Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Voices from the Field: Pay and Professionalism, Part 2

By Stacey Daraio

Rick Rood
Rick Rood has been on the front lines of Out-of-School-Time (OST) programs for over 25 years, working directly with children and front-line staff. (Note: OST programs are also referred to as afterschool or expanded learning programs.) Rick is an OST trainer, an author, and co-creator of the Beyond School Time Conference, and a bold thinker in the OST arena. He also serves on the Leadership Team of the California AfterSchool Network.

Below is part 2 of Rick’s responses to our interview questions. You can view part 1 here.

Q: Can you say more about professionalization of the field?

A: I believe that if we are to create a network of vibrant, healthy OST programs, we need to have a stronger sense of professionalism and unity as a field.  I think that the seeds of professionalism are there… but mostly only exist for the upper levels of management – not for the on-the-floor teachers and site coordinators. We need to extend this sense of professionalism all the way down to the grassroots – make sure that line staff understand that they’re part of something bigger, something that makes a difference. On a positive note, I think this year’s Site Coordinator Symposium put on by the California Afterschool Network took a HUGE step toward extending that professionalism to line staff. We need LOTS more of that type of experience.

Of course, the issue of professionalism is directly linked to the issue of pay. To create a professional system, we need to signal to front-line workers that their work is worthy. We want them to treat it as a profession – to continue their education and sharpen their expertise – but it gets difficult to convince someone their work is worthwhile when Carl's Jr. is offering better pay and more hours just down the street.

Another thing that I find paradoxical is how some of the leaders of the field promote jobs in out-of-school-time as stepping stones to other fields like classroom teaching, social work, nursing, et cetera. While I understand that working in out-of-school time can give people exposure to what it is like to work with children and youth, I think the unconscious message is dangerous to the field, and that is “Out-of-School Time isn’t a real profession… it’s just a pit stop on the way to something else.” Yet we continue to raise the bar for what we expect from our OST programming as well as the level of professionalism we expect from directors and front-line workers. I think it’s time that the leaders of the field take a stand for professionalizing the field and stop sending mixed messages about whether or not Out-of-School-Time is a standalone field that is worthy of professionalization and the pay and status that goes with that designation. 

I’m not saying that figuring out the money equation is going to be easy. It does seem that it’s going to take a consortium of departments of education and government (city, county, state, and federal) private sector investment and sustaining support, as well as a free-market fee-for-service component. If there’s one thing we’ve learned is that we can’t balance the cost of quality on the backs of any one of those options alone. The problem is that I don’t see a lot of movement on this front – at least not as much movement as one would expect given our pledges around the importance of OST Programs.

Q: The Beyond School Time Conference has a focus this year on youth development. Can you tell us about that?

A: The youth development philosophy, to my mind, is the only one that makes sense when you’re talking about OST Programs. I feel that in the mid 2000’s the overall philosophy behind OST programs shifted away from the Youth Development camp into many programs just being an extension of the school day.

With the recent upsurge in the understanding of the importance of Social/Emotional Learning, as well as the Aspen Group’s phenomenal report “A Nation at Hope”, and Temescal’s beautiful re-introduction of the Youth Development Philosophy, I think that it’s time that Youth Development philosophy takes its rightful place as the bedrock of how we look at quality in Afterschool and Out-of-School-Time programs. This year at the Beyond School Time Conference, our theme is Youth Development and the Whole Child.

Source: Temescal Associates

Since the late 1980s, there has been a cadre of dedicated professionals who have practiced and embodied the Youth Development Philosophy in so many OST Programs. When the philosophical discussion of the field turned to embracing a more strict academic track, the Youth Development folks kept on keeping on. Now they’re finding that their hard work and perseverance is paying off and the field is finally listening to their voice.

Q: Final thoughts?

A: I’m beyond thrilled to be an OST practitioner at this time in the history of the field. With the various points of research coming together to support SEL, the Whole Child Paradigm, and Youth Development Theory and Philosophy, I feel we’re in a renaissance of sorts in this field. And I’m excited (as I always have been) that it always seems as though California is leading the way. Now we have a governor who has repeatedly shown that he is supportive of our work, and we have momentum with various stakeholders such as the California Afterschool Network, Partnership for Children and Youth, and a leader like Michael Funk of the CDE who comes from Youth Development roots. I feel like the field of OST is ready and poised to go to the next level.

Back when I got my graduate degree in School-Age Care from Concordia University… there was a popular monograph that made its rounds called “Generation Theory in School Age Care”.  The theory followed the origins of the OST field from Generation One, which was characterized by the dominance of keeping kids safe as it’s raison d’etre, to Generation Two which ushered in the Kids’ Choice revolution, to Generation Three, which began to usher in the Youth Development Philosophy as the driving force in afterschool.

Generation Four was the pendulum swing toward strict academics and now I think, especially in light of the Aspen Report, we are seeing the dawn of Generation Five – which I believe will lead to the unification and professionalization of the field. I’m also optimistic that Generation Five will usher OST Programs into an empowering, synergistic alignment with the education field as a whole.

Rick Rood has been on the front lines of Out-of-School-Time for over 25 years, working directly with children and front-line staff. With degrees in Education, Afterschool Care, and Applied Mathematics, Rick is a student of the thought leader movement, distilling lessons from master teachers like Jack Canfield, Tony Robbins, and Brendon Burchard - giving them practical application to education professionals.  Participants have described his workshops as “fascinating” and “life-changing.” 

In addition to running Out-of-School-Time Centers, Rick has also taught kids’ music, computer programming, and youth leadership through his workshops. Rick is a contributor to “Youth Today!” and is the author of “Games Teachers Play Before the Bell Rings”. Rick is a Certified High Performance Coach™ and works privately and in groups with education professionals to help them achieve higher levels of performance in their work and personal lives. Rick and his team created the Beyond School Time Conference for Out-of-School-Time Professionals in 2018 as a way for Northern California OST Professionals to connect, learn, and gather inspiration. He also serves on the Leadership Team of the California AfterSchool Network.

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