The Magic of Afterschool Learning

Guest Blogger: Suzanne Norton, Outgoing Program Leader at School Street

When I began my time here at Tobin Afterschool (as it was called back then), I was an Afterschool Group Leader, running art lessons for the children.  Interestingly enough, Heather Dalton, our new Assistant Director, was the very first person I met at Tobin, and I knew immediately that this was a great place for me!  From that moment on, I have had the most wonderful, enriching, and pleasant experiences here and it is with excitement, but also sadness that my path diverges from this incredible place.

It was the Tobin Beaudet Afterschool environment that I totally fell in love with and saw as a truly special place for children to learn and grow.  The beauty of afterschool is that we are free to teach in a whole new way.  The children arrive at our doorstep after having already spent an entire day trying to fit into the constructs of a classroom, attempting to meet the expectations of their teachers, hoping that they got all the answers right.  Their brains are tired, their restraint is exhausted, but it is in this tired moment that a whole new type of learning begins!

During afterschool, our teachers offer something closer to mentorship, and even, friendship.  We are here to guide the children as they figure out how to talk to each other, how to make choices about food, how to share things, and how to deal with stress, fear, and doubt.  We deal with the little things that don’t have a common core standard associated with them, the vague things that even adults are still trying to figure out.  We have time to hear any silly story a child has to tell, and to listen to every little detail they wish to share.

As my role at TBS changed, I spent less time in the art room running activities and more time organizing our entire team, but I was always guided by the lessons I had learned while teaching art to the kids.  Some of my most profound and dear memories of TBS will be from that art room table, full of children with nothing more than pencils and paper before us.  We would laugh a lot, sometimes we would get serious, and sometimes we would just draw together quietly.  Even among all the flashy games, the electronic temptations, and the myriad of other distractions you can find here, it was simple paper and pencil that we needed.  What I learned in these moments is that the most valuable thing I could ever give these kids was my TIME.  Just time to listen, time to share, time to wonder about things, time to mess up on a drawing, and time to fix it.

My time here is up, but I leave knowing that every moment I was at TBS, it was time well spent, and something that I will treasure for all time.



Nurturing, Educating, and Empowering Children