Hello world. It’s been too long. I keep telling myself that I’m going to post more frequently. Now I need to really put it into action especially since we’re working on a few awesome things with the kids.
The first two months of this calendar year, I’ve decided to focus on other cultures. And the kids have taken to it very well. So far we’ve focused on games from various continents. Last week was the first week and the focus was South America. This week is Europe. Next week is Africa, the following week is Asia. You get the point. After we focus on the games from these continents, we’ll shift our focus to clothing, music/dance and food. Of course, there are many countries within these continents and it would be hard to discuss every single country in the world. However, I think this will give the kids a good chance to expand their horizons. They’ve had so much fun playing some of the games that they forfeited their free time to continue playing. They’ve also noticed similarities between games from other countries and the games that they play every day. I’m curious to see how it goes when we get into the clothing, music/dance and food.
We only did one day of actual club time this week because the Girl Scouts program comes in twice a month to do activities with the girls who registered to participate. Anyway, yesterday the kids had a choice between music/craft and dodgeball. Slightly most than half of the kids chose to play dodgeball. I stayed back with the kids for the music club while my co-worker organized a dodgeball game in the gym. I gave the kids options for instruments that could be created and we went to work. They loved it. A few kids even made multiple instruments. We didn’t have time to make a band but it was still fun. Anyway, somehow my message was forgotten (I told my coworker that we would come in the gym but instead he brought the gym kids back to the cafeteria). Needless to say, we were putting the finishing touches on our instruments when the rest of the group came back. They saw what we were working on and then they all wanted to make instruments too. Huge success. Parents on the other hand weren’t as excited about the amount of noise that would be in the house but they did seem to appreciate the creativity of the activity. Kids were able to make guitars using tissue boxes and rubber bands, maracas using cups and uncooked macaroni noodles, tambourines using paper plates and uncooked macaroni noodles, flutes using cut straws and horns using toilet paper rolls, wax paper and rubber bands. Next week’s craft will be pumpkin painting. Just have to figure out what the club times will be. Some kids requested reading. That may be up next.
So the kids love club time. To the point that every day they ask if we’re doing club time even though I said it’s only Tuesday and Wednesday. Last week, they were able to either play soccer or craft. For craft club, kids had their choice between creating things with pipe cleaners or making friendship bracelets. Moments like these, you realize just how creative kids are. They created things with the pipe cleaners that I never would have imagined but looked so cool. This week, they’ll have the option between instruments (those that don’t have actual instruments will be able to make instruments using household items) and dodgeball. It should be interesting but I think it will work out well especially if we’re able to have one staff member with each group.
In other news, our trunk or treat design seems to be coming along. The kids in the morning made a sail and “my costume”. I’m not sure if I’ll let them draw the ship since I have no intentions of buying more paper but they have offered to help which is awesome.
Lastly, I’m still trying to figure out how to expose the kids to other cultures. I don’t want it to feel like school but I want to do around the world in ___ days (depending on whether we do this in November or December). I’m definitely taking suggestions for this one. Trying to think of good activities/games to help them learn more about different cultures.
Recently, I introduced club time during my after-school program. I “stole” this idea from summer camp. Kids were given 4 options and had to rank their preferences. At the designated time, they were split into club times based on preference. I liked this idea and transferred it to my current program. When I introduced it, I gave the kids a chance to have some input. They wrote down club times that they wanted to have and I reviewed the list for some of the most popular choices. Anyway, we started this last week and overall, the kids seemed to enjoy it. The idea is that each week they will have 2 activity choices. Last week, it was dance or four square. This week, I’m going to do soccer or art. We only have 2 staff members so it makes it easier if there are only two choices despite that fact that I initially wanted to do 3 groups because the club need enough oversight to require an adult the entire time. Next week, I’d like to do music/instrument club. Most of the kids who wrote this as an interest are older and have actual instruments from the school. While this is nice, I don’t want to leave out other kids who may want to participate. With that being said, I’m trying to think of creative ways to make instruments. Like one student created a flute using a straw. He cut wholes in it and chewed the end to get a similar sound. I was also thinking of using coffee containers as drums of some sort. I have to look up more ideas so that kids can make the instruments that they want. Any suggestions are welcome for this. I’m curious to see how today goes. I believe that everything is a work in progress and nothing is beyond improvement so I’m constantly working to make my program better. This is one of those ways and even within this, I am always looking for ways to make things run smoother.
Oh, on another note, my job is doing a trunk-or-treat. They like to make things into a competition so each site is expected to have a staff member’s trunk decorated. The community will vote and pick the best one. I’m definitely taking ideas for this since Halloween isn’t really my thing. I need a theme.
There are quite a few things that I would like to work on with the kids this year. Teamwork has been picked as the first focus of the year (at least in the morning program). In general, kids don’t have good teamwork skills and team dynamics. So for the entire month of October, kids have been split onto two teams. They will work with the teams for the entire month doing mostly team building activities…we’ll see how this goes.
Another focus that we’ll have this year is diversity. Many of my kids come from the “average American family”. They know next to nothing about minority groups or other cultures in general. I’d like to change that but I’m trying to figure out the best way to go about this especially in a before and afterschool setting. I don’t want to give them homework necessarily but I feel like I want them to research other cultures. The other day, I had one fourth grade girl take a scarf/flag that we use for games, put it on her head and pat her head against her mouth saying “look, I’m an Indian”. The sheer ignorance that the kids have regarding other cultures is astounding and yet at the same time, not surprising at all…suggestions are definitely welcome in this area.
I would also like to do something similar to an anti-bullying campaign. I watched the movie Bully a few months ago and loved it. However, these kids are K-6 and I imagine that parents wouldn’t approve this movie even for the older kids. I could see showing this youtube video that depicts a world where people “pay it forward” and then having a discussion in addition to finding a movie that specifically touches on bullying. The problem with this high level stuff is that I will most likely have to split the group because often the kindergarteners get lost in the discussion and thus are left out. Also taking suggestions in this area, especially if you know of a movie appropriate for K-6 that deals with bullying.
First post of the new school year. Good news is that I am now at the same school morning and afternoon which makes things more consistent for the kids and makes my life a heck of a lot easier. We also have a new principal who seems great. I’ve already had more conversations with him in the last week than I had with the previous principal in a full school year. Anyway, we have a lot of new kids (more than I thought we would) and most of them are in kindergarten or first grade. So far this year, I’ve been trying to break in the new kids and get them accustomed to what we do and how we do things because they seem to think it’s play time during the program and that they can disregard staff members. Not gonna fly…
Some new things were implemented this year…first, the aids now wait for me to give the all clear that we have all of the children on the roster accounted for. This came about because of the disaster on the first day of school. I spent the first 30 minutes after school tracking down kids. We had siblings not documented probably on the roster. This means that 1 sister was on the roster, the other was not but we had paperwork for both Luckily, one of the teachers checked with me but when went to get her off the bus, her sister was on there as well. Their mom told them she would call the school to let them know to put the girls on the bus…well that didn’t happen. In the end, both girls were pulled off the bus. After this incident, I go back in the cafeteria to account for everyone else and quickly realized that we were still missing two kids! Once again, leaving my coworker (who was just helping out for that day) with the rest of the kids. Turns out 1 of the missing children was picked up by her father, the other one was mistakenly sent home on the bus because the teacher missed her name on the roster. Thank goodness they don’t just let the kids off and leave. However, a neighbor saw that the girl was on the bus and called her father who was pissed (rightfully so). Needless to say, it was his “little chat” with the principal that caused a change in our receiving procedure.
Also new this year, instead of yelling over the students to make a quick announcement or something, I’ve started using ‘hands up’ (something I learned in City Year). It seems to be pretty effective so far. I thought about doing it last year but didn’t want to start it so late in the year. Last new thing would be reviewing the Code of Conduct for our program. First of all, I didn’t even know that we had one. I just really like the one that we used for summer camp and then found out that it’s the same one we use for my extended day program. So (possibly starting next week), we will be reviewing the Code of Conduct and implementing a strike system similar to the one at summer camp for disciplinary issues. Basically, if a child goes against the Code of Conduct, they will get a strike. Three strikes results in a warning letter to the parents. If problems persist, obviously it escalates from there. I think it’ll be good because it’ll help me to better track behavior problems.
I’ll try to become more consistent with this now that the school year has started again. We’ll see how I do.
For the most part, I don’t have any complaints regarding the parents that I work with.Most of them are great and we have very open dialogue about the kids. However, some just pick up their kids and go which seems to work for them and others…create unnecessary drama.
Last night, a parent decided to let me know that she didn’t appreciate the fact that I wrote up a late slip when she picked up her daughter at 6:05. A few things to note: 1 - all kids are to be picked up no later than 6:00, 2 - this was the second late pickup which means there’s a late fee attached to it, 3 - it was actually 6:10 and 4 - this happened a week ago. So anyway, I kindly mention points 1-3 to her (not in that order or with that exact wording but you get the point). She proceeds to give me grief about the exact time by next saying 6:07 although she clearly signed a paper that said 6:10 was the pickup time. She also told me that she knows the rule but the staff last year understood and would let it slide. She would just tell them that she was sorry and give them a nice Christmas gift. Pause. I clearly can’t speak for what was done last year but I do know that there was a different protocol. Even if there wasn’t, I’m not them. But I digress. I reiterate to her that I follow the rules set by my program and also mentioned that I don’t treat anyone differently. It was the second time and I had to document it. Now she goes on to add new fuel by telling me that I threw the paper in her face and told her that she needed to go to my organization’s main office to pay the fee. Not sure when placing a paper in front of someone got confused with throwing it but…I digress again. I take the time to apologize despite this by saying it was not my intention to offend her and that everyone wasn’t clear on the policy so I wanted to make sure that she knew. It’s hard to describe her tone at this point but she thanked me for educating her on the policy (she seemed to want to say something else) and told me that it wasn’t about the $10 fee, it was the principle. Yes, the principle is that you picked your child up late and you need to own that. At one point, she even gave a sob story of how she is seeing patients all day and then her youngest got sick and had to go to the pediatrician. While unfortunate, you were still late.
Now I thought that was the end. She thanked me for ‘educating her’ and walked out of the door with her child…but then she came back in. Clearly still upset, she asked me if children were supposed to open the door. To give background on this, my coworker was changing into a suit for a presentation after work. I was in the gym with the remaining four kids. This parent called on the walkie talkie. My coworker had just gone into the bathroom. I peeked my head out of the gym door to see which parent was at the door and then called a 4th grader to go open it while I stood watching her walk down the hall and keeping an eye on the kids in the gym. This is well within the acceptable procedures given the circumstances and the way that the school is set up. The doors are all glass which means I have no trouble seeing who is at the door well before I reach it. Anyway, I explained that it was not typical for us to do but given the circumstances which I explained to her, it was allowed. I even mentioned the fact that my co-worker had just returned to the room and she would have been waiting outside for about 10 minutes otherwise. ‘Okay, I just wanted to know what the policy was…I’m going to call to make sure.’ Call.
I gave my boss a heads up. She’s in agreement with me. To top it off, I had to go to the main office today and it turns out, this parent never paid the late fee and after today, I cannot take her until it is paid. She’ll really love me then especially after she asked me if I would be at that school next year…yes, you’ll still be dealing with me. Have a nice day!
It’s been a while. I decided to be more diligent about posting in the last few weeks of the school year. I’m not going to do a full recap but the picture that I posted was taken a few weeks ago during Polar’s worst day of the year. For the most part, we haven’t had any major issues with him which has been great. Anyway, on this particular day, his Lego structure fell on the ground and broke into pieces. There was no recovery from this moment. The girl who accidently knocked it over apologized but it didn’t matter. Initially, he went off by himself and I was okay with that because there are days when he doesn’t want to be bothered with anyone. I won’t go through each detail but I will say that being off by himself didn’t help. It escalated. He started throwing anything he could find and pick up: cups, pencils, other kid’s artwork (we were able to prevent most of that). My co-worker took the kids out while I stayed in with him and another kid. He overturned the trash can and recycling bin (hence the picture below) and then kicked them and began throwing empty plastic bottles in my direction. During his angry tirade, I kindly reminded him that he would have to pick all of that up before leaving. When I realized that he clearly wasn’t going to calm down any time soon, I rushed in to prevent him from hurting me or the other student in the room. Over an hour after the incident, he finally calmed down…a few minutes before his mother arrived. By the way, we did call her to pick him up but she worked 45 minutes away from the school. He did clean up the trash…with his mother and even felt bad about destroying someone’s artwork so he asked to recreate it. So many other things I could mention about this incident but I’ll leave it at that. I think I’m prepared for almost anything at this point.