Chaplains in schools
One of the most contentious issues in youth work today is funding. We don’t have enough money and we don’t have enough positions. So when the Australian federal government released their budget last month an a number of youth work programs were defunded the sector cried out. One area that was at the forefront of the attack was the Government’s decision to remove funding for some school welfare staff who were funded under the National School Chaplaincy & Student Welfare Program. The Government decided to revert to an earlier version of the program which solely funded chaplains and not welfare workers.
I love TED talks! There is nothing quite as awesome as a snippet of bite sized informative goodness wrapped in a video. TED talks make us think very differently about the world we live in. They help us to dream and learn and hope for the future. One area in whichTED talks have enriched my work is in understanding brain development.
Sarah-Jayne Blakemore is Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London. Her research covers the development of social cognition and decision-making during human adolescence. She is Co-Director of the Wellcome Trust PhD Programme in Neuroscience at UCL, Editor-in-Chief of the Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience journal and was a scientific consultant on the television documentary “The Human Mind” in 2003. She is a member of Royal Society BrainWaves working group for neuroscience and the Royal Society Vision Committee for Maths and Science Education.
In this Talk Prof. Blakemore brings us an animated look at the inner workings of the adolescent brain. Much of what we have thought about brain development over the past few decades is slowly being re-thought. With the advent of Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (FMRI) we are beginning to see the inner workings of the brain while the brain is working. We don’t have to wait for a person to die to cut into their brain to see whats inside.
We now know that the period of adolescence sees a significant growth in grey matter. A growth spurt to provide the space for the significant intellectual growth that occurs during these formative years. Particularly the growth in the prefrontal cortex, the brains reasoning centre, seems to increase during this stage. Anyway, enough from me. Over to Professor Blakemore for more interesting insights into adolescent brains.
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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.
Write about the situation that is causing you concern from a different vantage point. The clients, a parents the fly on the wall.
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.
List all your feelings about a situation and then write for five minutes about one of them.
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.
Write a letter to yourself about the situation in the third person
Write a letter to a child about why you love your job
As a youth worker with over a decade in practice a number of qualifications and a private practice I have supported many youth workers on placement. In these situations I have tried to provide the best learning environment for each individual student. However many youth workers report that they are little more than gofers. Go for coffee, go for printing, go for this meeting.
This unfortunately is not an uncommon experience of students on placement. As a field placement supervisor I have spoken to dozens of students over the past year about their experience and the vast majority have felt like goffers. Go for coffee, go for my printing, go for … The list is endless. Students, particularly in their final year, need to be allowed to practice their skillset not just watch as it is done by others. They need opportunity to practice in a supervised environment to gain confidence and experience. They need supervisors who can let go of their work and pass it on to them.
If you are going to take on a student this year here are a few ideas to help them and you integrate as much as possible.
- Reading is essential to any job but more than a week of reading policies and procedure manuals is over the top.
- Regular weekly supervision that addresses different aspects of the role is essential. Dont just ask about tasks, but set articles to be read before sessions to stimulate conversation.
- Dont expect students to know everything.
- Expect them to be competent at a first job standard.
- Give them genuine tasks to sink their teeth in. They may be cheap labour, but they are useless to you as goffers! Remember it is costing the student to do the placement.
- Have a plan of action from day one with a number of tasks that must be achieved and review this weekly.
- Finally, get to know your student and have space for them to get to know you.
Know who you are! The amount of students I speak to who do not have a good understanding of their own values and what makes them tick would blow your mind. One of the first things I ask when trying to help potential youth workers is why they want to be a youth worker… if you cant answer this question you may need to take a while to sort it out before continuing.
Volunteer work is a great way to build skills and experience. If you are young or have not worked in the sector before then volunteering with a reputable organisation can be a great way to get skills and training… and a job (or at least a good reference).
Get some qualifications. In this day and age qualifications are king. You need to have the piece of paper under your belt before many organisations will even look at you. Currently there is a push towards a minimum standard of a two year diploma in Australia, but more is better.
Build your networks. Join local council groups, local area networks and peak bodies. Anywhere there is a youth worker join their group. This gives you profile in the sector and opportunity to get information and information is key to good interviews.
Work out what area of youth work you most want to get into. Youth work is a wide and varied and it can give you an immense amount of joy… if you are in the right area. Work out what gets you going and then run for it with all your might.