Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Why "All Lives Matter" is Controversial

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha
We have all heard people respond to the phrase Black Lives Matter, with the phrase All Lives Matter. This has led to controversy, but many people do not understand why. 

Recently, a colleague pointed me to a written piece on Reddit that explains this in words that anyone can understand. 

The author of "Why is it so controversial when someone says 'All Lives Matter' instead of 'Black Lives Matter'?begins with:

Imagine that you're sitting down to dinner with your family, and while everyone else gets a serving of the meal, you don't get any. So you say "I should get my fair share." And as a direct response to this, your dad corrects you, saying, "everyone should get their fair share." Now, that's a wonderful sentiment -- indeed, everyone should, and that was kinda your point in the first place: that you should be a part of everyone, and you should get your fair share also. However, dad's smart-ass comment just dismissed you and didn't solve the problem that you still haven't gotten any!  
The problem is that the statement "I should get my fair share" had an implicit "too" at the end: "I should get my fair share, too, just like everyone else." But your dad's response treated your statement as though you meant "only I should get my fair share", which clearly was not your intention. As a result, his statement that "everyone should get their fair share," while true, only served to ignore the problem you were trying to point out. READ THE ENTIRE PIECE HERE.
If this written piece makes sense, you can share it with friends, neighbors, and family members who may benefit by reading it. One commenter stated, "You just changed my mind on the statement bud, I will bring up your argument to friends who haven't seen the light. I get it now." In fact, there are dozens of comments after the piece that confirms how complex the issue of race in America is, and they are very informative. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Recent Events of Violence - What Can We Do?

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha
The nation has been rocked by the tragic and violent events of the last two weeks. This includes the afterschool community. In fact, we received an unprecedented number of emails from national and local afterschool organizations offering suggestions and resources of how to deal with the violence we have seen in Baton Rouge, Minnesota, and Dallas. 

It is important that we consider the impact of these events on our staff as well as our youth, and that staff are well-equipped to address the issues if they choose to engage youth. In a subsequent blog post, the LIAS project will offer our own response.  

We reached out to some of our colleagues to respond to a question regarding the role of afterschool and summer youth programs in responding to this unspeakable violence. Below are some of their responses. 

Q: Young people are directly exposed to violence in their community, experience the threat of violence and/or bear witness to horrific violence via social media. Do you believe that afterschool and summer youth programs should, in some way, help young people process their experiences?

Dr. Pedro Noguera,
Regardless of whether you teach during the school day or after school, all educators have an obligation to help their students make sense of the violence in our society. The children are certainly aware of it so it is important for them to process and discuss it in a safe and caring setting. Beyond going over the facts related to the incident we must address the moral implications. Violence should never be condoned but to the degree that we can, we should try to understand why it is occurring at such an alarming rate in America today. Silence suggest that violence is "normal" and we must never allow our fear of violence to be interpreted as acquiescence. 

Gina Warner,
National AfterSchool
Events this week have left our small team at the National AfterSchool Association and the members of our community sad, frightened and asking, "What can we do?"

To all who work in this field, our answer is this: Keep doing what you are doing. Keep teaching children that love is greater than hate. Help them understand that violence is never an answer. Teach them to build bridges, not walls. Teach them to love and respect every single person. And above all, keep up the laser focus on developing their skills to acknowledge and manage feelings and use communication, compassion and curiosity to work through adversity.To read more, click here

Dr. Gil Noam,
PEAR at Harvard
If children and adolescents are coming into their programs with a need to talk, of course, one should reduce stress by letting them know they are part of a group that cares about the well-being of its members, their families, and their communities. But it should be guided by a sense of what the young people need and it will be quite different depending on age and level of stress (if stress is too high, professionals will be needed).

As with any political matter, opinions will vary and there will have to be room for those students who think differently, or don’t want to engage at all. Afterschool and summer programs are not places for indoctrination, but for dialogue, the emergence of diverse opinions in a civic and democratic process in small communities of learning. So there is the issue of reducing trauma and secondary trauma which is best done through a focus on safety and belonging, not necessarily through deep discussions that can arouse more fear. 

And then there is the issue of thinking about racial inequities and the social fabric of our country. Current events should lead us to strengthen both strands. Trauma sensitivity training can help in regard to the first (the PEAR Institute at Harvard can help with that). Simultaneously, we should think about how to increase the dialogue about social and racial equity in all parts of our lives. But that cannot be done without strong parent and community involvement and needs to be respectful of all and stay away from pushing an agenda that would undermine a pluralistic approach to all voices of staff, students and parents. Better for programs not to rush into this, but to be deliberate and planful.

Unfortunately, those problems will stay with us for a while. And the opportunities for afterschool and summer programs are great.

Joe Hudson,
Region 4 Regional Lead
The goal of human services agencies and programs (including expanded learning/out-of-school time programs) is to promote positive youth development and enhance academic and social/emotional welfare of youth. Youth services staff must possess skills and knowledge that enable them to assist others. Due to the nature of the relationship between youth workers and both children and families, I assert we do have an obligation to 1) prevent and remove harms, and 2) weigh and balance possible benefits against possible risks of an action. 

I contend that providing youth opportunities express their feelings and thoughts, fears and hopes, in safe and constructive manners which is age appropriate, and can be facilitated during after school and/or summer programs. However, I feel it’s best done not as stand-alone activities in response to the crises of the day but rather integrated into high quality arts, music literacy, math and other learning activities with appropriate time provided for large and small group discussions including current events. I also support facilitated community meetings to hear from other stakeholders including parents and to share with them approaches being considered to promote a safe and positive learning environment, which acknowledges current challenges and takes constructive action to promote the heathy social and emotional welfare of youth. 

I’m obliged to caution programs that we must also take care to assess and address “Vicarious Trauma” among the youth workers and other staff undertaking this type of transformative work with youth. Every time we interact from a position of compassion, controlling our empathic response with our clients, colleagues, friends or strangers, we are putting ourselves at risk. Vicarious Trauma is what happens to your neurological (or cognitive), physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual health when you listen to traumatic stories day after day or respond to traumatic situations while having to control your reaction. 

Jodi Grant,
Afterschool Alliance
Afterschool programs provide a safe, supportive setting for children and youth, and are often one of the first places youth feel comfortable asking questions, sharing views and expressing emotions on tough issues like violence and racism. For some, program staff are even like extended family. Such supports are all the more important during challenging times, and we are ever thankful afterschool and summer programs are there for our kids. That said, helping youth address violence, fear, grief and racism is a considerable responsibility and can be challenging itself. Thankfully some excellent resources exist, such as PASE’s list of resources for difficult conversations and Dr. David J. Schonfeld’s advice for afterschool educators on nurturing grieving children. Afterschool programs also serve as a sort of “glue” in the community, bringing various community partners together to support youth. Often law enforcement are one of those partners, and are an increasingly vital one. When police and youth get to know each other in a fun, informal setting, they build positive, personal relationships. Those bridges can help break down stereotypes, provide youth with new trusted mentors and build bonds that strengthen communities. 

Lucy Friedman,
ExpandED Schools
Last week's tragedies deeply impact our communities. In addition to expressing our condolences to those touched personally by these events, we want to share our thinking about how best to move forward. After reflection and discussion, ExpandED Schools is committed to taking action that will help play a modest part in a much needed larger effort in our country. To read more, click here

Resources recommended by ExpandED Schools:

Friday, July 1, 2016

The Coming Together of School and Afterschool Practices

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha
With the large increase in public funding of afterschool programs in the early 2000’s, people argued that if afterschool was to remain relevant, we would have to close the gap between afterschool and the school day. To many this meant afterschool should, among other things:
  • Mimic the school day,
  • Reinforce the school day’s core academics, and
  • Raise the school’s standardized test scores.

But, while afterschool programs worked to support the learning in school, successful classrooms began to employ strategies that looked more like afterschool programs. These changes in teaching and learning strategies was supported by the research and literature on the new science of learning, the brain and learning, the importance of social emotional (non-academic) skills and character building, the importance of summer learning, and the skills needed for success in school, work and life. The result was a change in how we think about children, not as students, but as learners.

For example, the Figures below represent a study of how teachers use their time when they structure their learning in a whole class/lecture format (Figure 1) versus serving as a learning facilitator using small groups (Figure 2). (CNYD Youth Development Guide, Chapter 5)

Figure 1 - CNYD Youth Development Guide, Chapter 5

Figure 2 - CNYD Youth Development Guide, Chapter 5

In the past, the worlds of education (schools) and youth development (afterschool/expanded learning) seemed so far apart. Today, they are sharing a focus on young people's learning. This is well illustrated by the similarities between the California Quality Standards for Expanded Learning Programs and the California Standards for the Teaching Profession.

Let Youth Lead

Source: FAB Youth Philly By Guest Blogger, Rebecca Fabiano, Founder & President, FAB Youth Philly (This was originally published on the ...