Professional Development

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Tuesday, 01 October 2013 00:00

This article in Sunday’s Washington Post caught my attention – both as an afterschool leader and also as a former classroom teacher. The author, a former public high school English teacher, gives a first-hand account of the decades of school reform initiatives he was expected to endure, year-after-year, as he attempted to engage, empower, and educate his students. For those of us who have been in education for even just a few years, I’m sure you’ll identify with his experiences.

 

Two things the author said really caught my attention and got me thinking about afterschool and our role as leaders in the afterschool profession. The first one deals directly with the primary challenge we all address when we step foot in a classroom or enter a program door:

“In the four decades between when I started teaching English at T.C. in 1970 and my retirement this year, I saw countless reforms come and go; some even returned years later disguised in new education lingo. Some that were touted as “best practices” couldn’t work, given Alexandria’s demographics. Others were nothing but common-sense bromides hyped as revolutionary epiphanies. All of them failed to do what I believe to be key to teaching: to make students care about what they’re studying and understand how it’s relevant to their lives.”

I’d like to believe we’ve learned a few things in afterschool about how to meet that challenge. Certainly the time and space and freedom that is allowed in the afterschool setting gives children the opportunity to explore their interests in both engaging and relevant ways. We need to continue to advocate for and be committed to these ideals–truly they are essential elements of any high-quality afterschool program.

The second statement that really moved me was his reflection not on how students learn, but rather on how professionals learn:

“I found that the most helpful professional-development experiences involved fellow English teachers sharing what worked in their classrooms—always with the caveat: “This works for me; it may not work for you.” Being with people who loved doing what I did and exchanging ideas without any professional jealously was always reinvigorating.”

I loved this because it reinforces what I believe about our work at NAA and how we can best support those who are working with children in afterschool programs.  While we will continue to set national policy and guidelines, through both standards and competencies, we know that–at the end of the day–the best learning comes from those personal exchanges – creative ideas shared by passionate individuals. I think our new tag lines says it all: Inspiring Ideas. Educating Minds. Creating Community.

I hope you’ll continue to be a part of all we do and share your “inspiring ideas” with us so we can share them with others!

 http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/four-decades-of-failed-school-reform/2013/09/27/dc9f2f34-2561-11e3-b75d-5b7f66349852_story.html?wpisrc=emailtoafriend

Until next time... 

Gina Warner

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