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Myths and realities about Somali parental support for education

By Joanna Tzenis

According to a recent student survey, Minnesota youth of Somali heritage report high levels of family support for education. But what does this support look like? Scholars, practitioners, and humans in general agree that parental support is important, but there’s no consensus on how it should be offered.

Should parents help with homework at home? Should they volunteer at the school? Sign their kids up for extracurriculars? Let them relax with unstructured time when not in school? Should parents be cheerleaders or task masters? 

My point is that there are many ways parents can support their children’s development. I've blogged before about educational strategies that are informed by cultural world views. What gets tricky is when parents’ approaches for supporting their kids differs from the expectations of the cultural majority.

Studies on cultural and social resources of immigrant youth show how challenging it is to navigate different value systems around education. …
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Living as a grateful leader

By Nancy Hegland

In the past few months, I’ve had many reasons to be grateful for my family, friends and colleagues. We have had a lot happening at work, and this fall there has been a need for many people to add tasks to their lists that weren’t in their plans of work, or even on their radar. But there were things that needed to be done, and I had to choose which people needed to take on additional work. Every single person that I called to ask if they could pick up more work responded by saying “yes.” I am so grateful for their willingness, and hopefully I expressed it to them at the time, and continue to show appreciation each and every day.

It’s easy to get caught up in the busy-ness of life and just keep things moving, yet it is important to express gratitude during the entire year. We tend to be good at expressing our thankfulness this time of the year, but we should make it part of our everyday lives.
"The roots of all goodness lie in the soil of appreciation for goodness&q…

How to be a master evaluator

By Samantha Grant

I work with some brilliant evaluators. They can do some pretty amazing things like use mapping software to see trends or conduct sophisticated evaluations to understand systems that influence our programs. Evaluation can be a very technical field.

Not all evaluation is highly technical, though sometimes evaluators perpetuate that idea. I believe, and have seen through my work with youth workers, that some of the most astute youth workers are also great program evaluators.

Why do some people feel comfortable conducting evaluations and others don’t? That is the million dollar question. I believe that basic evaluation skills are easy to build with some core tools. With that in mind, I have developed an evaluation website called Evaluating Education Programs to help people who lead educational programs learn more about evaluation.

Check out the website by going to: z.umn.edu/evaluatingprograms.

You’ll find:
Fun and informative videos on topics like creative evaluation app…

Civil discourse, this year’s hot topic

By Karen Beranek

In the past year, each and every professional development session I've attended has had one thing in common: the topic of civil discourse! Everyone’s talking about the need for it, the lack of resources around it, and opportunities surrounding it.

My colleague Jessica Russo started the conversation on this blog with her recent post, Youth programs can rescue democracy. It has elicited numerous heartfelt comments. I'd like to continue that conversation.

Teaching young people how to talk with those who have a different background or view than they have is sometimes as simple as providing a safe place for them to do so. Here are some strategies.
Group agreements From the Center for Adolescent Studies, this technique develops expectations for functioning with a set of group norms.
Active listening From the U.S. State Department. It's a method in which the listener seeks to understand, suspend judgment and give full attention.
Text Talk Revive Civility The National…

Youth programs can rescue democracy

By Jessica Russo

When I hear points of view that differ radically from my own, my appreciation of the speaker’s honesty usually outweighs my intolerance of their views. The balance tips when those views collide with the ones I hold most dear. The temptation then is to want to silence those views; but I know that censorship is not the answer. I think our young people deserve a democracy in which people will hear each other out.

The first amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees free speech. Psychologists contend that self-expression is important to a person’s mental health. Similarly, quality youth development practice says that youth need to feel safe and to have spaces in which to discuss conflicting values and form their own.  A censored environment limits democracy and it limits youth development.

But what happens when self-expression makes others feel personally attacked? How can we encourage youth to express potentially controversial views without alienating others?

I think w…

Essential elements of youth development that every youth worker should know

By Karyn Santl

It’s back-to-school time, which makes me think about going back to the basics. As a youth worker, that means the basics of youth work and positive youth development theory and practice. And for me that means Gisela Konopka’s work.

In the 1970s, Dr. Konopka conducted her research at the University of Minnesota School of Social Work. Her work set the national agenda for promoting the health and well being of young people. She said the effectiveness of youth programs can be judged by the opportunities they offer youth and the credibility they enjoy. Stand-out programs give young people the experience of making choices, making commitments and experimenting with a variety of roles to “try out” the choices and commitment they make.

The Extension Center for Youth Development has identified eight critical elements essential to the healthy development of young people. They are based on Konopka's and Karen Pittman's research. Youth will benefit from experiences providing …

What’s grit and how can I get it?

By Trisha Sheehan

The author Angela Duckworth defines grit as passion and perseverance for long-term and meaningful goals. She explains it is the ability to persist, to have direction and commitment to something. Perseverance is the ability to continue to work hard even through challenges or failure.

Duckworth, the author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, developed the Grit Scale. She names four assets that people with grit share.
Interest We look to interest first. We develop passion by enjoying what we do. There will be pieces of our work we don’t enjoy as much but for those who have grit they truly love what they do.
Practice Those who have grit intentionally grow their capacity to practice. Perseverance is the daily discipline of trying to do work better than we did yesterday or the day before that. We want to improve and not just settle for mediocracy.
Purpose Purpose grows our passion. Knowing and understanding the work we do is important to you but also contributes…