Another “Worst-First” Thinking Debacle

March 20th, 2012 by

So, the 4-year-old goes to school and draws a picture of daddy holding a gun.  You won’t believe what happens next…

Read what happened here…

Another example of the kind of overreaction that gives teachers and social workers a bad name.


What is your kid drawing that could get you in trouble?

When Lawsuits (or the threat thereof) Rule the World

March 18th, 2012 by

Again, thanks to Lenore Skenazy of FREE RANGE KIDS for another thought-provoking article.

Read original post here.

Turns out, a mom with a toddler attending afternoon baseball games on the site of an elementary school sought to use the bathroom (actually, the toddler was seeking to use the bathroom…) of the on-site afterschool program.

The long and short of it is that the request was denied.

Reason?  Liability.  The afterschool program has a policy in place not to let outsiders use their facilities.  The “worst-first” thinking goes like this: what if the woman or child slipped while in the bathroom?  Then the afterschool center could be held liable for damages.

What’s worrisome to me is that our center (and all the other afterschool centers where I’ve worked in the past) have the same policy.  BAD THINGS happen in bathrooms, and the insurance company knows it.  So, better to have a policy forbidding unauthorized restroom use than to open yourself to the infinitesimal chance that something could happen.  Can’t be too careful, you know.

Got me to thinking about how pervasive this “worst-case-scenario” thinking is in our profession.  I’m sure there are many who would wrap the kids in bubble wrap and put them in the corner until their parents picked them up, if they could.

Like I’ve said before, I believe that the raison d’etre of school-age care is to foster the social and emotional growth of the charges in our care.

If we let the “bubble-wrap” thinkers take over, we’ve failed.

The Male-as-predator Stereotype Dies Hard

February 2nd, 2012 by

Back when I began working with children in the stone-ages of the 1990′s, there was an article in one of those “Parent” magazines entitled “How to Choose A Child Care Program”.  Being the unenlightened neanderthals that we were back then, bullet point number seven stated “Avoid the child care program where men are working”.  Really?  The logic is… most predators are male, so, it (il)logically follows that all men that work with kids must be child molesting monsters.  Even then, the idea seemed ridiculous to me.

Who do you see?

Recently, the magazine “Parenting” has shown us that this anti-male bias is not dead, some 20 years after my first encounter with it.  In an article entitled “The New Playdate Playbook” (linked here via CNN), a worried mother is told to cancel a sleepover when she finds out her daughter’s friend is being parented by a single dad.


What are the underlying assumptions here?  Single men are monsters?  You can’t trust a man with a child if there’s not a woman around to temper him?  Is this rational?

What’s even more strange… after a barrage of negative responses to this article, the editor of takes up arms to defend the original article.  You can read the editor’s response here.  He starts off balanced enough, but then disintegrates into the rationale that the original article’s author’s fear of a single dad should be defended under the idea that the opinion may be different, but it is valid (if I don’t like my kid’s friend’s parents because they’re African-American, is that “different, but valid” too?).  He further damages his credibility with a ridiculous ad hominem attack on a website who published a negative review of the article.

As long as articles like this show up in the mainstream, men (and especially men who choose to work with children and youth) will be viewed through a stereotype with suspicion.

Thanks to Free-Ranger Lenore Skenazy for bringing this article to my attention.

The Impact of Teachers

January 19th, 2012 by

One of my favorite “quirky” features of National Public Radio over the past couple of years has been a periodic short program (<5 minutes per airing) of the STORY CORPS PROJECT.

In a nutshell, StoryCorps has undertaken interviewing and recording the stories of everyday Americans to place into an archive… for the benefit and edification of the public… and future generations.

This school year, they’ve undertaken interviewing teachers and those who have a “teacher story” to tell.  This is a wonderful testament to the power of teaching and the subtle, yet profound impact that teachers have on the very fabric of American society.

If your life has been touched or your life-trajectory has been altered for the better by a teacher, I have a challenge for you- one that I have already done on my personal Facebook page:  publicly thank that teacher that has influenced your life (on FB, LinkedIn, or whatever social media outlet you prefer).  Then encourage others to do the same.

Then check out the moving interviews that have been recorded so far by StoryCorps’ National Teachers’ Initiative.

StoryCorps’ Nat’l Teachers’ Initiative  StoryCorps Teachers

Don’t let your intentionality muscle atrophy!

January 15th, 2012 by

Ran across a great video from the Ashcrafts’ After School Training blog showing the power of intentionality in After-School program environments!


For we after-school providers who have dedicated program space… this video just goes to show how lucky we are…

…And how easy it is to start taking intentionality for granted when you have a “static” space.

Thanks Mike and Chelsea for the reminder!

Funny and Profound – Don’t Kill Creativity!

September 3rd, 2011 by

Here is a remarkable video from Sir Ken Robinson that was brought to my attention by a former teacher and mentor (thank you, Brad Hawkins, for this video, and thank you for the difference you have made in the lives of the thousands of children and youth that you’ve impacted and continue to impact to this day).

Yes, it’s 19 minutes long, but it’s highly entertaining and has a message that today’s education professionals need to hear.

What is wonderful is that, using Youth Development principles, this is a gap that is being filled by Out-of-School-Time professionals already.  How affirming!


Watch Your Mouth

August 25th, 2011 by

This week, my youngest son started kindergarten.  Of course, being the baby of the family, it was quite a milestone, and the whole family was very excited.

I was also excited to have him attending the school where I run the on-site afterschool program!  Close proximity, the fact that I know the teachers… all great positives!

Somewhere along the way of dropoff time for kindergarten, his teacher somehow missed the connection that I am his father.  I regularly drop off kids at kindergarten classes (as well as pick them up), so the teacher knows me as the guy from the afterschool program.  Maybe she doesn’t know my last name (same as my son’s); maybe she missed that I was taking pictures of him as he approached the door on his first day of school; maybe she missed the goodbye hug when it was time for us to leave our kids for their first day of academic prosperity.  She missed something.

When I returned after school to pick up my son (and the four other kids from her class that attend our afterschool program), I casually asked, “So how did this little guy do?”, my arm around my son.

“Oh,” she replied, “okay… he’s got some issues.”

I’m not sure why, even though her sentence bothered me, I didn’t get mad.  Maybe the anesthetic euphoria of it being the first day of kindergarten hadn’t worn off yet.

Turns out the “issues” she was talking about centered mostly around my young son’s inability to have, as of yet, mastered the fine motor benchmark of proper pencil control and letter-forming skills.  Yes, I admit, he hasn’t gotten there yet on some of these fine motor skills.  But I’m not worried, as it is balanced out by his 7-year-old grasp of mathematics (I’m not kidding here… at least the 7-year-old level!).  I’m mostly pleased he’s in school now, where he’ll have the opportunity to develop these skills.

But the part that got me to thinking was the casual “you-know-what-I-mean”, educator-to-educator, almost snarky way she said “… he’s got some issues.”

And what it got me to thinking about is how I am sometimes guilty of the exact same thing.  When talking to colleagues, teachers, or peers, I say things sometimes that would be upsetting for parents to hear.  Not mean things, but things that tip slightly on the deprecating side.

I’m not a big bible-thumper, but I do believe there is much wisdom in the good book to know and digest.  And one quote from St. Paul’s letter to the early church at Ephesus:

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up…”

Very wise man, that St. Paul.

Or you could go back to “Bambi” and just roll with “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

Now, I think I will take this advice and look closely at what talk comes out of my mouth.


Fairness in Benefits

August 14th, 2011 by

Recently, a discussion was started (and abruptly came to an end) on the SAC-L mailing list (a list for School Age Care professionals) regarding benefits for part-time employees.

At issue is a problem that has long-plagued the Out-of-School-Time profession- the issue of benefits, which is also linked to the issue of worthy wages.The cost of health care

I have said in previous posts that, as I worked up from an entry-level “aide” position in the early 1990′s, I found myself with a 22-hour per week job.  I had other offers for more hours and better pay: a position as a line cook, a disc jockey, an instructional aide.  I turned them all down.

Why?  Because the company I worked for, Palo Alto Community Child Care, offered full benefits (medical, dental, vision… even chiropractic!) to its employees of 20-hours per week or more.  With benefits in my pocket, I was free to use my non-working hours to create additional income through my music-for-kids program.  Because of the benefits offered me, I stayed at the center where I began life as an aide… for 11 years!  Not only did I work my way up through the ranks of teacher to Asst. Director to Director, but my presence (and the above-average longevity of the staff members there) created a sense of continuity for the kids in the program.

So, the question becomes: how do we provide health care benefits for those working with children and youth without balancing the cost on the backs of the parents (some of whom -believe it or not- make less than youth workers)?

Any ideas?


Grace and Power

July 23rd, 2011 by

As a followup to yesterday’s post, I wanted to link to a very important message: the parents of Lieby Kletzky have released a statement.

A very powerful statement that confirms the beauty and character of the human race in the face of events too horrific to be believed.

Read the statement here.

Blessings to Lieby’s parents and the memory of Lieby.  Thank you for your words of Grace and Power.

We Have Been Dangerized

July 22nd, 2011 by

Thanks to Lenore Skenazy for her poignant blog post/article in response to the near-incomprehensible Lieby Kletzky tragedy.


The fact is that we DO decide in a most irrational fashion what fears to pay attention to.  Sure, the media helps a lot!  And then we obsess, often to the point of unintended and unwanted consequences.

The day after they found Lieby’s body in New York City, our site had a field trip planned; we were taking a small group of 24 five-and-six-year-olds to the Zoo.

24 children with 7 adults.

Two families pulled out of the trip- too dangerous, they said (“…you heard about that kid in New York, didn’t you?”).

At least four other families expressed concern about the trip (“you’re sure you’ll be watching them?”- as if we hadn’t been all this time, but now we were kicking around the idea we should start).

I understand the parental pull to protect your kids.  I’m a parent, too.    I get it.

As a care provider, I’m also always humbled by the trust the parents place in us every day we take care of their kids.  I always strive to keep that trusting bond at the fore of my thoughts (and remind the other staff to be aware as well) as we move through our daily activities.

And, at the same time, I really get it.  I get how freaking irrational our fears can be when driven by sensationalism.  In many ways, we are still the 5-year-old kid worried about the monster from the movie that we’re sure is lurking there under our bed.