Learning & Teaching
What Leaders Must Do to Ensure Building Culturally Responsive Afterschool Programs
by Lissette Castillo
By definition, “culturally responsive” education must, among other things, “use the cultural knowledge, prior experiences, frames of reference, and performance styles of ethnically diverse students to make learning encounters more relevant to and effective for them.” In addition, “challenging racial and cultural stereotypes, prejudices, racism and other forms of … oppression” is a defining element of the term, coined by Dr. Geneva Gay.
Considering the current chaotic state of our nation, the miseducation of children of color and the widening opportunity gap—often erroneously called the achievement gap—it’s time to eradicate the consistent and oppressive structures of racism in educational programs.
Students of African and/or Indigenous descent (DAIP) deserve programs exhibiting a range of practices that honor their identities, linguistic assets and cultures—in addition to de-centering whiteness from our learning spaces and collective learning, and grounding that is centered within the context of culture and race.
A Reflection by Mia Klinger. September 2020
The obstacles to returning to classrooms are not teachers and increasing the number of measures in the name of accountability, like having school personnel work from empty classrooms, neither improve teaching nor keep children safer.
Aging school buildings with their windows stuck shut for years cannot meet the demands of this moment.
This is not about teachers or their commitment to their work.
COVID-19 is the issue and districts must now reckon with the many inequalities that it lays bare.
Private schools are finding solutions; families with means are schooling through pods or finding the childcare support that allows parents to work. For most of our students, these are not options.
Some districts have been upfront about the difficulties maintaining the six feet of spacing between students that are needed to stay healthy, and they will struggle with children who cannot show compliance to this or other requirements because they are traumatized and reactive.
Our children are flooded by the fears of their adults- caregivers and teachers, who cannot provide the message that underscores all effective teaching, "You are safe here."
Outdoor space is only a temporary solution in New England, but temporary is not a waste of time or energy.
I had children in person in camp this summer. They were desperate for group experiences and for engagement. I was equally in need of their laughter, their energy, and the chance to do what I love- teach!
By Mercedes Soto
On Sunday, May 31st, my partner, 12-year-old son and I participated in the “Wee Chalk the Walk: A Family Day of Action for Black Lives,” to chalk messages of love, hope and support on our city sidewalks. We walked up the block to City Hall, where we wrote the names of many, but not all, of the Black Americans who have been killed at the hands of police and vigilantes. A photo of our chalk memorial was included in a Cambridge Day article.
On Monday, June 1st, City Hall reopened to staff. As I returned from my morning walk, I noticed that someone had erased the word “Black” from “Black Lives Matter.” My first reaction was shock, anger, then (after a few deep breaths) curiosity. Why are we still having to explain what we mean when we say Black Lives Matter?
Nearly seven years ago, after the acquittal of the aggressor who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin while he was walking home from the store, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi founded the Movement for Black Lives and first used the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter.
By Melinda Barbosa and bo lembo
Hey Compassion Champions!
Many of you "zoomed" into our workshop on April 30th.
You lifted our moods and made us feel hopeful for the future.
We appreciate your honesty about this challenging moment and how hard it is to talk about our feelings, especially when it feels like we don't know where to plant our feet.
We prepare and think a lot about these spaces and practice being present in the moment with other humans (Youth Work 101!), which means sometimes some of the "technical" content gently gets woven through the workshop. We believe many of these things you already know, but may not have words for it yet. Here are the slides.
Keep reading and you will find more journaling prompts!
If you'd like to share resources with your colleagues, tell us how you are coping and healing, and helping the youth and families that you work with to heal, and continuing to find joy while we are physically apart, please submit a blog post by emailing. Here are some tips to help get you started.
by Marlees West, Program Director, Frisoli Youth Center
As an extrovert, movement has long been my only solitary activity. Long runs help me center myself and release some of my excess energy before I connect with others. In the last year, pilates has helped me to get ready for a day of: connecting to staff and young people and families; talking and learning, and teaching and thinking. By myself, at the end of the day, pilates helps me process everything that I learned, heard, and felt.
Like all of us, physical distancing has rocked my world.
I no longer have all those in-person social interactions to feed my extroverted soul. So, I created “Socially Distant Pilates People." I made my daily exercise routine a social time, initially with just a small group of 4. Over the last few weeks, our community has now grown to include more than 20 people. We 'FaceTime' ten minutes a day, once a day, every day, to do pilates together. That’s it! But that short ten minutes (followed by a virtual dance party) has felt really good. It’s kept me connected to my own identity as a teacher and facilitator (and now as an amateur pilates instructor!) and to my friends and family and friends of friends. It’s quickly become the best part of my day, lifting my mood and energy, and jump starting my creativity. I feel connected.
By Mercedes Soto, Impact Evaluation Advisor, Agenda for Children OST
Yesterday, when I was walking and listening to a podcast, in the April Fool's Day early morning snow flurry, I saw this colorful child's drawing zip tied to a tree. The message "We are in this fight together so we must remember to be kind to each other." brought me to tears. I was overcome by this wave of grief for all of the people and the ways of life we've lost and the people and ways of life we are losing.
Dear OST Community,
We are living through unprecedented closings of schools, out-of-school time programs, and non-essential municipal services. Our daily lives have been disrupted and many of us are worried about our children's learning, and supporting our families, our neighbors, and the children, youth and families our programs serve.
It is important to take this time, when we have been taken out of our regular routines, to reflect on what is most important and what can we learn from this experience. What are the ways that you are taking care of yourself so that you can care for others?
By Melinda Barbosa, Quality Coach and Trainer, Agenda for Children OST
We know storytelling can have long-term beneficial impacts in our work by creating a sense of belonging and connectedness, allowing us to reflect on our personal identities, and to build communities that create social change.
When you have deadlines looming, progress reports to write, and a new curriculum unit to put together, it can feel like there’s not enough time to just talk. Storytelling is more than talking. It’s a practice in deep listening and noticing within ourselves to uncover what is actually important, and asking us to tend to the emerging needs of the group.
Keep reading for some tips on how to bring storytelling to your team:
On the last morning of the 2019 OST Symposium, Vanessa Fisher, Director of the Frisoli Youth Center, led a workshop entitled, Love and Leadership. She shared her own journey to coming to understand that the real power of leadership is when you can express love and compassion in your interactions within the workplace while still getting the work done and accomplishing the mission.
Click on this link to read Vanessa's handout and a participant's "take back" from one of the workshop exercises. We can all apply the wisdom shared in Vanessa's handout to any situation in which we are called to exercise leadership (which is a mindset, not just a position).
How do you bring love into your leadership?
If you're interested in attending a future offering of this workshop please contact Barbara Murphy-Warrington at Barbara@agendaforchildrenost.org.
In this video, a single Colombian mother tells us about the process of supporting her son to reach college after having faced a number of obstacles. She also tells us about how a CSI College Success Coach played a key role in the success of her son.
by Jess Leach, Community Coordination Associate at Agenda for Children
Photo: Fred Rogers Company
Anyone else who’s ever worked in a summer program has almost certainly experienced the same day as this one: It started extremely humid and turned into torrential downpour. My throat burned from reaching my voice over hundreds of children’s, my limbs lagged, and my head throbbed… there was no word for how tired my body felt. That night, I decided the only thing I wanted to do - the only thing I could do - was sit in a dark, cool theater and watch a movie.
Last week, we met with Janna, Asia & Norah, three middle schoolers enrolled at the Gately Youth Center and asked them how they felt about relationships with youth workers. They spoke about how some youth workers became like family, helping them overcome challenges and supporting them to reach their goals. As Janna told us, "I feel like its my family because every time I have a problem they work it out with me. I feel safe here."
One of the first things I learned in library school was S. R. Ranganathan’s Five Laws of Library Science:
By Jeneen Mucci, Director of Program Quality and Training, Cambridge Youth Programs
Jeneen leading a workshop on outdoor education at our 2017 OST Symposium
As a little girl I was always drawn to the outdoors. Exploring my backyard or the woods with my canvas backpack and a thermos of chocolate milk, I would hike around, turn rotting logs over to see who made their underside their home, would listen for the chorus of birds that draped the canopy of trees, and I would be content just to be a part of the living and breathing landscape that allowed me to be part of something bigger than myself. There was a mysterious pull that brought me into a world that was exciting, challenging and new. It brought me a sense of peace and most of all, it brought me closer to myself.
By Jess Leach, Community Coordination Associate at Agenda for Children, with Robyn Ginsberg, inclusion facilitator at Peabody 2-5
What is mindfulness? If you’re unfamiliar with the practice, that word might conjure an image of meditation - someone humming in total solitude, their mind empty, void of any complicated thought. When you see mindfulness in this way, it can feel impossible to involve young people. Robyn Ginsberg, inclusion facilitator at the Peabody 2-5 after school program, was experiencing that exact frustration when she first registered for Zach Soloman’s “Mindfulness for Kids” training in March.
By Melina O'Grady, Quality Coach and facilitator at Agenda for Children
As a facilitator of youth development training for the past two years, I’ve noticed a few things. My own middle school years were a chaotic battle for self and a search for place in school and the social realm. I saw most adults as barriers rather than allies in my journey. That was many (so many!) years ago.
By Melinda Barbosa, Youth Development Consultant & Director
Every day, in and out of school, middle schoolers are exploring who they are in the world. As youth workers, we can help them shape their story. Every concern, problem or “drama” that middle schoolers share with us can be an entry point to helping them form their identity. How do they see themselves in their own story? Victim? Hero? Supernatural Aid/Mentor?
By Jess Leach, teacher at Agassiz Baldwin Community and Community Coordinator Associate at Agenda for Children
My imaginary child "Jess Junior" and all the ways we thought she had changed and would change the in the future
By George Hinds, Director of Youth Employment at the Office of Workforce Development, City of Cambridge
As youth workers, I think we live our lives with an inherent optimism. We walk into our jobs every day believing that the young people we work with are going to change the world, and that we can give them the tools and resources they’re going to need to do so. Now, we’re practical, too…we know some of our youth will need more assistance or resources to reach the same heights as their peers. We know that structures and systems in the world around us will sometimes do more to slow our youth down than to raise them up. And so our optimism is tested. And sometimes, it is pushed to the brink…tragedy strikes, seemingly intractable problems rear their heads, and we have those moments where we think nothing can change.
By Kelly Royds, Impact & Evaluation Advisor
On December 8, 2017 we convened 30 leaders in the out-of-school time (OST) community of Cambridge to participate in a professional development planning day. The day was designed to support OST leaders to reflect on, and plan for, their meaningful engagement in professional development.
By Melina O'Grady, Communities of Practice Facilitator
This week at our Communities of Practice for Front Line youth workers, we highlighted and discussed a number of influential African-American leaders. Here are a few of the women and men that inspired our discussion.