As a father of two girls ages 7 and 10, married to an amazing educator of over 20 years, I have a 360-degree perspective of the teaching and learning experience. As a matter of fact, my 4th grade daughter is my wife's student. It's a complete family affair. Most people I share that with have an initial reaction of concern. The most common questions are, "How is that working out for your daughter? Isn't that weird for her? Does she feel challenged?" All these have merit. What this arrangement has created for our family is that we tend to continue the teaching and learning timeline at home.
This doesn't necessarily mean that the constructs of the school day are extended into our dining table or living room. It becomes more about expanding the subject matter, questions, activities, content, or curriculum, taking them in a variety of directions. Whether it's using origami to communicate lessons in geometry and structure integrity, talking about how biomimicry (the study of emulating nature's time-tested patterns and strategies) helps us become better designers, or appreciating the history behind the lyrics in Lin Manuel-Miranda's Hamilton, all of it has served as an immersive voyage into context, relevance, and meaning for our kids. The result of this approach has typically ended in them taking back what we expanded on as a family to enrich their learning during the regular school day.
My kids are lucky. As parents, we are also fortunate that our lives allow us to expand on the academic careers of our children. As a teacher, my wife knows she has a champion that ensures that the hard work she puts into the classroom is not gone to waste. In many ways, my family IS the village that we so often talk about in education.
Many kids are not this lucky. Many parents are not this fortunate. Many teachers do not have someone further inspiring what they started.
In 2002, I was offered the opportunity to help start what would be a series of afterschool programs in the City of Los Angeles. Alongside an amazing group of change-makers, we launched the After-School All-Stars program in East and South Central Los Angeles. These neighborhoods sit in unincorporated areas of the city, meaning that they are under-resourced, under-represented, and had definitely fallen behind in a "No Child Left Behind" era. These neighborhoods had suffered years, and one dare say a generation, of low expectations and high rates of poverty and crime. Looking back, it was easy to see the skepticism school principals had when we first arrived on the scene. These particular schools had seen their share of "help" coming in, and just as quickly head out. Teachers and school leaders had very few champions they could lean on. Students had grown accustomed to adults promising more and delivering less. Kids here had few other adults in their lives, as their parents were busy helping their families survive in the literal sense! Parents in these communities felt the helplessness of not having the ability to talk about what their children were experiencing during school. Kids weren't that lucky. Parents were not that fortunate. Teachers had no champions.
A colleague of mine made a keen observation early in the lifecycle of our programs quoting that "two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time". Basic law of physics. This same law existed on the blacktops of these two schools. Our job was to drive out the negative culture that was so prominent by being steadfast and committed to making a difference on these campuses. In doing so, we had the opportunity of changing the feel of the community. Think about that for a moment. For a program to enter neighborhoods such as these and set sights on transforming their aspirations and expectations was a tall order indeed, but it happened.
It started with engaging youth and their attitudes about what it means to learn. Standardized tests do not account for this. It continued with staff walking into an empty and run down school auditorium with the belief that they could fill the space with students and their families (something the school day had seldom seen). You had to be at this event for it to be "demonstrable". It was in moments that included a staff member having the vision of taking a handful of beat up acoustic guitars and grow the idea to become a nationally recognized rock music program. As programs grew from 3, 7, 10, 21, 34, and eventually 54 school sites, programs that our current White House administration claims as having no impact have resulted in students and school day leaders giving direct credit to programs like After-School All-Stars for their high school success, college entry AND graduation, with youth appreciating how we set them up for a lifetime of prosperity and giving back.
The stories are too many to keep up with. A young lady without a voice finding it in the All-Stars of Rock music program, building up her courage and vision all the way to a Yale Education. It was evident in a young man's memory of the program being the first place where he had a desk to do homework (home only offered the floor). That young man is now sitting at a school desk at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Another is the story of a young lady who thought our site leader's idea of her picking up basketball was a joke. There's nothing funny about her full athletic scholarship to Cal Berkley where she was one of the stars of the Pac 12 division of schools, playing basketball for the Cal Bears. She can look at the basketball she now dribbles for the Atlanta Dream and laugh at the irony of it all. You can see it in a young man out of South Florida who's on a mission to become a police officer, finish college, get into law school, and then the White House. Looking back, he shares, "After-School All-Stars helped me deal with my anger. I started writing poetry and played football. So through afterschool, I was actually working with my anger constructively. I was a lot happier." Part of his White House journey has begun with him meeting the former First Lady Michelle Obama during a summer experience with After-School All-Stars.
As programs like ours continue, so do the stories. More and more of our alumni are coming back with narratives influenced by our program's ability to expand their learning. Fast-forward to the NOW, we are standing at the cross roads of a revolution in what it means to prepare a young person for the future. More and more businesses are asking our educational institutions to expand the definition of what it means to learn. Scour the web and you will find a collection of credible research and articles asking questions such as, "We're Graduating More Students Than Ever, but Are They Prepared for Life After High School?" (Slate.com/ Laura Moser – April 2016).
Google cites intangibles when considering future employees. They call it "Googleyness" and it includes attributes like enjoying fun (who doesn't), a certain dose of intellectual humility (it's hard to learn if you can't admit that you might be wrong), a strong measure of conscientiousness (we want owners, not employees), comfort with ambiguity (we don't know how our business will evolve, and navigating Google internally requires dealing with a lot of ambiguity), and evidence that you've taken some courageous or interesting paths in your life.
Enrichment programs that include coding, video game design, makerspace, and entrepreneurship all have elements of ambiguity and a high need for collaboration and problem solving strategies. All this requires an expansion of the teaching and learning norms that we're familiar with. The new economy is pushing for new ways to facilitate the success of our students. Innovation does not look at test scores, homework completion, and compliance. The future calls our young people to take risks in their learning, to go after things that others think as impossible or unlikely, and to think oneself as the solution to today's and tomorrow's challenges. It requires expanding the definition of success. This calls for a village of adults that youth can count on, champions that teachers can lean on, and people that serve as an extension of a parent's concern for the academic and social wellbeing of their children.
As a leader of a national non-profit committed to expanding the opportunities of youth across the country through afterschool programs, it is imperative that the current administration do the following:
I look back at After-School All-Stars and think about how lucky students have been in having the opportunity to expand their academic experiences. I think back at how fortunate parents have been to know they can provide for their families without worry for the safety and development of their children. I think of school teachers that look at afterschool practitioners as having their back, trusting that the learning continues after the school bell rings.
We all know it take a village. Does our leadership really believe that taking away the village is the answer? If so, then village needs to stand up and say, "not on my watch!"
For breakfast I had an omelette, fresh fruit, and an iced coffee!
These last few days have not been normal. I have spent my morning breaking up political fights. Not in Washington, not in my community or at a protest, but in my K-5 before and after school program. And that breaks my heart.
The day after the election, my kids were either devastated or elated as they walked through my door, with only a few falling somewhere in between. On one side, this in itself makes me proud. Proud that we are encouraging our kids, no matter the age, to be a part of the political process. But the other side of me, the larger side, is heartbroken that this election has not only divided us, this beautiful country that I love, but our kids as well.
As I thought through my morning and the many similar mornings and afternoons to come, this is what I shared with my staff. It is my hope that we take this opportunity to grow our little learners and instill in them values that they can use in the years to come:
The coming days are going to be interesting days at Adventure Club. Just as you are all probably wrestling through a variety of emotions as you process the results of the Presidential Election, our kids are as well. We're asking them to grasp some pretty big ideas with some still growing brains... some concepts that are hard for even us to work through. This morning, I was struck by the amount of students affected in some way by the election, with very few of them coming in without an opinion.
As I've thought through how to best handle the coming days, these are the thoughts I am left with. I appreciate in advance your ability to set aside your personal opinions for the good of the group. May we learn these lessons alongside our kids, as we continue to move forward through our year and the years to come.
Our kids are going to have questions. And that's ok. Let's teach them how to ask them respectfully, how to seek solutions to the issues they see as ongoing problems, and how to advocate for what they believe in.
Our kids are going to have fears. And that's ok. Let's take this time to reassure them that school is a safe place for them to be the unique individuals that they are. That we will continue to support them as they go through life.
(Some of) our kids are going to be sad or upset. That's ok. Emotions are always valid and ok to feel. Let's share with our kids that the Presidential Election was actually one of many elections that took place. That we have a system of checks and balances in our government that doesn't allow for any one person to have ultimate control.
(Some of) our kids are going to be happy. That's ok. Let's teach them to win gracefully, to understand that not everyone has the same views, and that the right to disagree is a good thing – it can challenge and grow us to hear things from a different perspective.
Our kids are going to say things that you disagree with. Let's show them the value in calm responses, and how it looks to respectfully disagree without trying to change their minds. Let's engage in forward-thinking conversations as we set the example for what we want their conversations with each other to look like.
Today is going to be an interesting day at Adventure Club. But interesting is not always bad. Feel free to send kids my way if you reach a point where the conversation turns in a way that makes you uncomfortable or is something that you don't know how to handle. I can't guarantee that I have all the answers, but I can guarantee that I'll listen, and that's sometimes all that a person needs.
Here's to our Adventure Club community growing closer despite the divisive ideals our kiddos may walk in with. Here's to our community respecting and valuing the opinions of others even if they are different than our own. And here's to us, the adults, remembering that if we don't have it all together, there's no way our kids will.
For breakfast, I had coffee with a donut.
I've mentioned before my love of the band Mumford & Sons, and I have been delighted recently that my five-year old son has been similarly taken by them. The other day we were listening to "Roll Away Your Stone" and I was telling him how that was the first song of theirs I had ever heard, and recounted the first time I heard it. He made me tell him the story twice, somehow as rapt by it as he was by the song.
I told him that I was in the car driving when it came on. I told him that as the first instrumental notes started I thought "Oh, this sounds nice." And then a few moments later, when Mumford started singing, I thought "Wow, this is a really good song." And then, yet a few moments later, when the entire band—as Dylan calls it—"went crazy," I thought "I LOVE THESE GUYS and I must hear MORE!". It was love at first listen, I told Dylan. But it was a layered love—it started as "oh this is nice" before getting to "I LOVE THESE GUYS!"
I think that's true with people, too.
How many people do we meet and think "oh, they seem nice"... but then after spending a bit more time with them, or getting to know them a bit more, realize "Wow! I love this person!"
And so more importantly—how many people do we not? How many times do we settle for "oh they seem nice" without bothering to go further? How many times do we make a final judgment on a person based on limited information? How many times do we decide that this is the way a person is, despite not knowing much?
Me telling the story of how I (quickly, I admit) grew to love Mumford & Sons reminded me of the importance of making sure we've "heard the whole song." In general. In a partnership. At work. When parenting. When exchanging political discourse. Because if I'm too quick to decide about you, I may be missing the best part. I'm probably missing the best part.
So why not rock out with me and Dylan and put on "Roll Away Your Stone" while considering this:
With whom can you take the time to "hear the whole song" today?
For breakfast today I had a cup of coffee and a handful of peanuts.
"You look like a clown," my dad said as I got ready for picture day.
Time froze. Tears poured down my face. Elementary school me was devastated.
(Though, to be fair, my outfit matching skills needed a lot of work back then and using a headband for a scrunchie probably wasn't the best picture day choice. Sorry Dad!)
MANY years have passed, and that memory now makes me laugh a little, but the fact is... I still remember it. Every word. Most of the feelings. DEFINITELY the outfit.
This and many other small moments in time have stuck with me. What small (or big) moments have stuck with you?
OR, maybe the better question... what small (or big) moments in time are going to stick with your afterschool kiddos? How are your words impacting them?
Because, YOUR words matter.
In the day to day, I think I forget how important my words are, how much they stay with the kids that I work with. But they take in SO much of what you and I are saying to them!
This week for Teacher's Appreciation Week, my kiddos at site wrote me the sweetest notes. Most of them were fill in the blank letters that included the line "My teacher always says..." Now, there were some very entertaining answers to this question, including "be safe," "walk," and "nothing" (though that last one is probably a bit of wishful thinking). But my very favorite was written by one of our third graders. "My teacher always says...we will figure it out."
Mmmm, cue the warm fuzzies. It makes me so happy to know that my kiddos know that I have their back. That I'm always fighting for them, and that I will walk alongside them as they solve life's problems.
But, this one simple line has caused me to pause and reflect, because I honestly don't remember "we'll figure it out" being one of my go-to lines when working with children (my staff, however, has assured me that it is). So, while I'm glad that "we'll figure it out" is an often used response on my part, I've decided to take an intentional look at words and phrases that I use.
Will I always get it right? Absolutely not. But I can try each day to speak into my kids' lives in a way that's positive and problem-solving.
And, YOU have that same opportunity.
Will you reflect this week (or month) on the words and phrases you commonly use with your kids? What do those words and phrases tell the kids about YOU? I'd love to hear your thoughts!
For breakfast today, I had coffee. Always coffee.
Ah!! I love spring. Everything has gotten so green, just in the last week, and suddenly buds are bursting out of the ground and off of the branches. The grass is growing like crazy. Morning birds welcome us with their non-stop melodies. The days are lighter longer. Windows are open. Fruit and Veggie aisles are more abundant. Sidewalks and playgrounds have come back to life after a dormant winter. The kids have already had multiple splinters and skinned knees.
This spring feels even more relieving since this winter did not want to go away. Snow and hail in April? Not cool, Mother Nature. Not cool.
But there is a bit of that every year, isn't there? Just when we think we can't bear the winter anymore, spring finally comes. Spring always comes, even if some years it's later than others.
Oh. Spring always comes.
This is true too, of life. When we find ourselves in a winter, it can be impossible to believe that there will ever be a spring. It can feel like the darkness will always overpower, that we will stay chilled to the bone. Head down, arms clutched across our chest tightly, wanting nothing more than to simply retreat.
But Spring always does come... eventually.
You know that quote "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about."? I guess we've all got some kind of winter going on, at any given time. It might be a light winter—just a gentle dusting of snow that's not much more than a petty annoyance...but it might be a blizzard-ridden artic style winter—one so intense it's impossible to see the way forward. We rarely know the depths of another person's winter, which is why it's all the more important for us to try to be like spring ourselves... offering words like a morning-bird's song, offering actions that warm like the sunlight.
I've been in a few different settings recently where we've discussed the importance of "holding space" for another... holding space means simply being with another person without judgement, setting your own ego aside, and allowing them to feel and experience whatever they are feeling and experiencing, trusting that you will be there with them along the way. I guess that's not so simple, actually. But it's such a beautiful idea, isn't it? How lovely would it be if we all knew we had someone that would hold space with us, and what a gift it is to have the opportunity to hold space for others. I think this comes more naturally to us as parents and educators... We do this with the little ones among us, creating a safe, trusting, and loving environment in which they can thrive. But do we do it for each other? Do remember that even as adults, as professionals, as colleagues, that we are humans first?
For me, the literal arrival of spring feels like a kind of space holder itself. I feel more expansive than restrictive. I feel more centered. I'm breathing deeply. So it's a good reminder to me to, again, try and intentionally be like spring for others... to be kind, to hold space for the winters in them that I may know nothing about, and to walk together until they finally feel the warmth of the sun.
How can you be like spring today?
For breakfast I had two sausage links and a handful of blueberries.
This blog was originally posted on the Alliance for a Healthier Generation Healthy Out-of-School Time Blog.
The Best Out-of-School Time (BOOST) Conference is coming up, and this year I'm honored to once again co-present with Bruno Marchesi, Chief Operating Officer at the Center for Collaborative Solutions. We will be discussing Local, State, and National Perspectives on the Healthy Afterschool Movement.
Prior to his role as COO, Bruno served as Project Manager for the Healthy Behaviors and My Brother's Keeper statewide initiatives. Bruno has also previously served as Program Director of the UC Davis School of Education and the California AfterSchool Network. Additionally, both Bruno and I are bloggers with the BOOST Breakfast Club!
First question: Why did you choose to work in the out-of-school time (OST) space? Why do you think OST essential for the success of children?
I began my journey in after school working as a line staff in an after school program in 1997. I did not realize until much later in my career that after school programs not only provide a safe and supportive space for young people, but it exposes them to academic enrichment opportunities that they otherwise may not have. Afterschool provides young people an opportunity to develop meaningful relationships with their peers and caring adults, while at the same time giving them an opportunity to develop their voice and leadership skills.
Second question: What are some experiences you've had working in OST that have helped you develop as a professional?
As I developed my own skills in after school and got an opportunity to be promoted into other positions within the OST field, I cannot say enough about the blessing that I have received to be surrounded by such great coaches throughout my career. These folks really invested their time, energy and expertise to help me develop my skills while showing me personal and professional friendship and helping me aspire towards and develop career goals. This really has been the key to success for my development in the field. I can only hope to do my part and pass along the knowledge and experience that I have gained to others in the field.
Third question: What do you feel like is missing when it comes to training OST professionals?
I believe that as a field, we have grown to be more sophisticated about the professional development offerings that we provide our staff. I think we need to do a better job with mentorship, focusing not only on outcome based skills but soft skills when it comes to leadership development, core values, and transferring of knowledge between colleagues.
Let's keep going: What's one of the best pieces of advice someone has given you while working in the OST field?
One of my former mentors always emphasized the value of prioritizing what is really important based on your own core values, only then will we have the time to do what is needed and what we deem important in life. It is the difference between doing things right... and doing the right things.
One more: With high turnover and lower pay, how do you think young professionals can be recruited and retained to work in OST?
I truly believe that each person has to make their own decisions about staying, however, having an intentional vision and an organizational culture that fosters trust is key to building community engagement, both internally with our staff, and externally with those whom we serve. It's about creating systems to treat our staff in the same way that our organization intends to serve our community.
Thanks Bruno! Who are the coaches and mentors in your life? Who do you have the ability to inspire? Take time this week as you plan activities and schedules to reflect and reconnect with the core values that drive you and your commitment to out-of-school time.
For breakfast I had a coffee and scrambled eggs.
Recently, a friend and colleague posted this message that got my thoughts spinning. (Thanks Jenn for letting me share your post!)
March 17 at 10:09am • Instagram •
I hope that everyone has people. People who send flowers when you're having a rough week. People who will call and warn you of potential bad meetings so you can avoid the mess. People who will pray for you. I just hope that you all have people. Because I have people. And they rock. =)
What I know about Jenn is that she deserves flowers like this everyday. She wears more hats than I can count and does it with grace and humility. It made my day to know that one of her people brightened her day and reminded her that she is not alone. Jenn's post got me thing thinking about my people.
There are my people who just know when I need an adult beverage, a new coloring book and/or a new pair of fabulously sarcastic socks. There are my people who send me snapchat me pictures of their babies (human and furry), pictures of their lunch, and pictures of their own fabulous socks, all just to say, "hey, this made me think of you." Then there are my people who hold me accountable, who won't take any of my excuses, but who will walk with me when I need to answer gigantic questions. I didn't invite any of these people to be my people. They didn't submit applications, nor did they screen me before accepting me. They just are my people.
That's the thing about having people, they just appear for you when you need them most. Often, they show up before you ask and stay longer than you would ever expect. They don't ask for anything in return. They aren't documenting their gifts or their time on a scorecard, which will later be returned to you. They are just there to listen, to cheer, to scream at the world if need be, to make you feel a little less alone.
I've got people and it is a very good thing. You see, not long ago I found myself stuck professionally, not a little bit stuck either. I was all the way, I don't know if youth work is for me anymore, 110% STUCK! And that's when my people showed up. They didn't fix things for me, they didn't give me the answers. They just were there. They listened, they pointed out my strengths, and a few even yelled at the world with me. They were there and I knew that I wasn't alone. Little, by little, I became less stuck. It was hard, grueling some days, but on those days, my people would pull me closer and cheer a little louder.
Slowly, I understood that the only way I would become unstuck was to take an epic leap of faith. Knowing this felt like standing on the edge of a canyon. I could see the other side. I knew I wanted to be on the other side; but, the thought of jumping was paralyzing. I stayed on the safe side of the canyon a little longer, contemplating the leap. I asked some of my people, Should I leap?, Do you think I'm ready? Would you leap? . . . but, my people didn't answer my questions. My people just waited and then, on the day that I (finally) leaped across that canyon, my people cheered!
That's enough about my people though, I wanted to talk about you and your people. Let's start with the fact that you are undoubtedly someone's person. You could not and would not be doing this kind work if you weren't. I have no doubt that you stay beyond your schedule hours when a kid is hurting, that you care for coworkers like family, and that you are mentoring the next generation of leaders. However, I hope that while you are busy being someone's person that you never forget that you have people too.
As helpers and youth workers, we are not always our own champions or advocates, and that is why we each need to have people. I hope you have people who listen without giving you the answers. I hope you have people love and acknowledge all your talents, quirks and super powers, especially on days when you can't/don't see them. I hope you have people who will scream at the world with you, but also who will whisper kind, encouraging things to you when you stuck. I hope you have people who will cheer when you take your own leap of faith and who will stay with your as new adventures unfold.
I hope you have people because you deserve the same amazing level of support and encouragement that you so willing give to others.
For breakfast, I had oatmeal with cinnamon apples and hazelnuts along with lots of fair trade coffee.
Perhaps you remember as well as I do the Big Hair Bands that dominated the charts during the 1980s. These bands were known for their big hair, big concerts, big displays of pyrotechnics, big guitar solos, and big personalities. One of the bands that exemplified the image of the Big Hair Band was Van Halen. The stories of the antics that occurred off-stage were often as newsworthy as the music they performed onstage. One such story was that the band – get this – demanded that M&Ms be placed backstage for them at concerts, but that no brown M&Ms would be tolerated. No brown M&Ms? But M&M bags are full of brown M&Ms! Can you imagine the poor crew member that had to painstakingly remove every last brown M&M from the pile? How absurd! we all exclaimed. What divas! we all thought. Rock stars, we all sighed. It must be nice to be so pampered.
And then there's the rest of the story.
A brief article in the March 2010 edition of Fast Company magazine, written by brothers Dan and Chip Heath, illuminated the truth behind the Legend of the Brown M&M.
Van Halen's concerts, like many bands of that era, were incredibly high tech. (Nine big rigs full of equipment for any given concert. Nine!) So, the set-up required meticulous attention to detail and a careful following of the band's contract. Certainly the band would not have time before each show to check every light, amp, or pyrotechnic doo-hickey, so lead singer David Lee Roth had the idea to put the "no brown M&M" clause deep in the middle of the contract ("Article 126," to be precise). This technique allowed them to make a quick assessment of the concert preparations – when the band arrived at a venue, all they'd have to do was look and see if there were any brown M&Ms in the bowl. To them, the presence of brown M&Ms meant that the crew hired to set up the show was not reading the contract carefully, and therefore Van Halen would call for a complete line check of the stage before starting the show.
How clever is that? I thought when I read that article. What geniuses! I mused. This is brilliant – get this! I said to everyone that would listen.
Wow. What a totally different perspective, more than 20 years later. Spoiled Rock Stars? No. (Well okay maybe, but not because of this). Innovative businessmen? Absolutely. And for the rest of us, who smirked and whispered and rolled our eyes at the absurdity of their behavior? We were missing out on a great lesson on smart management and an even greater lesson on the basic truth that there is always more than meets the eye.
How often do we do that with our students? Make assumptions based on what we see, on the limited information readily available to us? How often do we paint a picture of the "truth," when really the picture we are painting is based on our own perceptions and experiences? What a gift it is, then, to instead take the time to find out the whole story... to find out the "why" behind the "what." The truth we discover there just might knock our socks off.
Are you taking the time to find out the rest of the story?
For breakfast I had Chipotle. Oh wait, that was lunch.
I wrote a blog once about the Golden Rule, and how imperative it is as a manager to respect the Golden Rule: to treat your staff members and colleagues the way you would want to be treated.
Later, after talking about it at a workshop, a gentleman came up to me and said that while he liked the Golden Rule, he much preferred the "Platinum Rule"—treat others the way they want to be treated.
Ohhhhh, I remember thinking... that's so much better.
Treat others not the way I would want to be treated, but treat them the way they want to be treated. It's a small extra step, but one that makes all the difference in the end.
Because if I am going out of my way to treat my colleagues the way I want to be treated, and they are not responding well, or not responding at all, it can be very easy for me to become resentful. I could start to think that I'm the only one that cares, that I'm the only one that tries, and that I'm surrounded by a bunch of selfish people who probably never even heard of the Golden Rule, much less care about it.
In reality, I'm really not paying attention to the way they want to be treated. I think I'm being super thoughtful, while they know that I'm being super one-sided. I think I am the model of respectful behavior, while they patiently wait for me to notice what they actually need.
Have you ever done this?
I take two hours crafting a perfectly composed email to my team, complete with color coded bullets and clear timelines and, of course, plenty of celebratory notes of praise, because I would like to get such an email. But the truth? Half my team is in the field most of the time reading their emails from their phones, and all that careful formatting doesn't translate, and in fact sometimes turns into gobbledygook so it makes it actually harder for them to read. They'd really just prefer the information when we meet face-to-face.
I take the time before a business meeting to make small talk with my co-worker, asking about their weekend and their life and their family, because I like to share such information with my co-workers. But the truth? This co-worker is going through a difficult time and really would prefer to focus straightaway on the work, skipping the small talk.
I dig into a conversation with a colleague about a decision I don't understand, asking questions and trying to gain clarity, because if I had a colleague who was confused about a decision I made I would want to know. But the truth? This colleague feels backed into a corner with such a direct barrage of questions and needs space and time to talk.
I could go on and on.
Treating others the way they want to be treated means taking the time to really know and understand others, more than we often do—especially at our workplace. Practicing the Platinum Rule requires a lot of attention paying. And attention paying = time. Time to look, time to listen, time to ask. In our busy world, time is a valuable commodity—one that we often argue needs to be spent on things that turn into dollars. We spend our time on budgets and strategic planning and product development, and often leave the real capital—the human capital—up to luck.
But I think if we all take conscious time to go platinum, if we prioritize that the way we prioritize everything else, well, I think the "everything else" will get exponentially better.
How can you "go platinum" today?
For breakfast I had coffee and coffee.
Image credit: www.eremedia.com
It's about this time of year when the cold starts setting in, holiday lights start going up and everyone is busy making their plans for the big holiday that I find myself drifting off to a warmer, sunnier destination – Palm Springs, CA. Even amongst the frenzy of gift shopping and air full of holiday cheer, I just can't help from picturing those tall green palms waving in the sunshine. The bright blue sky draping over the desert peaks. And of course, those long green fairways lining the Palm Valley. It's funny how something so far away can feel so close. Perhaps it's because the Palm Desert never really leaves my heart. Even when it's more than 300 miles, 5 months and a full season away, Palm Springs, and the Best of Out-of-School Time Conference, never does really leave my heart.
It was 2008 and I was just over a year in my new job. This was the new chapter I had needed but was beginning to second-guess other opportunities I passed up. Two years ago I was living what I thought was my dream job, working for a progressive, grass-roots youth development organization and on my way to saving the world. And then the contracts went south, and unfortunately, so did I. At least with the company anyway. It was then, in that scary hour, that one of those unexpected, unforeseen blessings rang my cell phone. And a year and half later as the Program Manager of After School Programs for Visalia Unified School District, I was heading to my first BOOST Conference in Palm Springs. I was just two years in to my job and knew very few people. It was a familiar drive though. In my previous work with Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Programs, we attended an annual conference in Palm Springs as well. That said, I can't say that I was overly excited or even particularly interested in attending. After all, we had just launched our programs a year earlier and there was so much yet to do. In fact, this is where I was beginning to second-guess accepting this job as referenced above. It just seemed never-ending, overly-complex and incredibly labor-intensive. Thinking back, this trip was exactly what I needed at the time!
Driving into the Palm Valley with the windmills spinning and the desert glistening, I looked forward to a few days away and an opportunity to do some thinking about the future. Day one was inspirational but it was on day two that I began to put names (and voices) with faces and after an invitation to dinner with some new colleagues I now call life-long friends, BOOST was beginning to show its magic. By year one's end, I was driving back looking over my shoulder and already beginning to count the days to next year. And yes, the serene valley of sand and palms had shined brightly that week but it was the people that began to capture my heart in Palm Springs. From one heart-pouring conversation to another about what and how after school can change education forever I couldn't stop thinking about the things I wanted to do when I got back to my programs. I was moved.
After year one at BOOST, late April just couldn't come soon enough. Even though my travels and connections within the field expanded rapidly, there was something different about the conversations and experiences that took place at BOOST. I mean, it was the same people having the conversations and usually around the same topics, but in Palm Springs and under the magic of the BOOST spirit, it just felt different. It felt more alive! Here are few of my favorite moments I thought I'd share with you from my eight years of attending the BOOST Conference:
Year 1: Somehow, someway (thank you, Diego Arancibia and Tia Quinn), I got to present on one of my favorite topics, youth cultural competence. And in one of the big rooms, even. Diego said I was laying down a sermon. Guess that's why my Twitter handle became @ASPevangelist!
But the highlight of my first BOOST Conference had to be keynote Jonathan Mooney and a little after-hour conversation I had with an after school legend, in my opinion anyway. After listening to Jonathan break down the research on why teens and apathy go together like PB&J, a pretty awesome woman broke me down by reminding me that if I stuck with after school long enough I would realize that it will be "the hardest job I'll ever love." And still is. I'll never forget that, CynDee Zandes!
Year 2: Co-training with my BWF, Richard "Rico" Peralta, outside because we were overrun with conference participants and the room could not hold us all. Fortunately, we were next to the pool area that was fenced off and we took our Engage. Recruit. Retain. (ERR) workshop poolside. To this day, some of the best evaluations we've ever gotten! And oh, thank you Seth Merhten, for dressing up like a Stanford tree to help participants find our room.
Year 3: End of day one and no calls from staff. End of day two and no calls from staff. What the heck was going on!? Later that evening in a conversation with Bob Cabeza, the youth development guru himself, he shared with me the reason. "Frank, you've worked so hard to build the capacities of your Coordinators to do their job that they no longer need you like they once did. So rather than panic, enjoy it because you deserve it!" Thanks Bob, I still am.
Year 4: Sick as a dog! Spent most of the conference locked away in my room three blocks away from the action but managed to pick myself up to see Taylor Mali and man I'm glad I did. Powerful story and an inspirational to all!
Year 5: Sir Ken Robinson, Site Lead Initiative conversation poolside – need I say more? For me these two moments really kicked up some dirt for the field. Sir Ken inspired the many in the general session and a few inspired me out by the pool. We gathered several leaders in the field to talk about a conscious effort to increasing the support and development for the few, the proud, the Site Coordinators. Wow, how things have kicked up since then for our Site Coordinators. Thank you all!!
Year 6: Might have just been the best line-up of speakers for BOOST all-time. First, Paul Tough, next Christopher Emdin and finally Jonathan Mooney (back again). Can you say right hook, left hook, knockout? Tough was thought-provoking, Emdin was entertaining and Jonathan Mooney was both!
However, it was little trip to the airport with my friends Rico and Diego to pick up Chris Emdin that had me thinking long after BOOST was over. Not a deep conversation but one that included some reflection on the fact that we three were no longer considered emerging-leaders in our field and now needed to begin cultivating the next generation to follow. Which by the way, is currently in progress.
Year 7: Night one of the conference, ASAP Connect pulled together a few incredible hearts and minds to talk about a pretty important initiative: My Brother's Keeper. The Obama-led initiative was resonating with some of our after school men and they took it upon themselves to gather a group to talk about how after school can support the cause. Much has happened since that night that is still making a difference with both boys and girls of color.
Year 7 at BOOST also marked a milestone in the after school field. Led by our fearless leader, Michael Funk, the After School Division in collaboration with the field, capped off a year-long strategic planning process with a report via town hall meeting. I was fortunate to have a front row seat to the action and was honored to serve. Thank you, Michael.
Last Year: Recent memory is best for me, particularly after getting less sleep than I did in college due to my two boys - Ashton, 4, and Carter, 2. Love my guys...any parents in the house! Simon Sinek, Simon Sinek, Simon Sinek. Oh, did I say Simon Sinek!? Tia, BOOST Leadership, you must be proud of yourselves for that one. Not just a big name but a big game to go with. How his words of wisdom have really helped shape our field and how so many of us are leading through the power of our "Why." Can't say enough!
Also...can't forget a little golf game with BOOST keynoter, Roberto Rivera and friends. Inspired by his powerful work with high-risk youth as well as his chipping and putting if I recall correctly.
Finally, last year capped off with a little presentation to a few power-punchers in the field about an idea that's still in the incubator. Many of you know what I'm talking about. The California Afterschool Radio Network (CARN) – Podcast style. Keep you all posted on this one. Let's make it happen, Bruno Marchesi!
So, what to expect this year at BOOST? Stimulating conversations? Innovative thinking? Inspiring speakers? Amazing workshops? New connections and partnerships? Next-level programming? Beautiful weather? Palm trees and bright green fairways? Absolutely. All of that and more! For BOOST is the place where people like you and I go to reconnect, reenergize, reboot and reflect on what we've accomplished and what's left to do. And whether you're an after school veteran or rookie, manager or frontline staffer, BOOST brings us all together in one place at one time to celebrate what we mean to this world. So, I hope to see you there and make sure to share your BOOST memories with all of us so we can keep BOOST Conference Dreamin'.
See you in April!
For breakfast, I had old fashion oatmeal with apples and brown sugar, wheat toast and water.
By Guest Blogger Frank Escobar. Frank serves as the Program Manager of After School Programs for Visalia Unified School District.