Tags » ‘Professionalism’

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?

 

Introducing Generation Four (G4) in School-Age Care

December 28th, 2009 by

What do we mean when we talk about “Generation 4″ – or G4 when it comes to the Out-of-School-Time profession?

G4 is a direct thought-line descendant from “Generation Theory”- work that was pioneered and authored by the Ollhoffs, et. al. at Concordia University’s department of After-School Time (a subdivision of their Education Department).

In a nutshell, Generation Theory traces the purposes and defining characteristics of School-Age Care programs. Generation 1 had as it’s focus a simple warehousing of children while parents worked- a utilitarian viewpoint. Generation 2 followed with child-centered and developmental activities. Generation 3 took the long view of the child, family, school and culture, and promoted School-Age Care as an integral piece to the overall socialization of children and youth.

Through the heyday of the Youth Development Movement of the mid-to-late 1990′s (and early 2000′s), Generation 3 and Youth Development Theories seemed likely to create a critical mass nationwide in Out-Of-School-Time arenas and were poised to win the day as the gold standard for Out-of-School-Time philosophy. The National Afterschool Association (NAA) published it’s “Purple Bible” for quality baselines in School Age Care. Concordia University in St. Paul rolled out its groundbreaking School-Age Care degrees, both for undergraduate and post-graduate work.

Then came the Bush years (and, in California, the Schwarzenegger years)… No Child Left Behind became law, and Prop 49 was passed in California setting in motion a conflict for the soul of the Out-of-School-Time profession. Should after-school (School Age Care centers and Out-of-School-Time-focused organizations) continue in the vein of the Youth Development philosophy, or should they be co-opted as second-fiddle actors in the rush to boost school-day test scores?

Today, we stand at that crossroads.

Generation 4 will either see the continued development and implementation of Youth Develoment strategies and professionalization of the after school field, or it will fall as we see Out-of-School-Time disappear and be co-opted into a longer school day. At this point, it could go either way.

Disturbing Directions

July 15th, 2009 by

The California School-Age Consortium (CalSAC) is the largest professional non-profit serving out-of-school time providers in California and is also the state affiliate for the National Afterschool Association (NAA), the nation’s leading advocate for out-of-school providers.  Since its inception 26 years ago, CalSAC has provided California’s  out-of-school-time professionals with a pseudo-professional organization, giving them training, advocacy opportunities, and profession-related services.

Over the past couple of years, however, CalSAC’s general mission has been misguided.  CalSAC has recently shifted is focus away from professionalization and education of the field to other agendas.  Most recently, undue, almost catholic emphasis has been placed on equity, diversity, and anti-bias (or, in the words of some of the most aggressive employees and associates, “anti-oppression”).  While multicultural and social diversity is highly important in the training of out-of-school-time workers, it is not (and should not be) the “main course” of the diet of the professional.

What disturbs me most about the recent trends in CalSAC’s philosophy concerns the professionalization of the out-of-school-time field.  For decades, we watched the struggle of early childhood educators as they reached, struggled, and, to a degree, finally received professional status amongst educators.  This was brought on by powerful non-profit organizations (such as the National Association for the Education of Young Children – NAEYC) and tireless advocates who, for years,  spoke to anyone who would listen about the importance of preschool education and care.  The fruits of those labors have paid off.  Preschool educators are now respected, professional pay is rising, and governments have invested many dollars in the field.  Not surprisingly, NAEYC’s California affiliate, CAEYC, was one of the key players in bringing about this change.

All this happened while the out-of-school field was in its own “childhood” and looking on with hope and expectation that it was next to ride on the professional train.  For a few years in the 80′s and 90′s, it looked like that train might leave the station.

What happened in the in-between time could be the fodder for many more posts, so I will leave that topic unexplored for now.  What lit my fire to blog this post was what I read on CalSAC’s website today.  I will quote pieces, but it is too long to print in its entirety.  You can find the full text of  “The Challenge of After School Staffing” here.

The piece begins by asking the hypothetical question, “What if an industry the [sic] larger than the size of the 120,000-person telecommunications industry one day announced it would lose up to 40% of its workforce this year – and every year after?”  Good question.  The parallel waiting to be drawn here is with out-of-school care/enrichment programs.  The problem with the question is that the telecommunications industry (or any other large professional industry) would never have that kind of turnover.  It would find a way to save its jobs, come hell or high water.  Instead, we’re left to imagine that out-of-school-time is just a lost cause, not really a profession , so let’s look at how to live with 40% turnover.  That’s stinkin’ thinkin’ – especially so, because it is, however subliminal, the main premise of the article.

The article then goes on to describe CalSAC’s initiative which aims to bring in new workers to the field, not as professionals, but as entry-level grunts who are being primed to use out-of-school-time jobs as stepping stones to other related fields (by inference, one concludes that the best way to staff out-of-school-time programs is to bring in these “long-term temps” and just suck it up and accept that out-of-school time will never be a profession in and of itself).  To quote the conclusion of the article:

These workers, in turn, receive excellent entry-level job opportunities that mesh well with post-secondary education schedules and provide an ideal pathway into a job in education, social service, health, business, and a number of other sectors that require the human relations and job performance skills utilized in the afterschool field.

So this great initiative that CalSAC has put forward does nothing to stem the overwhelming turnover that plagues the out-of-school profession.  Instead, it perpetuates out-of-school time as a second-class field: a stepping stone for “real” lines of work such as social service, health care, and business.  All of which keeps the status quo firmly in place and ends up hurting children, youth, and families.