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.

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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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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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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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

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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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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.

 

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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Youth Justice: Restoration or Retribution?

We asked our followers recently what they would like us to talk about on the blog and one topic stood out as a major one to start on… Youth Justice. Over the years I have had a number of jobs either in or supporting the youth justice system in Australia. I must confess I struggled working in the sector. Not because the young people are difficult (in fact they were some of the most responsive young people I have ever worked with), but because of the community perception and the subsequent policy directives. The young people I worked with often lacked direction, struggled with education and were wary of anyone who showed concern for their welfare. The community saw liars, thieves and violent offenders who should be hauled over the coals.
 
It is hard to ignore the crimes that some of  these young people have committed, and you know what we shouldn’t!!! These young people have been detained because of what they have done and will pay for their crime. However there are a couple of ways that this can happen depending on your point of view. Is detention there for retribution or restoration??? The young people did the crime and they should do the time. We believe that JUSTICE requires it. However, the question we should ask is what happens to them between the first day behind bars and their last day to develop them so that they do not continue back through the revolving door?
 
In the adult prison system, here in Victoria, there is over 50% likelihood that an offender who is jailed will return to prison within two years of release. A child of a prisoner is SIX times more likely to become an offender than their peers. A young person who is incarcerated will rarely complete secondary education. WHY???  The best answer we can come up with is that the system is a system that is geared toward retribution. We individualise the dimensions of the crime and remove the ideas of social justice from the rights of an offender and then ask them to change. We strip them of their humanity and then ask them to be humane. Crazy!!!
 
In many youth justice systems and support agencies here in Australia there has been a push towards more restorative practices. This has been met by mixed responses from the community. Governments are still stuck in limbo between retribution and restoration. To provide a measure of punishment for their crime, but to also provide opportunities to develop skills for post-release. The rise in victim-offender mediation and group conferencing has been amazing and the opportunities through NGO’s such as Whitelion and Jesuit Social Services to name a couple, for young people to gain employment and social skills has definitely changed the landscape.
 
But what does it all mean for us as youth workers??? Many writers have said that a core tenet of youth work is social justice. I ask whether we are being social just to the young people we incarcerate??? Earlier this year I spent some time in Tasmania visiting Port Arthur (if you ever get the chance you simply have to go). Port Arthur was one of the original penal colonies when the British began transporting convicts to Australia. In particular I was fascinated by Point Puer the first ever boys prison in the British empire. The punishments were severe and boys as young as nine were incarcerated there, however they also taught the boys some skills. Some became so skilled they were employed straight from detention to the detriment of other qualified tradesmen who hadn’t been incarcerated. Can you imagine if our incarcerated young people were taught trades in the same way??? Being taught excellence in your handy work. Being so highly sought after that you could walk out of detention and straight into a well paying job???
 
 

(A sample of the young boys handy work… It could hold over 1000 people.)


As a youth worker it is our responsibility to advocate for our young people. The current system still lets our young people down. We still have those who believe in retribution in positions of power in the youth justice system and we still have young people following in their adult counterparts footsteps… Dancing through the revolving door. There will always be crime as long as people are on the earth. How we deal with the crime is what is in question.
 
We believe in RESTORATION here at Ultimate Youth Worker. This does not mean being soft on crime, on the contrary. It does mean providing every opportunity for the young person to make something of themselves. To throw off the social, economic and cultural ties that bind them. To make amends and for them to be given the opportunity to live as free men and women. We believe that the best way to deal with crime is to deal with the social issues which lead to crime. We believe that the best way to deal with offenders is to develop them as whole people! To do this we need to address all the failings of society which led to their incarceration… and restore them to their community. Reflect on this:

Youth workers are facilitators of restoration not social controllers.”

If you take on the challenge to provide a restorative environment for young offenders then you may find yourself having to become a canny outlaw. It is hard to fight for whats right in the face of the easy way of following the rules. Our young people need you to speak for them. They need your actions and support. They need you to be practically wise. They need restoration.



 

For more info on restorative justice see Howard Zehr below.

 
 

What are your thoughts???

Leave us a comment below or post a comment on facebook and twitter.

 
 

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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Accountability

As I said a few weeks back the team at Ultimate Youth Worker are currently developing our “Model of Effective Youth Work Practice“, which will guide how we work as youth workers and how we teach youth work to those in the industry. We are creating this guide for the development of practice excellence for youth workers as a step towards framing good ethical practice that every youth worker can do…not just those with a qualification. Our first pillar of successful youth work that we hold to is that of reflective practice. Our Second pillar of successful youth work is Accountability.
 
Accountability has gained a bad name in the human services sector particularly over the years that the neo-managerialist approach has entered the fray. Many of us have felt the prying eyes of government agencies and funding bodies who seek to impose their ideologies and boundaries on us and our services whilst asking us to do more. We have seen our supervisors change from reflective supervisors to hamstrung managers. We have seen our multitude of practices being whittled down to be pigeon holed in best practice manuals and funding agreements.
 
Accountability in our eyes is not the boss hanging over your shoulder making sure you follow the company line. Accountability is a set of checks and balances designed to support you as a person, your practice, your clients and your longevity in the field. Accountability means being open to many people. Your boss, your organisation, your clients, your husband/wife/partner, your supervisor, your mentors etc. Accountability is the glue which holds your goals together and brings focus for the future.
 
One of the best pieces of accountability I have ever had was initially imposed on me and is now one I can’t do without. In the early days of my career a really switched on youth minister mate of mine said I should get a mentor. Someone outside of the work I do but who understands the sector. Someone that i can vent to, ask for advice and who will make sure I keep some balance in my life. The guy who mentors me knows more about me than almost anyone else and isn’t afraid to tell me how it is. Do you have a mentor??? If not get one!
 
Over this past weekend myself and two other seasoned youth workers began a think tank support group for a young youth minister in Melbourne. We spent an afternoon together getting to know each other and hearing her vision for the local community she is working in. We asked her to become accountable to a process of ongoing support and development where we will push her to become the best she can be. Accountability in this situation means trusting a group of people from different areas of practice to guide her through strength and weakness to develop her skills to support her community.
 
Not all of us have great bosses and even more importantly good supervisors. This does make it hard to trust them with accountability. However to have balance at work we must be transparent and accountable. There may be time when we need to be ‘Canny Outlaws’ however we must also work within the systems we find ourselves in. If your boss or supervisor isn’t open to accountability that is more than managerialism ask them to help you. If they still aren’t there DO IT YOURSELF!!! Start a small reflective practice group. Develop your own practical wisdom. Find a mentor. Get external supervision. try, try, try. Be open to managerialism but do not let that be the benchmark, SEEK EXCELLENCE.
 
Being accountable means being open to people probing your practice as well as your person. Just this week my supervisor asked me to think about how my personality (which can be a dominant one) comes across in meetings and service delivery. I didn’t like having my person stripped bare but I accepted the criticism and actively sought out discussion with colleagues and mentors on how I can work on this. Being accountable means being active. You cant say you are willing to work on your practice and person and then kick up a stink when people call you on it.
 
Being accountable has many facets and more discussion is necessary. Be aware of your limitations and the boundaries which are imposed on you. Be the best you can be and don’t be afraid to open your practice and your person up to ongoing development. Accountability is what sets apart great youth workers and those we all roll our eyes over.
 

If you have any questions drop us an email or chat to us on facebook and twitter.



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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Reflective practice: Why we should journal.

The team at Ultimate Youth Worker are currently developing our “Model of Effective Youth Work Practice” which will guide how we work as youth workers and how we teach youth work to those in the industry. We believe that excellence mean being effective and innovative and as such we are creating a guide for the development of practice excellence. One of the pillars of successful youth work we hold to is that of reflective practice.

 

Reflective practice is by no means a new idea in the field but it is one that is not widely implemented. Reasons for this are wide and varied but are mostly end up being because people do not know how to do it or what it would look like. In university courses there is often discussion about being critically reflective and aware of your work however when a student becomes a staff member the critical thinking is left behind an ever growing wall of bureaucracy and paperwork. This often leads to frustration on the part of the staff member and in more extreme cases a complete break down in effective service delivery.

Now I hear some of you saying ‘yeah, but isn’t that what supervision is for?’, and quite a valid point you make. in a perfect world supervision would provide an opportunity for staff to reflect on their practice. However, the world is rarely ever perfect. Many of the youth workers we speak to rarely have a supervision session if any. Those that do have them often speak of them as robotic and machinistic, or as one youth worker told us ‘just a way for the organisation to tick another box to cover their butts‘. For the rare few there are times provided for them to think critically about their practice and its effect on them and their client and learn from their experience. We believe that critical reflection should not be a little bit tacked on to the end of a supervision session for the lucky few, but a whole of practice approach to every aspect of what we do!!!
Boud (2001) states, “Reflection involves taking the unprocessed, raw material of experience and engaging with it to make sense of what has occurred. It involves exploring often messy and confused events and focusing on the thoughts and emotions that accompany them. It can be undertaken as an informal personal activity for its own sake, or as part of a structured course“. Reflective practice comes in many shapes and formats and depending on your organisation, the resources available to you and your level of expertise this can look very different in one setting over another. Over the coming months we will discuss some of the ways individuals, organisations and the youth work sector as a whole can implement reflective practices into their daily structures. However, for today we will begin by looking at something every individual youth worker can do to develop their own reflective practice… Journaling.

When I was a young youth worker I completed an internship with a small organisation that trained youth workers to work in schools. One of the most interesting aspects of the internship (and the one I most struggled with) was a forced weekly journalling session. Some of my best reflections on where I was at as a youth worker, what I needed to work on and how I practiced came during this time. However, I struggled with the exercise because I was not given a reason to do it. I struggled because I was not given a format or template to do it. But most of all I struggled because critical reflection was not something that had been instilled in me as a youth worker either in practice or study.

Moon, in her 1999 article, states the following reasons why journaling helps in the process of learning from experience:
  • To deepen the quality of learning, in the form of critical thinking or developing a questioning attitude 
  • To enable learners to understand their own learning process
  • To increase active involvement in learning and personal ownership of learning
  • To enhance professional practice or the professional self in practice
  • To enhance the personal valuing of the self towards self-empowerment
  • To enhance creativity by making better use of intuitive understanding
  • To free-up writing and the representation of learning
  • To provide an alternative ‘voice’ for those not good at expressing themselves
  • To foster reflective and creative interaction in a group

Journaling provides a great base for the individual worker to begin to develop their reflective practice. Here is one template i have come accross that has worked over the years to help me reflect on my practice.

  1. Identify and describe the experience/issue/ decision/incident
  2. Identify your strengths as a practitioner
  3. Identify your feelings thoughts; values, feelings and thoughts of others involved
  4. Identify external and internal factors; including structural/oppressive factors etc
  5. Identify factors you have influence or control over and those you don’t ( do others?)
  6. Identify knowledge used:
    1. factual
    2. theoretical
    3. practice
  7.  Develop an action plan: what do I need to do first, second and third and so on
 Impliment your action plan, then do it all over again.

Let us know how you go on facebook and twitter.

 

References

Boud, D. (2001). Using journal writing to enhance reflective practice. In English, L. M. and Gillen, M. A. (Eds.)Promoting Journal Writing in Adult Education. New Directions in Adult and Continuing Education No. 90. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 9-18.
Moon, J. (1999). Reflection in Learning and Professional Development. London: Kogan Page

Let us know how you go on facebook and twitter.

 

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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