Tags » ‘Vision’

What is Leadership?

May 21st, 2010 by

While cruising through some posts on Edutopia, I came across a thread on teachers as leaders.  Which, of course, got me to thinking…  what is leadership?

Leadership consultant Chuck Isen, I think, says it best:

I view leadership as more of an Art than a Science. It is the art of purpose and meaning. It’s orientation is to the future; a future that wasn’t going to happen but for your bringing it into existence as an idea or a vision. Leadership makes something possible that wouldn’t have happened in the normal course of events.

What a transforming way to think of leadership!  Apply it to those that work with children (especially in out-of-school-time, where we can work more freely with leadership concepts and character building).. and I think… these ideas are those that I want my staff to inhabit.  These are the ideas that I want for those that teach my own children!

Leadership is the art of purpose and meaning.

Bringing meaning and purpose into existence where it would not have existed but for your leadership… a truly noble calling.

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.

What if we could give our kids this?

May 14th, 2009 by

This video is 16 minutes long, but worth every second spent.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cbk980jV7Ao]

Should the School Day Get Longer?

March 29th, 2009 by

There seems to be a growing call across the country to lengthen the school day.  Advocates from every political stripe see this as an easy softball issue.  Really, who would be against our kids getting smarter?

Plus, one can hear the clarion call of fearmongering leaders who warn that Americans, after years of statistical gains, are either: 1) dropping out of school at alarmingly increasing rates, or 2) falling behind our industrialized-world counterparts in academic achievement.  This can only mean one thing: we need more school time!

Let’s look at this more closely.  First, the measurement of dropout rates has been a highly contentious issue.  For such a seemingly basic statistic, one hardly knows where to turn.  For instance, the 2000 graduation rate has been pegged in the United States at anywhere between 62 and 88 percent- depending on whose research report you’re reading.  That’s a pretty wide disparity of numbers for something that one can imagine could be easily calculated.  Really… we can land a man on the moon, and yet we can’t figure out a simple statistical datum with a disparity of less than 26 percentage points?

By most accounts, the dropout rate is (and has been for the past 20 years) between 10 and 12 percent with variable spikes and valleys throughout that span.  There has been neither sharp increase nor appreciable decrease since 1990.  This “alarming” dropout rate is certainly no reason to increase the amount of time kids spend in school.

Another tactic used by the panic-of-the-week politicos goes something like this (perhaps you’ve read an article like this before?)…

Headline: American Children Falling Behind Kids in (Japan, Australia, Canada, insert most worrisome country here) in (Science, Mathematics).

What kind of sick sport is this?  Let’s pit the children of the world against each other in academic competition?  What does the winner get?  Really, I’m with Alfie Kohn on this one, when he says that these types of academic competitions and comparisons only lead to a culture that filters down… not only are countries pitted against countries, but states against states, districts against other districts in their state, schools within a district against each other… and ultimately kids against kids.  How disquieting it is to know that my 7th grader is judged, not by the merits of his own learning, but, rather, by how he stacks up against the other 32 kids in his math class.  In his book, The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing, Kohn states (and I paraphrase): if all countries do poorly in terms of academic excellence, what glory is there in being at the top; likewise, if all countries do well, what shame is there in being at the bottom?

Surely, this artificial competition between countries, states, districts, and schools is no reason to elongate the school day.  That this competition may be about money… well, that’s a different question, but I won’t digress in this post.

Many Youth-Development-Based programs operate today, but are being threatened by the spectre of extended day programs that the feds and states have implemented.  In California, this has led to more state requirements and strings attached to funding while weakening some of the strengths of asset-based (Youth Development) programs.  More on this in another post.  The point being that the state (in California and other ‘forward looking’ states) are poised to co-opt afterschool programming to use it to create a longer school day.  This is a nefarious and ill-advised idea.

Schools don’t need more time.  Really- they have our children hostage six-plus hours a day, 180-plus days a year.  Really, if they’re saying they can’t get the job done in that amount of time, why should we, the parents and public, be willing to give them additional time?  Like marketing guru Dale Calvert told me over a decade ago… “don’t wish you had more… wish you were better!”

Stuck In The Forest

December 31st, 2008 by

Free Interior Design

I recently learned of an experience where a Luisa, a community citzen, who had had two children go through the world of after-school care, offered to take on a project- for free -  to organize a volunteer interior designer and coordinate donations to transform the environment of a local SAC center into “something of beauty, something that would inspire the kids and the staff each day when they came to this place.”  Now, I don’t know about you, but most after-school sites I’ve visited (and, yes, I’ll include my own on this list) tend to be a bit institutional-looking, with hand-me-down everythings, and not much going on in the arena of aesthetic interior design.  I was excited to see how this project would progress. 

Do You Want It?

While she garnered the support of the director of the site, she encountered stiff opposition from the agency’s manager.  Reasons cited for the opposition ranged from concerns with state licensing to volunteer vetting to simply “that’s not the way we’ve always done it.”  I spoke with her after her meeting with the agency manager, and felt sorry for her.  She came to this agency with a “gift” in her hand, and was turned away- and told every reason why it wouldn’t work.  I encouraged her to find another agency or program and offer it again- not every agency could be as closed-minded as this first one, right?  Or could it?

I was upset at the lack of vision of the manager. 

Do I close off possibility?

And then I got to thinking.  How many times had I, at my own site, closed off vision, taken myself out of being present to possibilities when they’re presented to me?  Just a couple weeks ago, a staff member approached me with some thoughts about rearranging our site’s daily schedule… and what was my initial reaction?  It was a huge NO.  Of course, I didn’t yell that horrid two-letter word at the requesting staff member, but I made my firm opposition clear.  Inside my head, the voices were shouting and rebelling against the idea.

Fortunately, after my change-resistant, “we’ve always done it this way” internal dialogue finally quieted, I went back to the staff member and explained my reaction, apologized for being so instantaneously inflexible, and told her that I might need some time to digest the idea, but I wanted to leave it open for discussion.

How many times do we resist any change, any suggestion that possibilities exist for transforming what exists in the now into something more inspirational?  I challenge you to find your automatic “NO” spots, listen more closesly in the coming weeks for possibilities that call to you, and let things that move and inspire you have more space at the table than the comfort of “how it’s always been done.”

As for Luisa, I hope that she finds an organization or agency that is open enough to possibility to see what she brings as a gift- not a challenge to the status quo.  Thanks for your gift, Luisa.