MOMENTS WITH YOUTH
“Let’s walk to your room together”
ast month I shared my thoughts about the importance of position in our work. Where we place ourselves in relationship to children and youth can have a major impact on the success or failure of an interaction. If we are too close or too far way, for example, it can have influence our ability set a boundary or invite a youth to participate. Since then I remembered something from a Henry Maier workshop I attended several years ago.
For those who have not discovered the work of Henry Maier, he is the author of several excellent articles and books about child and youth care. He also has a monthly column in this magazine.
In the workshop he was demonstrating the difference between two approaches to get a youth to his bedroom. In the first role play, the worker (Henry played the role of the worker) stood behind the youth, who was sitting in a chair with his arms folded across his chest and a grumpy look on his face. "Get to your room," the worker said and pointed in the direction of the youth’s room.
In the second example, the worker (Henry again) was in front of the youth crouched slightly to make eye contact. The worker put his hand of the youth’s shoulder and gently pulled it away, saying something like, “Let’s walk to your room together. I’m interested in hearing about how your day went.”
For me this latter example beautifully defines, as Henry demonstrated, child and youth care as a process of human interaction in which workers seize the moment to form attachments while simultaneously promoting the development of youth. I use it regularly in my classes. Someday, I ‘d like to structure a whole course around that moment when the worker gently slides his or her hand away and says, “Let’s walk to your room together.” The position of the worker, the sense of presence he or she conveys, the sensitivity to touch, the pace at which they eventually move, the congruence between the worker’s position and the message being conveyed, and the importance of the event as a transition could all be discussed at great length. More and more I am convinced that this is the place we should be starting and ending — the minutiae and milieu in which the bulk of our work occurs.
Now to another related matter: For regular readers of this column, it is obvious that we have not presented the stories of the youth workers in our research study for a few months. This is because we are taking a break and considering a shift in our study. We would like to include other workers to bring in some fresh stories and ideas. One thought was to invite workers from around the world to submit their stories via the internet. We would send them instructions on how to use the method of reflective practice we use to write and interpret the moments, and hold internet discussions. Their stories would then become part of our study, and also appear hear in this column. The first step is to see if anyone is interested. What do you think? Is it a good idea? Would you join in?
Give us some feedback at: email@example.com. We’d love to hear from you and read your stories.