Professional Development

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Skilled Professionals, Not Superheroes

Monday, 17 August 2020 14:59

According to Stan Lee, former editor and publisher of Marvel comics, a superhero is a person who does heroic deeds and has the ability to do them in a way a normal person couldn't.

Lee says in order to be a superhero, you need a power that is more exceptional than any power a normal human being could possess, and you need to use that power to accomplish good deeds.

Many afterschool and youth development professionals are expected to perform superhuman feats, yet calling them superheroes when they demonstrate stellar relationship building skills, extreme creativity, uber flexibility, and unbelievable resilience is disingenuous.

Research shows that skilled staff are key to quality out-of-school time programs that result in positive youth outcomes. People who do this work are part of the afterschool profession and the broader youth work fields. The afterschool and youth development profession share a body of knowledge and skills, professional dispositions, a code of ethics, and public recognition. The people who have chosen this noble profession are not equipped with bullet-deflecting gold bracelets, x-ray vision, super speed or the ability to fly. These folks are real humans with real skills in core knowledge and competency areas that we know provide the best supports for young people.

No doubt, afterschool and youth development professionals should be respected for the work that they do. They provide amazing supports for young people, families, and communities. But rather than looking at them as superheroes doing superhuman feats, let's identify and celebrate the professionals they are!

With recent disruptions in the traditional K-12 education environment, we have the opportunity to create a revised learning and development ecosystem that acknowledges "how," "where," and "when" learning and development happens, and includes ALL the skilled adults who support young people—including afterschool and youth development professionals.

Written by Heidi Ham, the National AfterSchool Association's VP of Programs and Strategy, who represents NAA as a co-strategist on the Readiness Projects. The Readiness Projects is a collaboration that believes together we can dramatically change the odds for youth if we commit to upend inequities, embrace science-informed strategies, and accelerate progress.

Photo courtesy of Allison Shelley for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action.