By Tyler Birss, National Afterschool Association Next Generation 2017 Award Nominee
The S&S Worldwide team is proud to be the sponsor of the National Afterschool Association Next Generation Award for Afterschool for 2017. We are honored to highlight the nominees and winners for their accomplishments and dedication to the afterschool community.
I started working in an afterschool setting during August of 2014. Before entering this specific avenue of childcare, I spent time working in a boy’s group home, volunteering in a juvenile hall setting, and working with children in areas that ranged from health clinics to summer camps. I am currently employed as a Childcare Aide through the City of El Cerrito in California and am in the middle of my third year with Madera Elementary School.
I consider my work in an afterschool program incredibly valuable because of the impact I have on the children in my care. The importance of my role is something that I reflect on daily. Parents are placing a high level of trust in me to supervise their children, lead them during activities, and help them become the best individuals that they can possibly be. Given the fact that Madera’s program serves grades K-6, I have experience working with a tremendous range of different personalities, needs, and maturity levels.
My afterschool program typically consists of time for homework/reading, serving snack, taking the children outside for free play, and leading small group activities. Our schedule manages to be structured while also offering children the opportunity to spread their wings. I constantly ask what sort of games and activities they would like to do in an effort to make them feel included. One activity that many children in my program enjoy is dodgeball. We often have quite a few kids at any given time, so we usually do multiple activities at once with different staff in different areas. There’s also a game called Gaga Ball that they love.
What I primarily pride myself in would have to be my relationship building with the children. Program activities are nothing without strong staff who act as reliable figures and positive role models. For example, closely supervising children during playground time shows them that I care about their safety. Picking fair teams and acting as a mindful referee during a sporting activity shows children that I value their role in the contest. Balancing an ability to maintain order while also adapting to individual needs helps children thrive within the structure of a program.
An afterschool staff member who can meet this criteria will also have more credibility during a moment of conflict resolution. If the children know that I am always there for them and reasonable in my approach, they are more likely to trust my word when I provide corrective behavior. This mindset has helped me have success during the sort of peer conflicts that can often occur when working with children.
In terms of the bigger picture, my goal in this position is to be a constant force of positivity to the children in my care. I can say without question that I have made a significant impact on many of their lives. This provides me with great joy and pride. The path that a child walks is deeply meaningful and requires guidance. I consider it a privilege to have an opportunity to offer my guidance during their journey.
To learn more about the National Afterschool Association (NAA) visit naaweb.org. We proudly support their mission and dedication to the afterschool community.
Author: Tyler Birss, Childcare Aide through the City of El Cerrito in California. Currently in his third year with Madera Elementary School.