Friday, May 7, 2010

The myth of sucessful youth work

There are countless tips and tricks available out there to make one a "successful" youth worker. However, As I was saying to a young person today people are not lab rats that will run through the maze to get to the cheese. They may be hungry, but they may sit in protest that they are put through some sort of experiment.

I do come across youth workers that intentionally think this way about people. However they do get quite burdened when they see their efforts to reach out to young people end up in what they would label failure. So they will access all these sites with the tips and tricks in order to find the success. Concerts, events, rallies, all nighters, sport, games, celebrities, new teaching curriculum, social media, etc etc etc.

However great these ideas might be the truth is that a person can only do so much and the items that they add are doomed to failure as well - given enough time. People wont change through whatever programing we through in front of them anyway. There may be an illusion of change and that euphoric feeling that comes from those moments is what keeps many of these youth workers grasping at those straws.

The thing is that many youth workers, myself included, are so passionate about the young people we work with that we will sacrifice everything we are and have in order to see success come. Our identity ends up being absorbed by our job titles so that we stop being functioning humans in trade for being a successful youth worker. Think it's not true? Think again. In a recent survey done by it was reported that only 21% of youth workers are happy with their relationships outside of work.  So while the relationship with the youth may be good, but home life and friendships suffer.

 That is probably why youth workers "burn out" and leave the field.  In the same survey it listed that 75% of former youth worker say that their personal relationships have improved since the left youth work.  In a job where we are suppose to be leading youth to holistic health.  How can we get by with such bad behavior ourselves?  We justify it as being for a "good cause".  We look to others problems as more important than our own.  We have a whole list of excuses.  At least I do.

That is why I think we should stop trying to be successful youth workers and instead try to be youth workers that thrive.  After all that we may sacrifice for young people and how we will let our personal lives unravel for the sake of the greater good, at the end of the day these teens choose their own paths that may be in direct contradiction to our own.  We have to be ok with not defining sucess by the outcomes.

The past few weeks I have been traveling a lot, battling some sicknesses and injuries, and have had a lot of good but time consuming meetings that I have had a bit of a break from the daily grind of youth work.  And you know what?  I have found myself more energetic than I have in years.  I actually felt like I had something to offer this week as I stepped back into the lives of the teens I get to hang out with. 

If you are a youth worker or a business man or anyone else that has become absorbed into only defining yourself by your job title, then follow this list.

Take a break - turn off your phone and your computer.  Anything that connects you with work.  Go to the gym.  Call up your friends and do something you enjoy with them.  Let go of the responsibility of other peoples choices and concentrate on just being with them no mater what they may choose to do.  Spend time thriving instead of succeeding and you will find you get to do the work you love a lot longer than the stats suggest.
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