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What We Learned: A Reflection on Professional Development in Preparation for the Year Ahead

October 4, 2021

By Taejha Richardson, Director of Capacity Building and Technical Assistance Initiatives

It’s a new school year, and the afterschool world is excited to support young people and their families as schools and afterschool programs restart in-person learning experiences. While we are well aware of the many ongoing challenges, from staffing shortages to implementing protocols to ensure everyone stays safe and healthy, we are working our hardest to give programs exceptional training support.

At ExpandED Schools we have reflected on what we learned in the past year to inform our current planning for the 2021-2022 school year. We remain committed to ensuring that community educators have the tools, strategies and resources to do their best work to ensure that young people thrive. Our core programmatic priorities remain the same: to provide support for remote instruction; develop strong social-emotional learning practices with young people; and advance anti-racist practices in afterschool. However, we now seek to integrate the tools and strategies we all gained in the last year to enhance our upcoming offerings.

Educators and students have spent the past year tapping into innovative teaching and learning strategies. In order to help them to continue making the most of those, we have designed new trainings that will teach educators to engage young people whether in-person or remote settings. For example, our professional development trainings will teach afterschool educators about the fundamentals of remote instruction, the gamification of lesson plans, and the integration of new technology.

As everyone returns to traditional learning environments, we want to make sure that afterschool educators have a deep understanding of the complex social and emotional needs of young people that may have been exacerbated by the pandemic. As such, we have added a host of new sessions that introduce participants to a variety of frameworks and new strategies that encourage self-care and healing practices. In addition, as part of our focus on equity for for all learners, we have continued to develop sessions to help educators integrate anti-racist practices into afterschool programming enrichments and interventions.

We’ve also spent the past several months thinking deeply about what motivates staff to participate in professional development. We surveyed all of our training participants about their experiences during the past year of virtual training. We found that training attendees participate for three primary reasons: to find immediate interventions; to continuously improve their skills; and to remain in compliance with the Office of Children and Family Services’ School Aged Child Care regulations. They also reported that while virtual training was extremely convenient, there were in-person training components that just did not translate well in a virtual setting. Attendees seek opportunities to connect with peers, network and thought-partner in shared spaces. As much as we would love to return to our beautiful training room in midtown Manhattan, we plan to operate remotely through the winter of 2022. Hopefully, we will be safely back together by the spring.

Until then, please check out our comprehensive calendar of training opportunities that are responsive to the current needs of the field for the 2021-2022 school year. Our sessions are open for registration and we look forward to another successful year helping you and your team get the support and training you need in an ever-changing environment.