Afterschool Practitioners Learn, Share and Grow Through Communities of Practice

Written by: Jennifer Jones, Professional Development Manager, Prime Time Palm Beach County

Large smiles appear on the faces of training attendees as they see their colleagues and discuss excitedly about how the last few weeks have gone personally and professionally. Showing up to the second training session of three in the series, they have already gotten to know one another in between trainings, forming a bond as they share their challenges, joys and triumphs working with youth afterschool.

The new series-based trainings at Prime Time have given staff who work in the out-of-school time (OST) space an opportunity to create a community of practice,  defined as a group of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do, and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly. This definition reflects the fundamentally social nature of human learning.

After the first training, participants set up a free group messaging application on their phones where they share stories, pictures, encouraging memes and examples of youth development strategies they have tried in their programs. Participants have expressed gratitude for having this space to interact with people who share their passion for youth. One participant wrote:

“Thank you for this group’s motivation. Congratulations to everyone who achieved their goals and to anybody that may be struggling, you got this! Have a great day!”

In the Well-Being for Practitioners and Youth training, participants choose an accountability partner and they set a time to meet up over the phone or in person to provide support for each other in accomplishing their goals.  In a recent training, a seasoned director who has been in the OST field for over 20 years was partnered with an OST practitioner who is fairly new to the afterschool field. They provided each other with new perspectives and encouragement as they touched base with one another regularly between trainings.  One of them wrote:

“I’m thankful for little steps and my accountability partner’s positive attitude toward my goals. Having that support system has been so comforting for the both of us knowing we have support… I have supported her by checking in and letting her know I’m here and that we’re in this together 💜 “

Another participant wrote:

“Meeting with my accountability partner supports me by the fact that it holds me verbally accountable for the goals I’ve set for myself. I don’t like to hear myself verbally admit I didn’t make a goal, but at the same time I get to share about and be proud of the small steps I’ve taken towards accomplishing them. When sharing with my partner she encourages and inspires me.”

Over a month and a half, OST practitioners, directors and assistant directors attend a series of two to three trainings together which helps them to have shared knowledge and experiences that they take with them and model for the staff at their sites and the youth in their program. After learning about ANTS (Automatic Negative Thoughts) and PETS (Positive Energetic Thoughts) during the training, one director wrote:

“I have followed through with my goal by meeting with six youth each twice during this past week. They seem to enjoy the fun of recognizing their ANTS and the thinking traps that are behind them. We’ve also started to put some PETS into action. This is something I will most certainly continue on a weekly basis. Overall, I have noticed that these particular children’s behaviors are more positive, constructive and they seem happier overall.”

The power of the Community of Practice and Series –Based trainings is summed up in this quote from a training participant at the end of the last training:

“Thank you all for sharing your experiences. I feel that it gives each one of us a new meaning of why we do what we do day in and day out. I look forward to seeing you all in upcoming trainings. Continue the great work that you are doing and continue to save the world one child at a time! Until next time, Be Blessed!”

Prime Time offers the following series-based trainings, most of which offer Continuing Education Units (CEUs): Behavior Management Series (3 part- 1.2 CEUs), Well-Being Tools for Practitioners and Youth (3 part- 1.2 CEUs), Progressive Afterschool Practitioner Series (2 part – 0.8 CEUs), Essentials of Youth Development Mid-Level series (3 part- 1.2 CEUs), Restorative Practices in OST series (3 part with modeling sessions- 1.4 CEUs), OST Leadership series (4 part- 1.6 CEUs), Middle School Foundation series (3 part- 1.2 CEUs).

To register for the trainings and participate in a community of practice, go to