Finding our way: Roadmaps for practice
“I am a new child care worker and there seems to be so much to learn. I am of course guided by the daily timetables and the rules of our organisation — but there is so much more to child and youth care. Where are the road maps?”
There are two kinds of road maps.
There is the kind you have already met in your timetables and rules, the ones with fine detail. "Travel along Main Road for exactly five blocks, at the traffic lights turn left, opposite the doggy parlour there is a lane to the right. The place you want is the fifth house on the left (the one with the red roof)." You can't go wrong with maps like that, which are usually very helpful. So, your seniors and colleagues will soon teach you the finer details of the job.
But there are other kinds of road maps — the ones which say "Keep heading towards the north, you will see the vegetation change, its gets drier for a while, but then you get to the mountains ... " or the ones which say "You will begin to smell the ocean, keep heading into the sunrise, the road gets a little bumpy, and then there's the beach." Child care work has maps like this too. Often it is only when we keep our eyes on the distant objective, when we consider the broader strokes or the "big picture", that we see the meaning of the daily fine detail.
You need a bagful of these large-scale maps. Here are some ...
Remember when you were a kid. Pull that one out and study it from time to time, and you will find yourself readjusting your course, however slightly.
Think of someone who was really helpful and influential in your life. Not what he or she actually did, but how they were with you, how they related to you, what about them "grabbed" you?
After an encounter with a child, ask yourself how useful you were — who gained what from your actions? Was it both of you who felt better?
All of these guidelines have no particular connection with table manners, angry outbursts, being late for school or problems with parents; they are general things, connected with anything we do with kids.
Instead of ticking off twenty tasks, ask what sort of day did Rosie have today? Was it OK or was it tough? When you picture John, what kind of expression does he have on his face — is it happy or troubled, confident or confused? These questions and observations are the same as noticing the vegetation, sniffing the breeze. Not very scientific, but vital ways of checking out the lie of the land, of sensing the climate of children's lives. Yes, we do have to concentrate on the timetable and the rules every day, but we truly find our way by knowing generally where we are headed, and what we want to leave with the youngsters.
Re-read these familiar lines of Dorothy Nolte as you consider some things to avoid, and some of the many gifts you have to offer —
If a child lives with criticism, He learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility, He learns to fight.
If a child lives with ridicule, He learns to be shy.
If a child lives with shame, He learns to feel guilty.
If a child lives with tolerance, He learns to be patient.
If a child lives with encouragement, He learns confidence.
If a child lives with praise, He learns to appreciate.
If a child lives with fairness, He learns justice.
If a child lives with security, He learns to have faith.
If a child lives with approval, He learns to like himself.
If a child lives with acceptance and friendship, He learns to find love in the world.