Monday, June 2, 2014

7 Secrets of After School Teachers

In the Brashear Education Department we have had our fair share of crazy days. Days that just didn't follow the lesson plan, where the creative juices were not flowing, and days of unforeseen issues with our students. Hats off to school teachers who do this all day.

An advantage of having office hours before we go to see the kids at school is that we can take some time to make sure we are fully prepared.  However, sometimes you are never prepared for some of the issues that arise.  Don't get me wrong-- we love our kids. They are a joy to be around, but some days the dynamics can just be off.

Here are a few things we have learned to help keep our sanity and prepare ourselves for after school programming.

1. Laugh, and laugh often:  Communication and laughing together are two key elements of our office and programming hours. Sometimes you just need to share a hilarious exchange that happened with the students or share a humorous article that you think might bring a smile to your co-worker's face.  Kids are funny and offer limitless laughter with their amusing stories or reactions to the world around them. Laughter is medicinal, so laugh.

This photo was on a hilarious drive back to the office after programming. We were a little over packed this day. 

2. Take care of yourself:  Working with kids is like working with little petri dishes. They share (almost) everything including their germs. Avoiding sickness is a difficult thing for teachers, but taking extra precautions can help. We always have bottles of water on hand. Emergen-c, echinacia, and usually a fresh fruit or two. Knowing when to take a break and take care of yourself is crucial.

3. Bean bags and mini trampolines:  We have four bean bags in our office. We are certainly not google offices, but we know sitting  in a desk chair at a computer for several hours can be a little taxing. Sometimes you just need to sit on something soft or jump around. During the winter months when the natural daylight hours are minimal, it is easy to feel sluggish. A few jumps and you are feeling much more rejuvenated and ready to tackle new ideas. Taking a walk for lunch is also a good way to break up the daily routine so you can redirect your focus.

4. Go to lunch with the students:  At Grandview we are privileged to have the opportunity to come to lunch once a week with the students. This allows us to connect with our students outside of after school programming and observe them interacting with their peers. This time is unique because they are in their element and surrounded by those who help determine the course of their day. We get our fair share of the school gossip, and it gives us the advantage to know how to connect with them after school. If you know ahead of time that a student is having a bad day, you can talk with them over lunch and help them address the issue after school.  Then you also have the opportunity to direct him or her to someone they should speak to (a teacher, the principal or case worker). The students are at ease talking with us the more we see them and are actively a part of their lives.

5. Practice creativity:  Most of our office time is spent brainstorming and pulling together ideas for various lesson plans and art projects. Sometimes we may not foresee any problems unless we practice the project we are asking the students to do. If it doesn't interest us, it might not interest the kids.

"You are dead if you only aim for kids. Adults are just kids grown up, anyway." 
Walt Disney

Making examples of the project is a good way to work out any kinks and make sure we pack all of the supplies we need for the project.

6. Always have a back up:  Sometimes you think you have a really great idea, and you think the kids will be into it. Sometimes the kids think just the opposite.  Have a back up:  a go-to, tried and true plan. If a new game doesn't seem to work out, or stirs up conflict, change direction and play a game they know and love to play. You can always try the new game again on another day.

Or, for example, students don't always bring their homework with them.  We print out homework packets for them.  That way, they are still doing an educational activity like practicing their multiplication tables or a cross word puzzle that makes them think. 

7. Communicate:  Talking after programming about how the session went is always helpful. Our AmeriCorps teachers may experience something that may merit a call home to check on a student. We may need to address an issue with teachers and/or principal. Through our conversations, we know when either the Education Coordinator or the Site Coordinator needs to make the call. Knowing certain issues that may carry over to the following day also helps our staff to be more fully prepared and ready for the next session.

I am sure there are more secrets. These are just the ones we actively practice on a daily basis. These secrets would be helpful for anyone who participates in a teaching and/or educational role. I hope that they have been helpful or have given you a little insight into what we do on a regular basis.

Are you an educator? Do you have any tips or twists on the secrets we have shared today?


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