Youth work in the silly season

Surviving is key to the silly season.

December One. The beginning of the silly season. The first day of the run to the end of the year. ‘Every year I dread this time. Yeah there is the awesome Christmas parties and friends and the end of the year. The flip side however is that it is also really busy. It is also the time of year that really hits home for a lot of our clientele just how much their lives are not the same as others. Their short on cash, their family doesn’t look like someone else’s, their future doesn’t look like they thought it would and everything looks bleak. During this time of year many of the young people I had worked with came to crisis.

silly seasonThe dichotomy between the joyous and the pain of the silly season which we as youth workers are stuck between is mind-blowing. It is often this time of year that we see a rise in family violence, crime and suicide. It is all of this and more which makes our days busy. We find that from clock on to clock off we are aware of the suffering of our young people. It is also this time of year that many youth workers are also struggling. As our young people suffer so do we. It is vicarious trauma.

[Tweet “The dichotomy between the joyous and the pain of the season which we as youth workers are stuck between is mind-blowing”]

So in the beginning of this silly season I ask you to consider two things. First, remember that this time for your clients may be one of the hardest. They may need extra support from you during this time just to deal with the fact that the silly season brings forward a lot of raw emotions. Second, I ask you to think about how you and your colleagues are coping. What are you doing to look after your self care? How are you looking out for each other? Perhaps only a couple of drinks at the Christmas party this year!

If we can look out for ourselves and look out for our young people just a little more emphatically over the coming month then perhaps we can limit the effects of trauma and vicarious trauma which comes during the festive season.

Lets look out for each other!

UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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Using writing as a tool for critical reflection: Youth worker skill building

I always hated journaling. When I was a young intern in my 20’s I absolutely hated Tuesday morning as it was journaling time. My other intern colleagues would open their books and just write. I would stare at the blank page and start to sweat. I am sure my supervisors thought I was wasting time…They told me as much… but I just couldn’t put pen to paper and make sense of my world.

Four years later as I was completing my final placement for my youth work degree I was again thrust into the world of journaling. I still hated it. This time my pen to pare looked more like case notes than critical reflections. This is what I did… This is what I saw… This is who I met with… and on I went. My supervisor rebuked my lack of insight into the work we were doing. I really hated reflective journaling. 
About four years ago now I was in a very sticky situation at work. Suffice it to say I was a mess. one of my mentors suggested that I journal my experience and the groan and roll of my eyes told him just how much I was looking forward to that idea. But the old Vietnam vet wouldn’t leave well enough alone. He dug in and asked me what I had done previously that made me hate the idea of reflective writing. I told him and this time he groaned and rolled his eyes. The next hour or so changed my mind on reflective writing and set me on a course to leading other there.
Reflective writing is not a chronicling of events, a case note or even a dear diary entry. It is the systematic untangling of the intangible and the obscure. It is making sense of the senseless. It is opportunity to grapple with feelings and values when we feel like we are drowning in emotion. Over the years I have read widely on reflective writing and here are a few of my favourite kick starters.
  1. Write about the situation that is causing you concern  from a different vantage point. The clients, a parents the fly on the wall.
  2. Spend five minutes free writing (what ever comes out of the end of the pen when you put it to paper) then pick one idea or word from that and write about it.
  3. List all your feelings about a situation and then write for five minutes about one of them.
  4. List all the people involved in a situation and then write a short bio as if they were actors and the situation is a play.
  5. Write a letter to yourself about the situation in the third person
  6. Write a letter to a child about why you love your job
These are just a few ideas that I have used to jump start my critical reflections over the years. They may not all work for you, the trick is to just do something.
P.S.  I still hate writing but the therapeutic and supervisory gold that comes from reflective writing cannot be underestimated.

UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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We need to do better: Critically reflective practice and supervision in youth work

This evening I sat in on a class preparing students for a masters degree placement in the human services. The topic for the class was supervision and particularly reflective supervision. As a company that believes we need a better class of reflective practice and supervision I was really keen to see what they would tell students. Sadly it was a waste of time.
 
The students were shown an article about a critical supervision model and were told to role play a scenario using the model. Then the class ended! This was the only class these students ever had about critically reflecting in supervision. I was shocked!!! The students had a model for critical reflective practice, however it was clear that very few of their placement supervisors really did critically reflective supervision.
 
We need to spend more time on the idea of critical reflection and supervision especially in higher education. What more can we expect when  our students have a two hour class on the subject. We believe that for our sector to really become critically reflective it needs to be taught from the first class in our qualifications. For supervisors to be able to supervise well they need better training than a two hour class.
 
If you are an educator, a supervisor or a coalface worker we need to do better at critically reflective practice and supervision. Join with us to make this a part of your practice.
 

 

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UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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What can youth worker’s learn from ANZAC day?

Today Australians throughout the world stop to pay tribute and remember those who lost their lives in World War One and subsequent conflicts. We remember that these young men and women fought for the cause of freedom and lost their lives to help us live the lives we live today. Their sacrifices will never be forgotten. Lest we forget.

As a youth worker I was reflecting recently on the role of youth workers during both world wars. In many ways it was the height of youth clubs. Whether groups like Boy Scouts, the Hitler Youth or the Boys Brigade they all had a surge during those world conflicts. In most cases the youth workers who were involved sought to bring the best in their young people to the fore through skill building and service. However, they also became recruiters for military service.

Youth workers even today find themselves in this role. How many young people have joined military service instead of going to jail after a well meaning youth justice officer persuades a judge that this would be a good option? How many young people have met recruiters in their schools after the welfare team set up a careers day?

Military service is not a bad thing at all. In fact I know many young people who without the military would have ended up in really bad places. The question for youth worker’s is about transparency and role power. There were a number of youth workers on all sides of the wars who used their influence and role power to insight young people to join up and train with malice in their hearts. There were a majority Who supported young people to join up for the cause of freedom and peace. The difference was transparency and use of their role.

Today we are less likely to see a world war than in years gone by. However we are still recruiting young people to fight in conflicts throughout the world. As a youth worker we have a lot of power and influence over young people. We must make sure that our actions are clear and transparent and bring about good.

What do you think???

UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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Mental State Exam for youth workers: Speech and language.

Over the past few weeks we have been developing an understanding of the components of a mental state exam. So far we have discussed how a young persons appearance and behaviour can provide indicators as to their mental state. Today we look at how a young persons speech can provide insight into their current mental health.
 
A young persons speech is assessed by observing their spontaneous speech, and also by using structured tests of specific language functions. during this time we are focussed on the production of speech rather than the content of speech, which we will address under thought form and thought content in weeks to come. When observing the young persons spontaneous speech, a youth worker should note and comment on paralinguistic features such as the loudness, rhythm, prosody, intonation, pitch, phonation, articulation, quantity, rate, spontaneity and latency of speech.
 
A structured assessment by a qualified speech pathologist is a great tool for diagnosing serious difficulties in speech however a basic screening can be performed by an aware youth worker. An assessment of speech includes an assessment of expressive language by asking the young persons to name objects, repeat short sentences, or produce as many words as possible from a certain category in a set time. Simple language tests form part of the mini-mental state examination. In practice, the structured assessment of receptive and expressive language is often reported under cognition which we will discuss in a coming cast.
 
Language assessment will allow you to recognise young people presenting with aphonia or dysarthria, neurological conditions such as stroke or dementia presenting with aphasia, and specific language disorders such as stuttering, cluttering or mutism. People with autism or Asperger syndrome may have abnormalities in paralinguistic and pragmatic aspects of their speech. Echolalia (repetition of another person’s words) and palilalia (repetition of the subject’s own words) can be heard by young people with autism, schizophrenia or Alzheimer’s disease. A young person with schizophrenia might use neologisms, which are made-up words which have a specific meaning to the person using them.
 
Speech assessment also contributes to assessment of mood, for example people with mania or anxiety may have rapid, loud and pressured speech; on the other hand depressed patients will typically have a prolonged speech latency and speak in a slow, quiet and hesitant manner.
 
If you know a speech pathologist or have the opportunity to do some training with one, do it! Aside from appearance speech is one of the most observable ways to notice a persons mental state.
 
Stay tuned next week for part four: Mood and Affect.
 

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UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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Young people in a group

sometimes even seasoned youth worker’s need to re-learn a lesson.

Today I was forced to re-learn a lesson I had learnt as a young youth worker. I was cocky. I thought I had it all in the bag. I forgot the cardinal rule of running a group… Deliver what you say you will. I could say it wasn’t my fault. I could pass the buck to my staff. If I really wanted to I could blame the partner organisations for not being clear about to goals and objectives. In the end though, as the coordinator of my program I was responsible. I had gone from unconciously competent to consciously incompetent in a heartbeat.
 
Recently, my council was approached by neighbouring councils to run a music program. The program was for two days and was designed to help young people to write their own song and have it recorded. It was being facilitated by renowned music teachers and support people. All we had to do was get 30 young people to go. My team and I set about recruiting potential participants from every nook an cranny we could think of. We asked other youth organisations to help and even re-composed the flyer that we were given to make it more appealing.
 
 
Today, on the first day of the program over half of the young people did not show up for the bus. Within an hour of arriving there was a swell of discontent amongst the 13 young people who attended. Apparently whilst we were advertising the program we had not mentioned that there would be dancing involved and that we would be doing a pop song. For a bunch of hardened metal heads this was just too much. For one young man it was a deal breaker. It took all of my youth work savvy to keep him from hitching a ride back with the first trucker he saw.
 
Much of my day was spent putting out spot fires and making sure my little brood didn’t mutiny. Needless to say, this also put a strain on our relationship with the program facilitators as well. It wasn’t the program at fault… at first I thought that it was their lack of facilitation skills. That wasn’t the case, they were great facilitators. Even I came to conclude that actually we had just marketed the program as something it wasn’t.
 
 
As a seasoned youth worker it is hard to admit that you still sometimes make rookie mistakes. It takes away some of the mystique that you hold as a miracle worker. But I made one! If you are not crystal clear about the intent of the program you are running you can not expect buy-in from your young people. Sometimes a stumble reminds you of your humanity. This was a little mistake in the grand scheme of things. But it is one I won’t soon forget.
 
Don’t get so comfortable that you forget the lessons you have learnt… it is painful re-learning them.

UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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I’m a Slut…No one will love me!!!

Hard conversations are bread and butter for the average youth worker. I always love walking into a new youth work environment and seeing what the young people will try to shock me with. I remeber taking a volunteer into a residential care facility for her first meeting with a young person. On the driveway we meet a twelve year old boy who with a blank stare and an unwaivering voice asked if my volunteer was a lesbian, a paedophile or just a whore? My normal very assertive and chirpy volunteer turned white as Casper the friendly ghost and struggled to have a conversation for the next hour. I have often said to my volunteers, other youth workers and especially the young people that if they could tell me a story that would shock me I would be surprised. I often follow it up by saying that there is nothing they could ask me or share with me that would shock me enough to walk away…If there was I wouldn’t be in youth work!
 

My seeming inability to be shocked has grown through years of working with some of the most abused young people in Victoria. Whether young people in residential care, sexual abuse victims or children of prisoners I have heard stories that make my stomach churn. On the outside though I am calm and cool. It takes a lot of composure sometimes to stay calm when the stories are so in your face or you are being vilified by a twelve year old.
 
I remember speaking to a young woman earlier this year who had been through the wringer. Family issues, school issues, legal issues and to top it all off she was being pimped out by her uncle. After a conversation that lasted about half an hour she stated matter of factly “I’m a Slut…No one will love me!!!” My hard exterior almost broke. It took me a full minute to regain my composure. She continued to tell me how she had been her uncle’s ‘girl’ for almost two years and then how he had sold her to his friends. What really shook me was that she had just had her birthday.
 
Even the seemingly heartless stone cold dominant folk have a pulse. It may just be a little deeper than the rest. I was propper shook. I was able to hold it together enough to get back to my office then I was overcome by anger I couldn’t think straight, I was narky with everyone and I was ready to do some damage to someone. I knew I was in a bad way. Some days it just gets bad. I told my boss What had happened and that it was getting to me. My boss got me to call my external supervisor to tee up a time to catch up that week and then sent me home. I still wasnt great and when I got home I blew up at my wife over something trivial. It was not a good night for me.

 

My wife is a wonderful woman who is very intuitive and she quitely told me to get into my plan. I called one of my mentors, spent some time out for a walk and spent some time contemplating the future of my work with the young lady. Her words kept ringing in my ears “I’m a Slut…No one will love me!!!” How can we show love (genuine care and affection) to such broken young people??? How can we do it when all we want to do is take vengence for them?
 

Two things come to mind:

 
First, centre yourself. Spend some time regaining balance. Look to your mental, emotional, physical and spiritual; and get some balance in life. The first rule in any form of rescue work or first aid is look after yourself and do not become a casualty yourself. Whilst dwelling on the situation breeds more interesting ways to cause pain to those who have hurt our young people, it also tears us apart.
 
Second, plan your next engagement. You have likely heard the most intense barrage you are going to hear. Now it is time to prepare yourself for your next encounter. Get ready to ask the questions you need to, spend time practicing with a supervisor or colleague and have a list of the other people or agencies you might want to refer the young person to.
 
I have been called a lot of things in my life and career, but it is when young people have lost hope in themselves and the world that gets under my skin. It does take a lot for me to get angry when people aim at me, but when they take on a young person my protective righteous anger boils to the top. To be the best I can be for my young people I can not let my feelings get in the way of good practice. Our emotions are important, but our control over them is critical. If we get antsy about a term like slut, or the story of abuse then our work is compromised. We must be aware of the effects of trauma on us and how to best deal with it in our own way. Looking after our young people means we need to have a thick skin…for their sake as much as ours.

UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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Develop your own professional development plan.

Between the staff at Ultimate Youth Worker we have over fifty different jobs throughout the breadth of youth service provision. The differences in theoretical frameworks, policy imperatives and staffing heirarchies are phenomenal. However one thing was the same in every organisation and career path… Professional Development was bleak and at best ad-lib. Aside from a handful of bosses who would give occasional “advice” noone had a clear plan for professional development. This also leant itself to a lack of career planning and support.
Whether you are in your first two years of your career and looking to the long future ahead or in your last two years and looking to retirement it is helpful to have a plan. Generally, we recommend to organisations that they develop a 3 year focus as to really develop a strong team that can weather the storm of a great leader moving on. We also ask each individual and their management to develop a 3 year plan to address the needs of the organisation, the career objectives of the individual and the potential paths that they could take. This is a very simplistic view of what we do but basically we tell people and organisations that if they don’t plan they will live in perpetual crisis.
So what can we as individuals do if our organisation isn’t planning and supporting our careers?

Develop your own plan!

Where do you see yourself in 3 years??? Team leader? Manager? Still at ground level? A new service path perhaps? Are you wanting to move from resi work to drug and alcohol? From local government to a small NGO??? Whatever the end goal you need to know what it takes!!! Check out position description for the role. Ask a person currently in that role what they do. Gather your data so you know what the end goal really looks like. When you have done all of this then you are ready to complete our four step process to develop a plan for your future.
Next you need to draw up a four by five table. The four areas you need to add to the table are qualifications, skills, behaviours and abilities.

Qualifications

Skills

Behaviours

Abilities

1

2

3

4

5

In each of these 4 columns you add the knowledge you have gained from your data gathering activity.
Lets say you want to move up from an outreach youth worker to a team leader. How would you do it??? Lets use the table and go from there.

 

You probably need some qualifications.

Here in Australia that is usually a diploma in youth work (a 2 year qualification) as a minimum. You may also need some management training. Also in Australia the Diploma in Frontline Management has become the standard. You may be asked for more specific qualifictaions…Just add them to the list.

Qualifications

Skills

Behaviours

Abilities

1

Diploma of Youth Work 

2

 Diploma Frontline Management

3

4

5

    

What skills might you need?

You will more than likely be asked to have a solid understanding of the basics of youth work and if you are going into a specialist area eg Drug and Alcohol, a good understanding of that. You are moving into managing people so you will need an understanding of conflict resolution. Maybe you will even need to supervise your staff.
Qualifications
Skills
Behaviours
Abilities
1
Diploma of Youth Work
Solid youth work theory and Practice
2
Diploma Frontline Management
Specialist understanding
3
Conflict resolution
4
Supervision
5
   

What do you mean by behaviours?

If you havn’t already go check out ou DISC posts. Basically what are the behaviours that a person is required to exhibit in this role. If you are required to network with key stakeholders then you probably need some diplomacy. Perhaps you need to set clear objectives for your team in difficult circumstances. You will need to motivate and lead your team.
Qualifications
Skills
behaviours
Abilities
1
Diploma of Youth Work
Solid youth work theory and Practice
Diplomacy
2
Diploma Frontline Management
Specialist understanding
Leadership
3
Conflict resolution
Motivation
4
Supervision
5

Do I have the abilities I need?

Probably, otherwise you wouldn’t have thought you could do the job. Abilities are the practicalities of the job. Can you read a budget? Can you perform an assessment of a young person? Could you do an annual review. Can you run a team meeting? these may sound simple but many people who look to move up have never done them before.
Qualifications
Skills
behaviours
Abilities
1
Diploma of Youth Work
Solid youth work theory and Practice
Diplomacy
Read and develop a budget
2
Diploma Frontline Management
Specialist understanding
Leadership
Perform risk assessment of young person
3
Conflict resolution
Motivation
Perform staff appraisals
4
Supervision
Run a team meeting
5


If you can fill in all 4 columns then you will have twenty areas from which to benchmark yourself. You may already be ok in a number of these areas or you may have none. Once you have your list of twenty work out which ones you need and go and get them.

There you have it… a professional development plan you can do in an evening of brainstorming.

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UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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Observe the S in DISC for youth worker’s

Over the past few weeks we have been looking at the DISC behavioural profile and its use for youth worker’s in developing relationships and networks. So far we have discussed the EXTRAVERTS of the group and we continue on with the PEOPLE focused groups today. This week in our Thursday Think Tank we continue with the third quadrant in the profile and an overview of the STEADINESS behavioural style.
 
STEADINESS is the nurturer of the bunch. The motherly figure. The thrive on small talk. They are the first people to ask you how you are going. They prefer to ask rather than tell. They love to listen rather than talking. They are the slow steady deliverers. Those that have a STEADINESS profile are often reserved and speak with a lower volume. These people will use first names and speak with a warmth that is genuine. STEADINESS behaviours tend to prefer speaking one-on-one rather than to a group. They speak calmly and methodically and are often seen as the steady ship when all around is chaos because they proceed carefully. These people often have photo’s all over their desk, are embarassed when praised but are the first to celebrate others and seem to be everyones friend. On the negative side they are often resistant to change, have difficulty prioritising tasks and sticking to deadlines. They struggle with systems and struggle with presentations and believing that their part in the grand scheme really is worthwhile. If these guys were a slogan they would be Optus: We hear you.
 
.
 
A person with a high level of STEADINESS in their profile speak rarely. They want to check on how a decision will affect others and are slow to impliment tasks particularlly if there is not a precedent. These folk are all about the story…all 18 volumes of it. They want to be part of the team and let everyone have a say. The saying you have two ears and one mouth so listen more than you speak was written by a high S. When they do speak though it is at a hundred miles an hour…they have a lot of ground to cover and not much time to do it.
 
It is hard to get a rise out of a high S. They epitomise the ostrich sticking their head in the sand. They shy away from any conflict as it goes against everything they stand for…Status quo and friends for all. They will rarely fight back, but if they do it is usually over the notions of justice and fairness. When they do fight back it is usually a quick explosion of how unfair an idea is and that as a person you are unfair because of your decision. It is also over as quick as they can make it happen as they want to get back to the way things were. Remember they are people persons.
 
 
 

Here are our top five tips for working with people with STEADINESS behavioural traits:

  1. Be logical and systematic: These guys struggle with priorities and systems but they need to have a plan of action, otherwise they would spend all day around the watercooler or at a cafe chatting about your life. set clear boundaries and timelines for task completion.
  2. Provide a secure environment: They do not like change! Make their environment as predictable as you can. Do not ask them to change thier password, move desks, do a rush presentation or lead a project that needs a quick resolution. Make them feel safe.
  3. Tell them about change early: If there needs to be a change, pre-wire them early. Give them a heads up. Provide time for them to become comfortable with the idea of change. Walk them through it step by step and address their concerns.
  4. Show how they’re important: If they do something great. Minimise your appreciation in public and be as sincere as possible in private. They struggle to feel their work is important so explain how they have made a difference.
  5. Teach them shortcuts: If you let them run the show it will take two days to make a cup of coffee! The conversations will take up all their time. They want consensus and a clear picture of everything that needs to be done. The key thought here is do not make the perfect the enemy of the good.

Some well known high STEADINESS behaviour holders you may know and have seen.

 
Michelle Obama
 
Ghandi
 
Pope John Paul
 
Grant Hackett (Australian Swimmer)
 
Mother Teresa

UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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Critical reflection

youth work peer consultation: reflective practice revisited

Reflective practice with your peers

We have all had those moments in our youth work career. We are stuck and we don’t want to go to the boss because we don’t want to seem incompetent. So we lean across the aisle/cube/partition and ask a colleague what they would do. Sometimes our reflective practice is not so worrying. You are having lunch and you pose a question about how you might approach a new young person to the group. On the other hand you were just chewed out about how you dealt with a particular case and you are looking for some affirmation so you explain what you did to your colleagues. When a group of peers work together to support each other through reflective practice it is called PEER CONSULTATION.

Critical reflection Peer Consultation, unlike a chat about the weekend around the water cooler, describes a process in which critical and supportive feedback on style and worker identity is emphasized while evaluation of practice is not. Consultation, in contrast to supervision, is characterized by the youth worker’s, “right to accept or reject the suggestions [of others]” (Bernard& amp; Goodyear, 1992, p. 103).

The terms ‘peer supervision’ and ‘peer consultation’ have both been used to describe similar relationships amongst colleagues. However, at Ultimate Youth Worker we believe that the difference is the outcome of the process. In ‘peer supervision’ colleagues provide a clinical evaluation of each other’s work to better individuals and the group. In ‘peer consultation’ colleagues focus on providing mutual support and advice to the individual using reflective practice.

The foundation of peer consultation is steeped in the understanding that individuals who are trained in helping skills using these same skills to help each other function more effectively in their professional roles. According to Benshoff & Paisley (1993), peer consultation provides a number of benefits to youth worker’s on the coal face including:

  • Decreases dependency on ‘expert’ supervisors and provides greater interdependence of colleagues;
  • Increases responsibility of youth worker’s for assessing their own skills and those of their peers, and for structuring their own professional growth;
  • Increases self-confidence, self-direction, and independence;
  • Development of consultation and supervision skills;
  • Use of peers as models;
  • Ability to choose the peer consultant; and,
  • Lack of ‘clinical’ evaluation.

Critical reflectionPeer consultation comes in two forms. Informal chats over the partition with your colleagues and more formalised group consultations. Whichever form it takes just do it. Spending time with your colleagues in reflective practice helps you to strengthen your practice and hone your skills in a supportive environment. It provides a safe place to critically reflect on your practice within the confines of your peer network.

Reference

Benshoff, J.M., & Paisley, P. O. (in press). The Structured Peer Consultation Model for School Counselors. Journal of Counseling and Development

Bernard, J.M., & Goodyear, R. K. (1992). Fundamentals of clinical supervision. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

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UltimateYouthWorker

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe and son Ezra.

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