Friday, September 23, 2016

Remembering the Importance of Relationships and Kindness

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha
I was reminded this week of the importance of adult relationships in young people’s development and the difference we can make by offering understanding, kindness, and acceptance. This is easy to take for granted because of all of the pressure to focus on content and academic/non-academic skills. 

I was reminded of this due to an interview between Terry Gross (NPR) and Ryan Speedo Green. Mr. Green was a violent and troubled youth at an early age. Due to the kindness and acceptance of an elementary school teacher, he is now a singer with New York’s Metropolitan Opera. You too can be inspired - have a listen


I was also reminded of a chapter in the CNYD Youth Development Guide that focuses on relationship building. You can read this chapter by clicking here. Within this chapter is a staff exercise entitled “Cookie Lady” (page 20 of the PDF). This exercise asks adults to think back to a certain age and identify the adults that were very important to them. One participant identified the lady in the cafeteria that passed out cookies - hence the name “Cookie Lady”.        


Thursday, September 8, 2016

Character Day is September 22nd and Lights On Afterschool! is October 20th



There are two important events coming up that are important for the afterschool community. We urge all afterschool leaders to consider their participation, see below. 

CHARACTER DAY - SEPTEMBER 22, 2016 (#CharacterDay2016)




Two weeks to Character Day! Afterschool and summer youth programs are perfectly positioned to promote their development of important character traits. In fact, many programs do this intentionally as part of their stated mission. We encourage afterschool and summer programs to join over 50,000 events happening around the globe. The hunger for this conversation is incredible! If you are still looking for ideas for your event (whether you have 15 mins, an hour, or a whole day devoted to Character Day), check out Let It Ripple's website, where you can find suggestions for activities, discussion kits, other free materials, and videos for all ages. 


LIGHTS ON AFTERSCHOOL! OCTOBER 20, 2016 

Get Involved! We encourage all afterschool programs to participate in the 17th annual Lights On Afterschool! celebration. This is an important day, sponsored by the Afterschool Alliance, in which thousands of programs make the case for the continued support of afterschool programs for youth. You can find events, gather ideas, and register for Lights On Afterschool and help showcase the benefits of afterschool programs and their need for support. 

Last year, more than 1 million Americans celebrated Lights On Afterschool at more than 8,000 events. Thousands of news outlets shared stories of diverse programs around the country. We know partners like you made this happen.

We can’t wait to see what programs across the country have in store for Lights On Afterschool 2016!




Tuesday, August 23, 2016

ELPs and the Classroom Teacher Shortage, Part 2

By Sam Piha


Sam Piha
With the last economic recession, school districts across the nation and in California laid off large numbers of teachers. The recent uptake of the economy and increased tax dollars for education, districts are now experiencing a large shortage of teachers. We also know that the number of college students who have enrolled in education courses has dropped significantly. 

How can expanded learning programs (ELPs) contribute to solving this shortage? We believe ELPs are perfectly positioned to allow young workers and future teachers the opportunity to learn skills that are very important to classroom work.

In part 2 of ELPs and the Classroom Teacher Shortage, we offer interview responses from young adults who have migrated from ELPs to the teaching profession (René Ly, Graduate Student in Education and Substitute Teacher) and Anna Zimmerman (Graduate Student in Education and Future 4th Grade Teacher). In Part 1, we offered interview responses from ELP leader (Alec Lee, Aim High) and a teacher training leader (Mike Snell, California Teaching Fellows Foundation).

We also want to share this valuable and brief video that features René Ly and other young teachers who have migrated from youth work to teaching careers. 



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Q: Can you say something about why you chose to become a classroom teacher? 

RL: I chose to be a classroom teacher because of the unique experience. As a classroom teacher, I am able to be with my students and have the ability to be in community with them as well as witness their tremendous development throughout the school year. 

AZ: Becoming an educator has always been a passion of mine.  When I was in high school, I joined an ROP class called Careers in Education, I knew that this is what I wanted to do.  Being a classroom teacher is not only about loving children.  It is about loving to see growth in the youth and loving to see the changes that these young lives are going through.  Being an educator means you are a mentor and a role model for the youth.  I chose to become a classroom teacher because I am passionate about making a difference in the lives around me.  

Q: Based on your experience, why are afterschool and summer youth programs well-positioned to serve as good training grounds for young people who want to be teachers? What do they offer that the traditional student-teacher experience doesn't?

RL: Within the afterschool and summer program experiences, I was able to develop lesson plans based off of interests and hobbies all while aligned with the state standards. I remember conducting science experiments, teaching art and dance as well as reading units. Teaching in afterschool capacities allowed me to teach with less pressure in terms of institutionalized expectations. It allowed me to be creative and thoughtful throughout my planning. 

AZ: These programs allow you to experience what its like to be responsible for a group of students.  You learn that not every day is going to go as planned and you learn to be flexible.  One of the greatest lessons I learned in the after school program was to be resilient.  It is so important to know that if a lesson is not as great as you wish it was, or if a student is struggling or being a distraction, it is important to implement classroom management skills that are well suited for the environment you are in.  As an educator you must learn to be resilient and allow yourself to fail so that you can learn from that mistake.  These programs for early teachers are great for supporting teachers in the making and giving them hands on experience with the kids.  While sitting in a lecture class you can learn a lot of valuable information, however, you truly learn the most by working with the kids and learning that each kid learns and retains information differently.  By working hands on in a classroom you are allowing yourself to experience an element of what its like to be a teacher.  

Q: Based on your experience, do you think afterschool and summer youth programs are well-positioned to encourage young people to consider the teaching profession as the next step in their career? Why? 

RL: I believe afterschool and summer youth programs are great stepping stones for young people to explore the route of teaching. Both programming provide opportunities to develop your craft, share it with students and most importantly practice. The leadership within the programs are also beneficial in terms of guidance and mentorship. 

AZ: These programs allow the future teachers to be in the classroom and working with the students in whole class discussions as well as small group. Also, these programs allow the future teacher to experience what its like to see a child's "lightbulb" go off when they grasp a concept.  These are all important concepts for a teacher to see and experience.  Not only is it beneficial to work hands on with the students, but these programs also offer a lot of guidance and structure when going through classes.  The most encouraging and beneficial part for me, was that I was able to connect and build relationships with the staff and administration through different school sites.  These people became friends, mentors, and also an amazing example of what teaching is all about. 

Q: In your own words, can you say something about the value of the Aim High and the Teaching Fellows program to your development as a young teacher? 

RL: Aim High's attention and care of their staff is the first and foremost of my development as a young teacher. I had the pleasure of working with veteran teachers who were open, kind, and willing to share their best practices. Aim High also gave me the opportunity to develop all aspects of my craft as a young teacher. From lesson planning to creating community, Aim High provides a space for that. My biggest take away from Aim High is that learning is FUN, CREATIVE, and MEANINGFUL. A recipe I will carry with me throughout my teaching career. 

AZ: California Teaching Fellows provided me with more than just a classroom setting to work in. This program allowed me to gain a better understanding of the education field and also a foundation for what to expect as a new teacher. Because of this program, I am confident in accepting a position as a 4th grade teacher. I feel confident in my ability to not only deliver meaningful lessons to my students, but also how to manage my classroom and how to build relationships with each of my students.  This program has helped me make connections with valuable people in the field of teaching and it has taught me the professional side of being an educator.   

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

ELPs and the Classroom Teacher Shortage, Part 1

By Sam Piha


Sam Piha
With the last economic recession, school districts across the nation and in California laid off large numbers of teachers. The recent uptick of the economy and increased tax dollars for education, districts are now experiencing a large shortage of teachers. We also know that the number of college students who have enrolled in education courses have dropped significantly. 

How can expanded learning programs (ELPs) contribute to solving this shortage? (By expanded learning programs, we are referring to school and community-based youth programs.) We believe they can help in two ways:

  • Serve as a training ground for students enrolled in education/teacher programs. 
  • Inspire youth workers who may be interested in advancing their careers by entering the teaching profession. 

Photo Credit: Education Week
ELPs are perfectly positioned to allow young workers and future teachers the opportunity to learn skills that are very important to classroom work: 

  • How to build a caring community of youth.
  • How to form meaningful relationships with youth.
  • How to use project based learning to advance engagement and align these experiences with the interests of youth.
  • How to advance social emotional learning and character skills through youth programming.
  • And more…

In Part 1, we offer interview responses from ELP leader (Alec Lee, Aim High) and a teacher training leader (Mike Snell, California Teaching Fellows Foundation). Also, Aim High was featured in Education Week for their success in encouraging youth workers to pursue a career in teaching. Click here to read the article.  

In Part 2, we will feature interview responses from teachers who began their careers as youth workers. 
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Q: Can you say something about the recent teacher shortage in California and the Central Valley? What is this and what caused it? 

MS: The teacher shortage is real. In speaking with superintendents and school
district leadership, it is a challenge to fill open teacher positions within the district. This is especially true in our more rural school districts. As increasing waves of baby boomers retire and interest in joining the teaching profession has been in steady decline, the demand and access to the quality gap is huge. 

As I connect with national after school providers across the country, they describe the challenges in their regions as being similar. Plain and simple, there are not enough young people choosing education as a career path, therefore credential programs are not able to produce the number of teachers required to meet the current demand. 

Recent studies suggest that the number of high school students interested in teaching as a career path has declined 55% in the last 10 years, from 9% of graduating seniors wanting to teach, to only 4%. I believe that those of us in the expanded learning space have a huge opportunity to influence young people’s perception of teaching as a career choice. Beyond opportunity, I believe we have a responsibility to all young people to place the best and brightest after school leaders in front of them, and my desired outcome is that this experience influences both the after school leaders as well as our young people, to promote teaching as a career choice. 

Q: How are afterschool and summer youth programs well-positioned to serve as good training grounds for young people who want to be teachers? 

MS: After school and summer present the best opportunities for those interested in education to gain tremendous real life experiences working with young people and working within the K-12 system. Year-round, after-school and summer staff earn hundreds, and in many cases, thousands of hours of classroom experience to build them up and prepare them for their career in education. Beyond experience at the point of service, our staff benefit from additional professional development and training around the systems and strategies that school districts deploy to accomplish their goals for all students.  

This is vital real world experience. They meet the school district support team, they collaborate with seasoned teachers, and often they interface with the superintendent. Developing these relationships while they are attending college and building their professional context for eduction provides a huge ‘foot in the door’ opportunity and will typically provide them advantages when competing for a teaching job against another candidate without after school or summer experience. They learn about the work, the culture, the preparation, the challenges, and they truthfully go into the profession incredibly well prepared. Here at Teaching Fellows we hear regularly from the over 40 superintendents we serve that are absolutely looking to our after school and summer staff as the best training ground and talent pool for future teachers in their respective districts.  

AL: Summer is a time to be different and step away from traditional classroom learning environments. At Aim High, our class size is 15-18 with two or three teachers in each classroom. Our curriculum is project-based and culturally relevant. We do two weeks of professional development before the kids come through the door. As a non-profit, we are freed from the constraints of public schools. We position ourselves at the intersection of rigor and fun. Young people are paired with lead teachers who have the opportunity to mentor. Summer can be a teaching laboratory. Lastly, many summer programs are community based and provide the opportunity to really know kids and their potential, issues and challenges very well.

Q: How are afterschool and summer youth programs well-positioned to encourage young people to consider the teaching profession as the next step in their career? 

MS: The population of millennials, which is our current college-age population, will far outsize the baby boomer numbers. The generation that follows the millennials will be even larger. This population trend coupled with the national rise in after school programs and systems of support will be the key to attracting, train and retain generations of future teachers. With after school and summer staff leaders now in this space, we have the tremendous opportunity to leave a lasting impression and challenge students to follow in our footsteps, to choose a career that shapes careers. 

The Teaching Fellows are uniquely positioned to encourage young people a few different ways; Teaching Fellows match the demographics of the students they serve so there is a built-in level of trust. Furthermore, Teaching Fellows are college-attending role models for young people, students look up to Teaching Fellows and think ‘if they did this, then I can do this too’. That type of influence is powerful. These two factors uniquely position Teaching Fellows, and many other after school and summer staff to be in positions to encourage and inspire young people into the education profession, and to pursue their dreams.

AL: Young youth workers in Aim High are given tremendous responsibility and opportunity. They also experience a culture of feedback and growth. Lastly, they work side by side with professional educators.

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About Aim High
Aim High is committed to closing the opportunity and achievement gaps in Northern California through their transformative summer learning program. They envision every middle school student having access to joyful summer learning, inspired and innovative teachers, and the support they need to succeed in school and life. Aim High creates life-changing opportunities during the summer and beyond. Their community:

  • Nurtures the promise and potential of middle school students from low-income neighborhoods
  • Prepares students for high school, setting them on the path to college and future success
  • Inspires the next generation of teachers and educational leaders


About The California Teaching Fellows Foundation (CTFF)
CTFF seeks to inspire next-generation leaders with a passion for teaching and learning while impacting the lives of youth. They work to:

  • Develop teachers and leaders who contribute to positive changes in the lives of students, their schools, and their communities.
  • Produce diverse teaching professionals who implement innovative, effective teaching strategies.
  • Fully engage the community in education and supporting future teachers and leaders.