Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Butterfly Effect

Good morning (or day, whenever it is that you get a chance to read this). Its a great day to be alive, oh yes, it is. Clearly, the sun is peeking through my mini-blinds, and I'm in a great mood!

First things first, I had to change things up around here, and got myself a new background, and some different colors...and they make me smile. I have a 'thing' for argyle right now, and purple being my favorite color, I just could not go wrong with this one. That and the fact that the youth in the background made my day! What do you think?

So, yesterday, Deputy Director and I went to an AYD reunion. Basically, anyone who went to an AYD training within the past year or so was invited back to check in, network, and be re-inspired about the work that us youth workers do. And BOY, was it inspiring.

The creator of the AYD Curriculum was there, and she explained how and why she came to write it, and then how she worked to get it to us. She ended up teaching the first 3 or 4 AYD trainings in the same church basement that I took my training in, the same one we were sitting in yesterday, 10 years ago. Boy, the effects those trainings had on the metro DC area!

Then, a wonderful family therapist (among a laundry list of other titles she carries,) Adrienne Noel of Baltimore, MD, served as our keynote speaker, explaining that the way a family communicates with one another is the way that they will act out their lives in society.

The way that she broke down our sample family made so much sense! I know that not only did I see these exact examples in some of my students families, but in my own as well.

For example:

*A woman refers to "My Baby's Father", and her teenaged daughter referring to her own "My baby's daddy". The daughter takes note from her own mother on how to 'show respect' to the father of her child, in giving him this title.

*Son of the family being called "Lil Man" as he is growing up, and then the pressures that are put on him prematurely, in order to live up to the moniker. (The same would apply, I feel, in a case of a little girl being called "Lil Mama")

*The way that parenting styles are carried out, especially between parents and offspring that are less than 20 years in age apart. How its usually one way (I'm the parent, children are to speak when spoken to, hard core discipline) or the other (I'm my childs best friend/we talk about EVERYTHING, but why won't they take my discipline seriously) and being able to find a balance, or not.

I also learned that the way that I communicate with my students can change their whole family. When I 'have a moment' with my girls (usually a disciplinary action, where we ask a disruptive student to take a moment in the hall, and we go and speak to them about it individually), I have to make sure that they understand why I have asked them to step out, realize what they did wrong, and how we can avoid this in the future. But I also have to make sure that they know I care about them; that I am not making judgement calls about them; that they are Important to Me, that I care enough to notice their actions, and that I see where they can improve and where I can offer my help. In most cases, if the student is comfortable with me, I make sure I hug them at the end of our conversation, because I want them to know that what I have said to them is genuine; I DO care about my girls, and want them to succeed. I also know that sometimes, these may be the only hugs that they get, for whatever reason, and this small amount of nurturing will go a long way.

I make sure that they know exactly how I feel about them (in the positive light). I remember telling one of my students just the other day, that I know she is a respectful young lady. She has two sisters in the program with her, and in listening to them speak, I know that they have been taught to resolve conflicts on a one on one basis. They actually use the term 'conflict resolution' in their everyday conversation! I let her know that I KNOW you have been taught this, that she knows how it works, but maybe we should try approaching it in a different way. Then I just told her plainly "I pay attention to you, what you do and what you say. You are an amazing person, but even amazing people have bad moments; let's work through this and get back to having amazing moments ." We went on to talk about getting past the issue, and getting back on track. Then I gave her a hug, and told her that I was glad she was in the program, and that she is so important to me, and why I am here (in the program). Then I sent her back into the classroom. Later on that day, the staff member that she had the conflict with gave her a shout out (which is a BIG DEAL to our students) for coming to her and solving the conflict on her own. I could do nothing but smile to know that Middle Sister had gone to the staff member on her own, and taken care of this in a quiet, inconspicuous manner, and that all was well in her world.

In turn, Middle Sister will now take this information she has just gathered back to her household. She will think about how she deals with someone, and this will pass along to the rest of her siblings, possibly even her parents. If so, I have done an effective job of youth development...for the day.

Youth development is ongoing, its constant. Youth are never fully developed. there are always teachable moments, just as there will always be learning moments. I am glad to have people and resources in my life that understand that, and are willing to teach and learn.

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