What it's like to work for an afterschool program
Afterschool program staff member is a vocation chosen by individuals from an array of backgrounds. Here are a few examples: Some are retirees, some are college students, and some are teachers who want to earn some extra income by working afterschool hours. The position offers flexibility with its afternoon hours and while there is structure there is also some opportunity for the kids to let loose and have fun.
Therefore, as a staff member the afterschool period would become enjoyable for you as well. I have worked for two different afterschool programs over time and there were commonalities between them. If you are thinking about signing on to this type of position, this article is written to offer you advice about what working for an afterschool program would be like.
1. After your arrival to work at the school building, it will be important to take your post in the afterschool program promptly. Be exactly where you are supposed to be because young children are depending on you to receive them as they are dismissed from class at the end of the school day. I have worked with children ages 4-8 in these programs but you might find a greater variety in age range for the program you might sign up to work with.
School based programs like the ones I worked for will be based within the same school building or on the same campus where the children spent the earlier part of the day but of course, there are other afterschool programs and daycare facilities as well that children might take a school bus to. If you work for such a program, it is likely that you will have to be at the bus as the children disembark and escort them into the program's facility.
2. Your work shift is likely to start between 2:30 and 3pm depending on the school and you must offer time for all of the kids to arrive at the afterschool program after the final bell of the school day's end. There will be an attendance sheet and you or one of your colleagues will be responsible for accounting for all the kids' presence.
3.As an afterschool program staff member, you will find that you will have several coworkers. The administrators at many schools see the importance of keeping a low staff to student ratio. So there might be as many as 1 staff member added for every 5-10 children. There might also be a hierarchy of staff positions as there are at many types of jobs. There might be senior staff members with seniority related to working for the program the longest and having the most experience and/or there might be a Director of Afterschool Progam to whom you will report and complete time sheets with for example.
4. After attendance is taken in an afterschool program there is usually an agenda of loosely structured activities. Some might involve homework assistance but unfortunately for parents, many do not.
Afterschool programs might last from 2:30/3pm to as late as 6:30 or 7pm and it is quite a shame for children to not approach their homework assignments at all during that time.
When they are picked up from the program facility by their parent at 6:30pm or even later at times, they then have to go home, eat dinner, spend some time with their families, tackle homework and get ready to go to bed at a reasonable hour for their next early day. It is not easy. Many young kids are getting a lot of homework these days so I think it is best for the afterschool programs to offer some time to do it.
Nevertheless, most afterschool progams will focus on healthy leisure activities also good for the child. These activities may involve playing age appropriate card games or board games, coloring pictures in coloring books or drawing original artwork, having storytime, or going outside for sports activities.
5.As an afterschool program staff member, it is likely that you will need to be trained in CPR and basic first aid. You will need to know basic first aid at the very least.
For outdoor playtime especially, it would be important to not discourage the children from running and playing freely, hanging on the monkey bars at the playground or playing basketball, whatever the activity may be but it will be important to be a careful observer. If any injuries should occur however minor, you will need to alert a fellow staff member that you are leaving your post if you need to take an individual child to apply a bandaid or ice pack. Sometimes, incident reports will need to be completed and you will cooperate with your supervisor to do so. You might also participate in making call to parents if necessary.
As an afterschool program staff member it will be important to be very alert, conscientious, and responsible. You should also be fun loving. Children seem to be most responsive and willing to participate in the activities with the other children when staff members get down to their level and assist. For example as a staff member, you might be a leader in a outdoor game or you might be a fellow player in a board game.
The kids will find it very entertaining if you play games and color pictures right along with them while still keeping an ear and and eye out for any problems that might occur.
6. Another thing that you will be responsible for in an afterschool program is the distribution of snacks. Snacks will probably be distributed sometime within the first hour of the program shift. Depending on what the snack is you might have to prepare it in some way or separate it into portions. You will ensure that everything is done in a sanitary way and supervise children in proper hand washing before they eat their snacks. (Please see my upcoming hub regarding healthy snacks that are typically served in afterschool programs. This article may be of interest to parents or babysitters/daycare workers who are looking to implement their own ideas for serving foods to their children.)
As a staff member it will be important to be aware of food allergies, medical and behavioral concerns for all the children under your care.
7. At dismissal, you will be responsible for making sure each student is picked up by someone who has the prior school approval/authority to pick them up from the facility.