came up – I recognized him. Miles. I had known him as a member of one of the opposing Single-A teams two or three years back. And, last year, I had a chance to coach him when I took on the managing duties for the league’s 9-year-old “runner up” All-Star Team (a team made up of the twelve second-best 9 year-old players). The “runner-up” (or B-Team as they were called) All Star-Team was a job that no one really wanted to take on, but I agreed to after a conversation with the league president saying that they wouldn’t get to play in any tournaments if no one agreed to coach them… and, like Obi-Wan in the original Star Wars, I was the last best hope for them to continue into the post-season.

Then it hit me… the man who had spoken to me earlier was Miles’ father. It figured that I didn’t remember him that well… the “B Team” had only spent about 3 weeks together – enough to practice and play in 2 or 3 postseason tournaments.

Between innings, Miles’ father came up to me again and provided one of those “smacks to the head” of which I spoke before.

 

A Friendly Smack In The Head From the Universe

“You know,” he started. “Miles wouldn’t be playing today if it wasn’t for you.”

“Unhh….” With conversation starters like these, I’m never sure exactly what to say.

“After last season, he was ready to quit baseball,” Miles’ dad said. “But because of your positive coaching of the All-Star Team – well, he’s back this year.”

And playing in the city championship, I thought.

At that point, it’s hard to describe what I felt. Pride. Humility. Affirmation. Significance.

And then it hit me, this is why I do what I do.

The whole point is making a difference in the lives of the children and youth that I touch.

And, honestly, I believe that making a difference is the ultimate payoff for 90% of the teachers, coaches, rec specialists… all those who work with children and youth.

But it’s so easy to forget.

Miles may not grow up to play in the major leagues (but then, again, after seeing the way he deftly handled a line drive coming at 50 mph toward his head in the bottom of the sixth, maybe he will). But that’s not the important part. Sure, no matter if his baseball career ends tomorrow or at a retirement of his jersey from the San Francisco Giants in the year2045, I’ll be proud of the small part I played in his development. The real brass tacks of the matter is that I made a difference in this kid’s life.

 

And Here’s the Real Secret of Your Universe

pushups

The killer bottom line here is that, if you work with kids, children, youth… anyone in a mentor-like capacity, you’re making that same difference with them every day you show up.

And my guess is that you don’t remember that you make that difference… at least you don’t remember more than you do.

One of the earliest thought-leaders I can remember learning from in the educational field is Betsey Haas. Her tag line is “I make the difference.”

Go write that down on an index card and put it in your pocket. Or, better yet, in your shoe. Anywhere you’ll notice it. And remember that whether you know it or not, whether you get feedback on it or not, you make the difference.

Shredding Back The Years

February 23rd, 2013 by

Recently, our after-school program was de-funded by the State of California due to the ongoing budget crisis.  With one swipe of the pen, Governor Jerry Brown wiped out approximately six million dollars of funding from our organization annually which was used to fund after-school program scholarships for the financially disadvantaged.

I’m here to say that I don’t think it was such a bad thing.

Now, mind you, before you consider me some cold-hearted, right-leaning, only-care-for-the-rich jerk, I’ll give you my reasons.

Well, reason, really.

The fact is that whenever you take money from the government, no matter for what noble cause, paperwork – ungodly, unjust, and vast amounts of paperwork – flows from the halls of power as if Mount Olympus had just been moved to Sacramento.

In the case of our funding, the paperwork was called “Desired Results for Families and Children”.  A fairly benign title, really.  After all, who isn’t for positive results for all Californian children.

Ah, but here’s the rub.  While I’m sure that plenty of time, sweat, and effort went into drafting these 31 “desired results” (the actual number fluctuated between 50, 31, and 13 over time), the government demanded that we rate each child’s progress ongoingly according to these standards that were seemingly handed to us from Mount Sinai (which also I surmise is now located in Sacramento, near Mount Olympus).

And rating each child was not enough!  We then, in accordance with our funding contract, had to tabulate and aggregate all the data we generated about each child’s progress, and re-design our curriculum every six months with the end goal being pushing each child’s “rating” up on each of the 31 standards.

Of course, one might ask… where is the room for original curriculum?  What if the emerging curriculum suggested by the children said we should investigate ladybugs… but we didn’t because we were busy making sure that kids understand how to wash their hands well enough to score a 3 on that particular standard?

Aside from the basic bristling of the government telling me what curriculum I must promote and is good for kids, these Desired Results Developmental Profiles (DRDPs in shop-talk) that we had to complete for each child, every six months took hours to complete (probably 3 hours of observation, 1/2 hour of assessment, and 2 hours of administrative number-crunching and curriculum re-designing… per child)!

Let’s multiply it out… if you figure 5-1/2 hours of work per child… and say, like our program, you had 35 children receiving subsidized child care, that comes out to 192.5 man-hours of work… times two (remember this is a semiannual requirement)… that comes to a total investment of 385 hours of work each year… or roughly the equivalent of 18.5% of a full-time job.

Now, the financial payouts are more appealing… in exchange for that 385 hours, we received approximately $122,000 to subsidize these kids’ child care expenses.  About $315 per hour for our work (of course, the workers don’t get that money… it goes into the general budget).

But, finances aside, the main problem with the DRDP is that the ratings are completely subjective.  That’s right… subjective.  Which means I could rate a child a “2″ in the category of self-confidence, and another teacher might see that child as a “3″ or a “1″.  While there are “guidelines” by which to select your rating, the fact is that the rating would still be subject to that teacher’s perception of how the child is.

Another fact is that, while Miss Bobbie might be rating the child now, six months from now it may be Mr. Jim that’s doing the rating.  Given the high turnover rate of workers in the child care field, it’s possible that a child may be rated by a different adult every time.  And this makes for somewhat shaky results.

And, then, we create our curriculum around these objectively suspect findings.

So, happy was I (however, probably not the environment) as I fed these DRDP tools from the past 7 years into the paper shredder this week.  Another win for common sense.

And, as a footnote to this story, the needy of the community were not left out.  Our organization budgeted creatively and started their own program for subsidized after-school care.  Win-win.

 

 

Lessons From A Mountain (and a Cool Teacher)

January 28th, 2013 by

Recently, I was browsing through the “Stop Workplace DramaSki the Diamond” blog of my wise and talented friend, Marlene Chism.  She had written a post about a recent ski trip to Breckenridge in Colorado, and the wonderful lessons she had gleaned while on (and off) the slopes.  This post is wonderful in its insight… I recommend you read the whole thing here.

But, as all good posts do, it got me to thinking.

Thinking about the one huge lesson I learned from skiing – a lesson I seem to forget and remember and forget and remember over and over again.

And, now, as I’m faced with the challenges of launching new products, and, indeed, an entirely new business, I find that I need to re-learn this lesson all over again.

What Marlene’s article brought back for me was an experience from back in my college days- I took a “recreational” skiing class at the college I was attending in Santa Fe (had to meet the PE requirement for graduation!), and I was blessed to have an instructor who, not only was an expert skier, but also an upperclassman, Resident Advisor in our dorm, and all-around cool guy that pretty much everyone looked up to.

On our final “class”… after a few weeks of puttering around on the bunny hill and some intermediate stuff… he took us to the top of the mountain for our final exam. One hill was an intermediate – he said “go that way for a ‘C’ and I’ll meet you at the bottom. For those of you who would like an “A”, follow me to a Black Diamond.”

To make a long story short, no one (at least not any of us dormitory denizens) wanted to look bad in front of Mr. Cool- and so we headed to the precipice of the Black Diamond. And it did look just that way… like a precipice.  Steep.   SCARY steep.

And I’ll never forget what happened next. He told us that, in his opinion, we had all mastered everything we needed to get down the slope. All we needed to do was push off, plan a route two or three turns (moguls) in advance, get in the flow, and, above all, don’t panic. He said that panic is what puts people in the hospital.

And I’ll be darned if I didn’t ski my first Black Diamond that day. In fact I went back up and skied it two more times before the lifts closed. I had a ball. And, yes, I fell. I almost panicked once or twice. It took me nearly 40 minutes to get down the first time. But I was in the flow… exhilarated, thrilled… in the flow. And none of us (the 10 or so of us that challenged ourselves against that mountain that day) wound up in the hospital. We all had a blast.

And I can’t help be reminded that life is like that as well. Things we’ve never done look dangerous, daunting… impossible (if you’d asked me before that day if I’d ever consider skiing a Black Diamond, I’d have said NO WAY)… you know it will be thrilling and rewarding, but too scary to attempt.

But if you trust yourself to make that initial push-off… if you plan two or three moves at a time and don’t look all the way down the mountain… if you get in the rhythm and flow of the thing… and, above all, if you DON’T PANIC – there is really nothing that your heart desires that you can’t do.

Sure, you’ll fall down a time or two, your first run may take longer than you would like… but, what the heck. It’s a small price to pay for the reward that you receive.  And the reward is doubled – or more! – if you’re in the business of transforming the lives of the students in your charge.

Fall Seven Times, Stand Up Eight

True words

The Oliver Project

January 21st, 2013 by

Back in October of 2012, our family dog, Oliver, was diagnosed with lymphoma.  The vet gave him one month to live.  Of course, we were hit hard- we had gotten Oliver through NorCal Golden Retriever Rescue… his previous owner had been a victim of foreclosure, and, for reasons I don’t understand, had left town… and left Oliver chained up in the yard.

OllieWhen he came into our lives, Oliver was about 8 or 9 years old (nobody is really sure- it was an estimate from the vet), and he stole our hearts straightaway.  Good-natured and loyal, he loved the attention lavished upon him, and with stoic grace, he bore the slings and arrows of a newborn, and then a toddler, running amok in the house as well.

So… back to the lymphoma.  At 14 or 15 (whichever estimate is correct), Oliver had had a long and happy life.  As the one month stretched into two… then three, and four, we felt blessed to have him around for whatever time we got.  The steroid medication seemed to be keeping the cancer at bay, and then, two weeks ago, the unthinkable happened.  He got out of the front door which was carelessly left open (we live on a busy street), and wandered between two parked cars and was hit by a pickup that didn’t have time to react after he darted in front if it.

A trip to the emergency pet hospital proved futile… somehow Oliver had escaped all injury (“He’ll be a little sore, sure, but no broken bones or internal bleeding” the kind vet added).  The next day, at our regular vet, she commented, “Oh I heard he decided to commit suicide” (dark humor- not what you usually expect from your kindly country veterinarian).

Up through Saturday, Oliver was play fighting with our cat (Chairman Meow), and chasing squirrels in the backyard.

Then on Sunday, suddenly, his demeanor had changed.  He wouldn’t eat.  Didn’t want to move much.  It was an effort to get him to swallow his pain pills (from the accident).   His legs grew wobbly, and he started drooling.

At about 9:30 p.m., as we were watching highlights from the day’s football games on the couch (just me and Oliver), he began to breathe harder.  And, then, just as suddenly, his body tensed… and then he slumped over.  Oliver was gone.

Now, I’ve never been with anyone, or any living thing (save a bug or two or one hundred when I was younger), who has died in my presence – until Oliver.

And here is the upshot of this post… until you have had this experience, it probably never hits you – how precious life is.  Or, as the musician Sting puts it… how fragile we are.

And, as cliche as it may seem, you realize that we are all in this tenuous game called life- and it could all end at any moment, without any warning.

So, like my mentor Dale Calvert often said, the question is- will you die with your music still inside you?

Each day is a gift – that is why we call it the present (thank you, Mary Kay Ash).  Like I always tell my kids each morning… this is the first day of the rest of your life… make it count.

I’m starting my own “Oliver Project”.  I’m consciously living each day from here forward as an expression of the joy and gifts I have to give.

The Future’s So Bright…

October 30th, 2012 by

The world of education has begun to shift.  Noted educator Will Richardson recently wrote in the New York Times that, because of the pervasiveness of the internet and the World Wide Web, “schools, like media, music, business, politics, and other industries… will have to change.”

Even though he says that no one now knows what will become of schools and the classroom by the end of this transformation, Mr. Richardson notes three touchstones as a starting point for parents and educators to involve themselves in the change – and to prepare students for it.

One of the ideas he finds central to “tomorrow’s” education is that the classroom will expand, or have, as he puts it, “thin walls”.  As our society becomes more and more connected – as our teens and tweens become more “plugged in”, we have to realize that the amount of learning taking place outside the traditional classroom setting is increasing exponentially.

So, what, as parents and educators, can we do to prepare our children and ourselves for this unprecedented change?

The first thing, and quite possibly the most important thing, we can do is to teach our children discernment.  Kids are very adept at scouring the web at younger and younger ages, and we need to give them the skills to navigate this world.  Up until now, the conversation has rested mostly on keeping kids safe online, and, while that is important, it isn’t enough anymore.  Kids need to understand how to find reliable information online; they need to understand that not everything they see is the truth.  This task of teaching discernment isn’t a new one for parents – they’ve been doing it for generations (eat this mushroom, aKids Get A Lot of Screen Timend not that) – the trick is that with the internet and World Wide Web, we are in heretofore uncharted territory.  We are in territory that is changing and evolving more and more rapidly with each passing year.  If we’re to teach Web skills to our kids, we had better have at least a basic handle on it ourselves.

The second thing we need to remember is that, even with society changing at an exponential pace, we still need to take time away from all the information.  Kids (and adults!) need to make sure that they have time to play, rest, relax, and engage with each other in a non-cyber fashion.  Screen time is becoming an addiction (think of TV addiction on steroids!) for many tweens and teens today.  It’s important as parents and educators to stop and model play and recreation behaviors for their kids and to schedule it into their lives.

We’re living in exciting times – Will Richardson says that there has never been a better time in the history of mankind to be a learner – the bounties that technology has to offer us and will continue to offer us in the future is breathtaking.  But, as parents and educators, we must meet the challenge with open eyes and open minds.

Big Kid, Little Kid

October 17th, 2012 by

Here is a recent article I wrote for our after-school center’s newsletter about mixed-age groups:

One of the questions I am asked most frequently about the philosophy at our after-school program is centered around the fact that we allow age groups to mix freely during the day.  Kindergarteners can freely mingle with the 4th and 5th graders, and it’s not uncommon to see a 3rd grader playing with someone either 2 years his/her junior or senior.

Of course, there is a valid concern that younger children are at risk of being bullied by older children in a relationship where there is a “power imbalance”.  This is, of course, a possibility (as it is in any relationship – even into adulthood)… but it is a possibility of which our qualified and caring staff members are aware, and proactively seek to prohibit.  The emotional and social safety of all the children are major pillars of the work we do in our after-school program.

With that in mind, it’s important to look at the major benefits reaped through mixed-age play.  One of the major precepts of our center’s philosophy is that School-Age sites are, in the end, miniature societies, complete with their own unique patterns of relationships, values, and ethics.  Through our emphasis of the Character Counts! pillars of character (Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, and Citizenship), we are creating the kind of social “fabric” in our group that helps pave the way for positive, beneficial relationships between all ages.

According to a study by South Dakota State researcher Marilyn F. Rasmussen, children who are routinely a part of mixed age groups after school consistently experience “positive social interactions…such as cooperation, nurturing, inclusion, and sharing.”   Rasmussen continues to expand on the learning of cooperation:

 

            In a mixed-age group, mutually reinforcing perceptions
come together to produce cooperation. Young children
look to older children to provide leadership, helpfulness
and empathy. Older children perceive younger children as
in need of guidance and help. A collaborative spirit
replaces the competitive tendency frequently found among
same-age mates. Cooperative actions and reactions bring
out a sense of caring in older children, and they typically
accept the responsibility of being a role model.

 

In my 20+ years of working with mixed-age afterschool groups, I have found that older children identify with roles that encourage the growth of responsible behavior; that older kids receive “hands on” experience in being the nurturer, caregiver, resident expert, and “big brother/sister”.  The younger kids benefit by having accessible role models, and learn that older friends can become allies; I’ve also seen that children who develop relationships with older kids are more confident and less susceptible to bullying as they grow.

In the end, a mixed age group more closely represents what children will find outside the gates of the school – in “real life”, if you will – and having experience and comfort in negotiating such situations can build confidence, empathy, and living skills for all involved.

Locked Down?

October 14th, 2012 by

A little slow on the postings this past week, but I wanted to comment on a post from Free Range Kids guru Lenore Skenazy.  Another “stranger danger” incident happened recently at a preschool in the SF Bay area.  Apparently, a parent had allowed another adult inside the preschool compound without letting staff “buzz” them in, which created quite a stir- AND a lengthy letter outlining the dangers of people we don’t (and do!) know.

My reaction is this:

  • Why are our preschools / afterschool programs / schools wired like a minimum security prison in the first place?  I mean, I understand why.  At least I understand the reasons given.  I don’t agree with them.  Do we need to look at the DOJ statistics?  If we’re merely playing a statistics game then, shouldn’t we ban parents from driving their children home? (more car accidents happen per year with child passengers than stranger abductions) Perhaps we should ban relatives from picking up children at all (most abuse happens at the hands of relatives than any other category).
  • The main issue I have with the “lockdown” mentality is the subconscious message that it sends the children.  It tells them that they are just victims in a game where strangers lurk in every crevice waiting to pounce.  It tells them that they are incapable and must be protected from all things, real and imaginary.  It creates in children a sense that the world is a dangerous place, and that they’re better off not exploring, questioning, or learning about the wider world.

The fact is that, statistically, children are safer now than at any time in our nation’s history.  But paranoia makes for great headlines and child safety (or the fear of un-safety!) makes for great copy and Nielsen numbers.

But what is the cost to our kids?

Games Teachers Play (good ones)

October 3rd, 2012 by

Games Teachers Play - Book CoverI’m very excited and pleased to announce the release of my book “Games Teachers Play Before the Bell Rings” – a fun book that contains 10 games to stretch the imagination of those who work with children and youth… and to transform how we, as teachers, see the world.  The goal of the games is to bring the teacher new awareness into the art and power of their unique position and to enable them to speed along the road from “good” to “great”.

Until October 5th, you can download a FREE Kindle version of the book here.

After October 5th, it will still be available for the bargain price of $2.99.

Here is to teachers who are self-aware, conscious, and consciously making a difference!

The Primal Question

September 28th, 2012 by

Before we can even begin to discuss what needs to change in our system of education, we need to take a long, hard look at our raison d’etre for education in the first place.  Our cultural subconscious has been branded, as it were, since the 1950′s with the idea of what success looks like: more money, more power, more prestige.  And that is the ethic that we mindlessly hand down to our children: stay in school, even if it sucks, stick it out, get good grades, go get a “good” job, work your butt off for someone else’s profit for 50 years, retire, and hope you’ve socked enough money away that you don’t starve in your old age.

But what we are finding through the generations since the end of WWII is that having this “more” mentality has had some adverse effects.

People doing unrewarding, personally meaningless work because it pays well or because someone along the line told them they “should” pursue a certain career.  Important, necessary work falling to the wayside or relegated to the underclasses (or socially masochistic) because it has not been glamorized by our culture.  A subculture of people who will disregard ethics, principles, and even the rule of law if a certain activity will fill the “more” mold set forth by society.

As Brendon Burchard has written in his latest book, The Charge, Maslow’s hierarchy is now turned on its head.  In today’s uber-connected, sped-up, and super-informationalized society, our base needs have pretty much become a given.  Today, the poor of our country aren’t those who can’t afford food- they’re the ones who can’t afford cable TV and cell phones.  And behind this fast, profound change that we find our society amidst, is our human search for meaning… our drive to be fulfilled and live lives of purpose.

So… what does this have to do with education?

Today’s education model is still trying to turn out, assembly-line style, “workers” for the old economy.  People who will go accept any job to grab hold of a rung to try and climb to “the top”, wherever that is.  Children are told to sit down, shut up, and listen; the single most valued character trait in today’s schools is compliance.

Rarely are our children given any tools to understand, much less seek, fulfillment.  Rarely do our schools speak to children about meaning and purpose.  Yet new psychological studies are showing that children who do understand and have intrinsic representations for purpose and meaning are more apt to learn and contribute (See William Damon’s book “The Path to Purpose”).

So the question that must be asked is this: at the end of our kids’ compulsory education, do we want factory-ready worker drones, or do we want thinking adults with an intrinsic link to the meaning of being human?

I realize that it is not as simply dichotomous as presented above… but I do know that if we are to evolve as quickly as our technology is moving, we need to start questioning the foundation – the reasons – for our educational systems.

Finding Purpose and Meaning
It’s time for schools to foster the incubation of little humans’ search for meaning and purpose

What is the future of Education?

September 26th, 2012 by

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately on what, exactly, the future of the American Education System is going to be, if we continue down the road we’re currently traveling… AND what the future could or should be, given our current level of technology development, social and cultural development, and the current damage being dealt to the next generation via our outdated, outmoded, and detrimental clinging to paradigms in education that were relevant 50 – 100 years ago, but are now counterproductive.

All this against the backdrop of my first experience as a PARENT within the education system… my child has just begun 1st grade…

Transforming an entrenched, funded, and “we’ve always done it this way” mindset within the education system is a daunting task.  Sometimes it feels too big, too overwhelming.  But, by the same measure, if someone – if I – don’t start, we’re going to have a real hot mess in (probably) less than a decade’s time.  Some folks think we already have a real hot mess now.

So, stop number one on this train ride, is thought provoking material from “The Innovative Educator” blog.  One teacher chimes in with “20 Things” – 20 insider observations – that he thinks outsiders should know about the education system… and another teacher comments on each of the 20 items. They don’t always agree, but the sum of their observations sheds much light on what is going wrong, or is about to go wrong, in today’s schools.

20 Things an Educator Wants the Nation to Know About Education

What do you think?