Accountability through ongoing learning

Throughout my career I have met hundreds if not thousands of youth workers with varying levels of expertise, varying knowledge bases and within differing organisations. Whether they are eighteen or eighty (yes I have met an eighty year old youth worker) they all brought their understanding and experiences to their practice. The ones who I respected the most were the ones who had the guts to say they didn’t know something and asked how to do it. Whether it was looking at a new theory and not knowing how to translate it to theory or developing a program and not knowing the best evaluation methods recognising your limitations and seeking to gain education to fix this is the mark of a true Ultimate Youth Worker.
Recently I have met a handful of youth worker’s who have spent more than a decade in the field. These youth workers are in positions of leadership throughout the sector. They also have a limited understanding of youth work basics. They do not hold qualifications and believe that their knowledge level is ok. These workers are not held accountable for their practice by anyone. Because of their lack of accountability these youth workers have not been required to develop their skillset, their practice or their ethics.
One such worker stated to me that after thirty years in the field she did not know how to evaluate a program properly. She followed that comment up by saying that it was ok because she would leave program evaluation to her staff. I don’t believe that you need to know everything as a supervisor but you should have a basic level of understanding. This worker did not see her deficit as needing to be addressed. If she had stated that she wanted to know how to evaluate a program or that she was looking into some articles about evaluation this post may not have been written. We need to aim for excellence in youth work. We owe it to our clients, coleagues and community. Anything else is slack.
The fact is it is easy to fix. I do not know everything. I am the first to admit it. The rest of the team hear at Ultimate Youth Worker do not hold the ticket of all knowledge. Together we are not bad but we still don’t know it all. But we do ask questions, we read widely and attend every piece of training that we possibly can. The first step is to identify where there is a deficit in your practice. The second step is to seek a way to fix this deficit and to be a sponge of any knowledge you can find to aid you in this mission.  
A way to get your professional learnings right on your phone, tablet or computer
Until recently I had never written a social media marketing plan. I spoke to friends and colleaguews in the communications field. I read articles and blogposts and anything else I could get my hands on. I spent endless nights slaving over the keyboard and eventually I wrote my first social media marketing plan. I have also been working with a young youth worker who is developing his first project proposal. When we first spoke about what it would entail before he could open the doors to his first project he almost fell off his chair. The task seemed so big. It was unknown. A few chats and a couple of articles later and the task didn’t seem to scary. Knowledge is a powerful tool.
The other side to this coin is to have someone who will keep you accountable to ongoing learning. If you are blessed (or cursed as I may be) you may have multiple people who get you to think about multiple areas of your practice. The point is you never become an expert… you just become a life long learner. The education of an Ultimate Youth Worker is a life long commitment and a duty to be fulfilled. But more on that next week.


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Aaron Garth

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, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

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  1. Pingback: Read a book. - Ultimate Youth Worker

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