Professional Development

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If I Were an Afterschool Program Site Director

Thursday, 26 September 2013 04:23

If I were an afterschool program site director, I’d approach my responsibilities recognizing that my leadership would directly impact and influence the quality outcomes of the program. I’d work hard. I’d thrive on the challenges that appeared each day. I’d work from the contention that my position was just as important as any other educational leadership role because of the influence I’d have in the lives of children, youth, and their families.

My service would become noble work. Each day, I’d strive to set a good example for everyone (students and adults alike) associated with my program. I’d arrive at work first, leave last, and dedicate myself to helping others reach and exceed beyond their potential. I’d dress first class, think first class, and act first class. I’d exemplify the virtues of a positive work ethic–positive attitude, reliability, professionalism, initiative, respect, integrity, and gratitude.

While I slept, I’d dream big and envision all that an afterschool program could become. In my dreams, I’d see, hear, feel, and even smell how I wanted things to be. I’d envision kids engaged, hear parents being welcomed and speaking as our best advocates. Staff and volunteers would find reward and purpose in all they did. Then, at work, I’d describe my vision and dreams, gather feedback and new ideas, clarify, and help others accept and adopt a common vision as their own.

And I wouldn’t be the only one dreaming. I’d insist that staff help kids dream of their future, set goals, then learn the perseverance skills needed to achieve those dreams. Deliberate practice would be an integrated component in every aspect of our program.

My obligations to speak about the afterschool program would be well prepared and rehearsed, showcased with enthusiasm, and display teaching skills capable of capturing the interest and attention of diverse audiences. Everyone who heard me would understand what I did and why I loved doing it.

I’d insist that the value of the afterschool program be recognized, but I’d endeavor to earn respect by giving respect to those who created that value. I’d do all I could do to be knowledgeable and competent in all that I did. I’d work to increase the capacities of my staff to meet the diverse needs of our students. I’d regard my afterschool staff as an integral part of a child’s support system, comparable with the influence of other teachers. The benefits of expanded learning time for children and youth would speak for themselves, garnering respect from diverse stakeholders.

I’d align myself with others in my profession, volunteer on committees, network, and visit numerous afterschool programs for insights and ideas. I’d be an active member of my local, state, and national professional association and be present when professional gatherings convened.

Relationships would be highly valued. I’d strive to earn a reputation as a collaborator and team player. I’d strive to solve problems and help others learn to be part of solutions to a problem rather than part of it.

Music and the arts would be ever present in our afterschool program. I’d advocate that kids immersed in the arts are less likely to adopt delinquent behaviors. Visitors would see paintings, sculptures, hear singing, see pianos, drums, puppets, poetry, and numerous other forms of expressive arts. The power of the arts would hook students’ interests in learning. They’d enrich everyone.

If I were an afterschool program director, I’d closely align the program’s learning objectives with those of the schools. I’d be visible in the hallways of the school(s) my students attended, talk with teachers, win their recognition and respect, and demonstrate a shared responsibility for success for every child. I’d share a Starbucks or other gesture of gratitude with secretaries, custodians, cooks, paraprofessionals, etc. The school principal would be on speed dial, and if anything happened with kids or parents under my watch that he or she should know about, I’d reliably inform. The principal would become my partner, coach, mentor, and friend.

My program participants and staff would gain a sense of belonging, purpose, and fulfillment. With everything I could do and accomplish I’d realize that no amount of money would be worth more than the pride I’d have in being an afterschool professional.

By Paul G. Young, Ph.D. © 2012 - Dr. Paul Young has spent more than forty years in a variety of educational roles–high school band director, elementary classroom teacher and principal, adjunct college professor, afterschool program leader, non-profit management, and professional association leadership (principals and afterschool professionals). His passion is to equip young educators with the principles needed to become outstanding leaders and contributors to the profession. He can be reached at He resides in Lancaster, Ohio.