Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The LIAS Principles Impact Both Students and Staff Alike

By Guest Blogger, Frank Escobar


Frank Escobar,
Manager of After School Programs
Visalia USD
Running after school programs is no easy task.  Ask anyone in the field and they’ll show you there battle wounds. However, insert 11-14 year olds and the difficult meter goes through the roof.  Sometimes its just better to not know what you don’t know. Perhaps that’s why I’m still here.  Leaning a bit but still standing.  

In the early years it was the kids, the parents, the politics. I was new to the field and trying to identify the secret sauce for recruiting and retaining enough students to keep the grant. At the same time, keeping the ratio low enough to prevent our college-age staff from getting completely run over by the middle school mack truck. Not sure we ever completely figured it out but we’ve certainly made improvements.  

Great advice from experienced veterans, thoughtful tools from the field, some amazing trainings from some amazing trainers and even a few out-of-town tours.  And as we got better on attendance we began to focus on impact.  One of the tools that helped us in that area was, at the time, the newly released Learning in After School and Summer Principles.  

The principles gave us tangible targets to shoot towards. They were clear, relatable, and reasonably identifiable in everyday program. As we improved in our understanding of these principles, we naturally improved in the facilitating of these principles.  We saw active learning in our programs, increased student collaboration, learning that was thoughtful and meaningful, mastery-building and horizons being expanded. It was enlightening, exciting and honestly, still is.  

As we became better versed in offering these types of experiences and outcomes in our program, I began to notice something interesting.  I noticed that not only were our students benefitting from the affect of these important principles but so were our college-age workers. You see, unintentionally, while we were building the capacities of our staff members to implement the principles in their programming with students, we were also implementing them with our staff. 

Our training and professional development was becoming more active, our instruction (and play) in the training room more meaningful. Our learning environments were becoming more collaborative and our training focuses narrowed in on building mastery skill-sets, particularly around behavior management (if you know what I mean). And at the end of the day, we began to see our staff expanding their own horizons. They were learning about things they never had interest in. Seeing things they never bothered looking for. Doing things they never believed important. The LIAS Principles were becoming an integral part of our program cultural for both students and staff. 

PULSE Staff Holiday Dinner
Today, with the significant workforce challenges we face in after school and expanded learning, we attempt to do our best in sustaining the best and brightest. Unfortunately, that’s rarely possible. The best and brightest normally move on (and up) and take their talents to better paying playgrounds. However, it is in most cases that what contributed to their best and bright was what they learned and practiced right here in the expanded learning field. With so many tangible, transferrable skill-sets acquired in this work many of our best and brightest are shining even brighter right now in their warm and cozy classrooms. Particularly those who were fortunate enough to work in programs that asked them to integrate those 5 LIAS Principles. It’s called the bi-product affect. A secondary or incidental result, often unforeseen or unintended.  

Although, I find it pretty hard to believe that the engineer behind these principles would do anything unintended. All to say, I sincerely believe that the introduction, acceptance, and application of the LIAS Principles have meant more to our field than what might have been expected. These principles, while aimed at our young ones, have also impacted our other young ones teaching our young ones. That they say, is a double-whammy. Or, maybe in this case, a double-Sammy!

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Frank is currently the Manager of After School Programs at Visalia Unified School District in Visalia, CA as well as speaker, trainer and consultant for the after school and youth development fields. A popular speaker and trainer at school assemblies, youth and after school conferences, Frank has spoken to thousands of middle and high school youth and trained hundreds of educators and youth program workers across the country.  

A former collegiate and professional football player, Frank realized his passion for working with youth during his high school years mentoring younger athletes. Knowing one day he'd be hanging up his football cleats for a more practical profession, Frank obtained his degree in education from Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, TN.

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