Anniversaries are always moments of reflection and I am hoping to share some of the key "ah ha's" that I have experienced, learned, and rediscovered as I embarked in the out-of-school youth development realm. In the past year, I have experienced, learned or rediscovered many things. I want to share a few of them with you and get your reaction -- either as a veteran or a fellow newcomer.
Out-of-school time is vital
Our work is important. The perception that out-of-school time is "not my problem" is wrong and counter-productive. Youth spend more time out of school than they do in school and those critical after-school times and activities have a deep impact on how our young people develop. Young people who have positive out-of-school-time experiences develop healthier relationships and are more involved in their communities than those who do not. In addition, these experiences support formal learning. It is now my goal to make out-of-school time have equal parity in all educators' voices and actions.
Make our experiences relevant
As a classroom history teacher, I taught dates, places, and all the things that make people successful on "Jeopardy." However, the most important thing I tried to do was instill historical thinking skills such as:
- Dealing with conflicting evidence
- Analyzing primary sources
- Making an effective argument
Can you think of ways that out-of-school time supports these types of skills that transcend the historical realm and are infused into everyday life? One basic example is when a young person receives conflicting messages on Facebook. Or how they argue their case with their friends or family.
How to identify and elevate our work and move from a content piece to a real-life situation? Out-of-school-time programs like 4-H do this in countless ways! In fact, this applicability is what hooks young people and generates that curiosity that we consistently see in our STEM projects and clubs, our service-learning projects, and in the learning that occurs at our showcase events, to name a few.
I have learned a few other things in my first year, but these lessons stand out. Whether you are a veteran or a newbie like me, what reflective advice would you like to share about your first-year on the job?
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