Integrity and learning

Kelly Shaw

Integrity: active or anxious regard for the standards of one's profession, calling, or position.

I have taught in the Child and Youth Care program at the Nova Scotia Community College for three years now. Yesterday I spent the morning with a class of Child and Youth Care students who are ready to go out on their final practicum experience prior to graduation. This is the third time I have had the privilege of sharing with a group of individuals who enter an education program; spend 10 months learning about Child and Youth Care theory, engaging in self reflection so they will be reflective practitioners, and finally watching their eager engagement with children; troubled or troubling children.

I began working as a child and youth care worker 13 years ago. I have continued to fall in love with this profession as the days and years have gone by, and now I have the opportunity to share my passion and excitement with other people who want to work with children.

I have defined my self as a facilitator of learning rather than a teacher. I have an ego “and at times it is big “however I do not think it is possible that I have enough knowledge to fill up those students with whom I am engaged. Similarly I think that my responsibility in relationship with the troubled youth and families with whom I work is to facilitate those changes they identify as important. I cannot orchestrate their lives, I cannot make them change; I can present opportunities for them to experience themselves differently, and as a result change may occur. Likewise I cannot force students to accept Child and Youth Care pedagogy. I can, however, expose them to it and its relevance.

I have become familiar over the past few years with a term that is new to me, academic integrity. This is another spot where I can draw a huge parallel to my Child and Youth Care practice. Professional integrity in my practice is essential. It is the reason why children develop trusting relationships and are then offered opportunities for change. It is the reason we are then willing to trust our colleagues as they engage in interventions which (in the moment) we do not entirely understand. It is why I have been able to have experiences with youth and families that are powerful and emotional. Modeling this integrity as an instructor allows students to see that integrity is not variable. It is salient and essential to genuine relationship.

As I reflect on the growth in these Child and Youth Care students over the past few months I am amazed. I imagine I feel almost parental but I know I feel like I have engaged successfully. I have connected with them, I have supported them in identifying their needs and meeting them to the best of their ability. However, perhaps most importantly, I have not compromised what I believe about child and youth care practice, and I am hopeful that they will enter their professional lives remembering that there is a lot of room for compromise (bedtimes, supper choices, curfews) “however no room for lack of professional integrity.

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