The Afterschool Program

When I was a student in grade school, some of the best times I ever had was participating in afterschool activities. I specifically mean being part of an afterschool program. Sports and clubs are cool. But afterschool programs provided snack, juice, homework time, recess time and even a trip here or there. I remember when in eighth grade, I was a part of an afterschool program ran by the teachers for students to get their homework done. It was really laid back. We had time to get our work done, speak with our teachers if we needed extra help and there was time for socializing and playing in the gym if we were finished. Shout out to St. Joes and Respond Inc.

When I was in undergrad, I worked for my old afterschool program and it was the same deal for those students as it was for my generation: they had snack, juice, completed their homework, played in the gym and were given the space to relax if that’s what they wanted to do. I have to admit, the experience of being a teacher/counselor was one of the more enjoyable work experiences I’ve ever had and it was a catalyst for me deciding to get into education. I would have probably fared well as a guidance counselor, but I digress.

Today, I work as the director of a federally funded afterschool program; one of only 60 in the state of New Jersey. I get an opportunity to collaborate with educators in my district to create programs for students: from athletic programs to art programs to academic improvement programs. We are charged with serving a minimum of 200 students per year for at least 1 month. Our program services over 500 students from our district a year roughly 25% of our entire district population. We introduce to students careers they may never have thought of, provide them with opportunities to serve, offer them the opportunity to gain a skill as well as the opportunity to stay on course and/or improve academically. Our students show us each day that they are some of the best and brightest our world has to offer and without our teachers, we would be able to offer them these programs as currently constituted.

Our teachers are gracious with their time, excited about their content and are willing to go the extra step. They help to make our program what it is in a tremendous way. Our program pays teachers… and rightfully so. However working after school is not there full-time job. It’s something that teacher don’t have to do, yet they willingly choose to do it. Yes, the pay is an incentive, but so is the opportunity to build relationship with students’ afterschool that can help them be effective during the school day.

As we began the new school year, I reached out to our teachers to gauge interest in teaching this year. One of the things that I informed them was to not overextend themselves. We have teachers who see our program as an opportunity to work with students and teach something they probably can’t teach student during the school day. I know that and the chance to work with students outside of the school day is fun. I also know that the opportunity to earn more money to help with bills is Important as well. But I always remind teachers to never overextend yourself. When you overextend yourself, the likelihood of your resignation from the program increases.

Maybe you are a teacher that is interested in joining the afterschool program at your school. What does it mean to join the afterschool program? What does it mean to actively engage students’ afterschool? Do you feel as though you have the energy to be a teacher both during the school day and afterschool? If you are considering being a teacher afterschool, here are some things that you keep in mind.

ACTION STEPS

  1. Do not work more days then necessary. There are few things worse than a teacher resigning or calling out due to burn out. Even if you feel like you want to be afterschool every day for whatever reason, don’t work more days then you can handle. Being a teacher is hard work and if you do the job right you’re tired every day. In addition to teaching, you must make lesson plans, make copies, grade papers. Much of that work happens after the school day. So you have to be realistic when deciding how many days you plan on working after school. Use your discretion.
  2. A good afterschool program is not a babysitting service. I know the parents like to think that it is an even your principal may think that, but the reality is that an afterschool program is an enrichment program – or it should be. The purpose of afterschool programs is to provide students with enriching activities that they wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to take during the school day. If you want to be a babysitter then go be a babysitter. After school programs hire teachers and college students to provide enriching activities to students that should transfer to better academic performance and better behavior during the school day. Studies show that afterschool programming can help with student academic performance and student behavior. So again, make sure that you understand if you commit to working after school that you commit to working and not babysitting.
  3. Be prepared to teach something that you like. The key being, be prepared to teach. Whether you are dealing with elementary, middle or high school students, you should have some sort of activity that you plan on doing when you are there that enriches the experiences of your students. And it could be anything. We have teachers that teach dancing, baking, mixed martial arts, and crocheting. None of what you teach has to be academic so long as students are engaging in skills building and are having fun in the process. Students won’t come after school if they don’t have anything to come for. Provide students something that they would enjoy doing and that you enjoy teaching.
  4. Don’t be so formal. Yes, we are still on school property. Yes, we are still adhering to the rules of the school. Yes, students are still to treat you, the teacher/adult, with respect and you must do the same. However we are afterschool. You can relax a little bit. We still want to maintain the same level of respect, decorum, and procedure, we want students as well as the adults to understand that we’re here to have fun in addition to learn.  We’re also here to build relationships with one another. This is the time of day were students get to see you in a different light. They may know you as Mr. Jones the math teacher during the school day. But afterschool they may know you as Mr. J who teaches on how to build Lego houses. So take the afterschool as an opportunity to build relationships and have fun.
  5. Working at the school is not about the money. I know that I mentioned the money a few times. We know that as educators we never get paid for all of the work that we do; that is especially true for teachers. While afterschool programs are a great side hustle, Uncle SAM will sometimes make you think twice about your decision. So don’t make the money your primary motivating factor. Do this job for the love of the students. Do this job for the love of sharing your gifts and talents and knowledge. Do this job as a means of being there for young people. You never know who you will influence and/or impact by your presence afterschool sharing a piece of yourself that you don’t get to share during the school day.
  6. Honorable mention; you get to build your own class. What I mean by that is during the school day teachers are inundated with SGO’s, content standards, curricula and pacing goals… There’s so much that you have to do that you can’t necessarily do the kind of teaching you may want to do. However, afterschool you can teach something you’d like to that has value and you can decided how you want to teach it. For example, if you teach English and you’re bound by mandated curriculum resources, afterschool you can teach a class where you use literature written by authors of color and other marginalized voices, and create an activity that culminates with some sort of applied learning. An example of that is reading a book, watching the movie it is based on and reviewing which was better on a blog created for the class. Students can then tweet the blog to the author and movie cast encouraging to read their review. The movie stars and authors may even follow the blog or your students. That is what afterschool enrichment is all about.

Teaching afterschool is an awesome opportunity for any educator. You and your students get to see each other in a different light. Also, you have the opportunity to provide students with opportunities to grow and mature in a way that can help them improve as students. Afterschool teaching also gives you an opportunity to improve as an educator. Just make sure if you decide to teach afterschool that you do it for the right reasons. I understand that teachers need extra money to be able to supplement their income; we hear the stories about how teachers have to work extra jobs in order to support themselves and their families. But don’t forget why we all got into this industry to begin with. We didn’t t get into this field for a paycheck (or we shouldn’t have). We got into this field because we care about children. That care doesn’t stop at 2:30, 2:45 or, 3:00pm. It actually continues well after the final bell.

Let’s continue to press towards the mark!

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One thought on “The Afterschool Program

  1. I just started an after school program for the first time and I’m proud to say I was echoing your thoughts without even reading this blog. I’m loving this opportunity for all the right reasons and it’s not even about a check (I even forgot about that part)

    Thanks for the list and the further inspiration for success!

    Like

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