Three Things Afterschool Staff Should Let Go

Jackie Thurnau
Three Things Afterschool Staff Should Let Go

Three Things Afterschool Staff Should Let Go

The season of busy is upon us.

Adult smiling at child in a classroom

As youth development professionals transition from summer camp into back-to-school mode, there is much to be done. From new routines to new supplies, preparing and running an afterschool program may feel like a constant juggling act.

But what happens if we let a few balls drop? Well, that may be where the magic of afterschool actually comes to life!

Making your afterschool program feel magical to kids, families and staff does not require extra time or money. It only requires a shift in thinking so that all youth can reach their full potential while having fun.

Ready to shift your thinking? Here are three things to ‘let go’ of right now:

1. Let go of busy

We often feel so busy during our programs that we forget to be mindful of the huge sense of accomplishment our kids feel when they achieve a new skill. Take a moment to celebrate the confidence gained by youth in afterschool, including taking photos to share with the school or with families. Learning to tie a shoe or jump rope may seem like simple feats to adults, but to a 6-year old, mastering these skills is empowering and exciting.

2. Let go of perfection

Perfection is overrated and has little to do with youth development. Creating a culture that celebrates failure is a great way to make your afterschool program feel distinctly different from a child’s school day. In afterschool, learning can feel supportive with an emphasis on the growth mindset (that dedication and hard work can result in achievements) versus a fixed mindset (that a child’s intelligence or talent is predetermined and unchanging). In a more relaxed setting, staff have the opportunity to process with the child why something failed and acknowledge the effort that the child put forth.

3. Let go of control

One of the Y’s new ways to approach youth leadership skills in afterschool is by giving youth a voice to share their opinions and a choice in what they’d like to do. For some staff, letting go of control and taking on a more supportive role instead of an authoritative role can be a challenging shift, full of assumptions and negative thoughts. This shift from staff to youth leadership sometimes means that the program space may get a little more messy than normal and activities may take a little longer or not go exactly as planned. But Ys who have implemented ‘Youth Voice and Choice’ programming report that the results are well worth it! When youth feel they had the opportunity to speak up and engage in what is interesting to them, they have more fun!