How to Change the World
I want to talk to you about something that’s close to my heart: changing the world! As both a youth worker and an educationalist my dream is that we might be lifelong learners who support others to be lifelong learners. I now work for the Institute of Children Youth and Mission (CYM), supporting youth, children’s and families workers to gain qualifications in their respective areas. It is a role I love because of my passion for learning.
So many of us are motivated to work in schools by the desire to see children and young people learn something they didn’t already know, or do something they previously thought they couldn’t. When I asked some friends of mine who work in schools to tell me why, the majority of them said that they were motivated by seeing that ‘light bulb’ moment of seeing a child realise they have learned something; to watch a child become more confident in who they are and their abilities. Another friend said she wants to sow seeds for the future, realising that she may never see the resulting adult but knowing she has had an impact is enough. When we work in schools we are changing the world for the children and young people, even when we don’t see the results we anticipate. In order to keep encouraging our children and young people to learn and keep learning about themselves and world around them, we must be committed to furthering our own learning.
In this month’s magazine there is a focus on training in the world of youth and children’s work and CYM are and have been a key player in this market over the last 30 or so years. We had a Schools Work qualification on our books for a while and I was privileged to be the lead tutor on that for a time. I recently met up with someone who completed the Schools Work Course and has since gone on to the Equip for Youth Work Practice Level 3 course. He said to me that the schools work he does is still his favourite part of the job ‘You know, I still love my schools work,’ he grinned ‘being in school is a real privilege that gives me a brilliant opportunity to build informal relationships with young people, children and staff’ One of the aspects of his schools work is running a girls football club, something that has always struck me as unusual and inspirational.
I believe that young people have a lot to teach us, that we learn constantly about who we are and how to do this job of supporting children and young people better.
Because of my background in education I have always believed that accredited training, the kind that gets you or I a qualification at the end of it, is a fantastic way to broaden horizons; challenge some of our thinking that has got stuck in the same vein; to connect with others doing the same thing and find out how they approach situations or issues with their young people or children; the accreditation also opens doors into different contexts and means students have something to show for all the hard work they’ve done. However, regardless of whether you think the accreditation part is important or not, the key to doing our jobs even better than we do currently is training.
If you’re dealing with issues in school that you have had no or limited experience in, then training will help. If you’re just starting out in your work with children or young people then training will help. If you’re a long term youth, children’s or families worker then training will give you new ideas to try, new approaches to take, and perhaps even a new understanding of how our faith can interact with our work.
It may help us to consider three different types of schools work, these are from definitions about education:
- Non formal
Formal schools work takes place in structured sessions, planned out with deliberate and clearly defined learning outcomes, it is characterised by compulsory attendance for the pupils. This tends to be directed by you in the teacher role, and is usually classroom based. Religious Education, or PSHE lessons fall into this category; I would also put assemblies here, as even though they aren’t in the classroom, they are structured sessions led by the person at the front and usually have an intended learning outcome or theme. We can probably all think of at least one assembly that hasn’t quite gone to as was envisaged but generally they begin with planning.
Non-formal schools work is semi-structured, there might be some planning involved and engagement of the pupil falls somewhere between compulsory and voluntary, with the effectiveness of the sessions relying on the pupil wanting to be there. The pupils might be referred into this type of schools work which usually takes the form of mentoring sessions, or small group work. I would also put Prayer Spaces (or the like) in this category, as there is an element of pupil lead engagement, however they choose how much they get involved and of course these spaces often require a lot of planning to make it look inviting and encourage pupils to engage.
Informal schools work is characterised by voluntary engagement by the young person, spontaneity, unpredictability of outcome or learning and is always pupil lead. This usually takes places outside the classroom setting and happens when school workers make themselves available to chat or interact with children or young people at lunchtimes or even after school. This is the ‘Hanging Around’ ministry, also known as Detached work which might involve a pack of cards or a pair of counters, or juggling equipment.
It’s the same with us: we learn in one of these three ways too. In adult learning the element of compulsory engagement has less emphasis, but we still see this in some contexts such as ‘Speed Awareness Courses’! Most adult learning courses though rely on voluntary engagement, you, as the learner, are there because you want to be. However, we can still view our learning in these 3 broad categories.
Can you spot which category you have learned in this month? Or this year? How about next year: how will you learn next year? Hopefully we will learn informally every time we go into school or even talk to our senior leader, vicar, curate or mentor. But is that enough?
Begin looking at your 2018-19 diary now, yes it’s early in the year but it’s never too early to start mapping out what you want to achieve in the coming year. If your senior leader has a strategy for where they want to see impact in the future then they will be keen to see you wanting to widen your skill and knowledge base. Take a look at your schools work, what issues are you coming up against that you are unsure about? As an example, I belong to a local YMCA schools work team and we run self-esteem sessions for secondary and primary pupils. Through our evaluations of each session we run it was identified that we needed some training on Anxiety and how to talk to the 11yr olds we were working with who were obviously struggling with this. So we looked for training in Anxiety and have booked that in.
As Head of Further Education for CYM I know that both our Youth Work and Children’s Ministry courses are an excellent resource for learning and being qualified for the work you already do! As a youth work veteran, it’s the Children’s Ministry course which impresses me the most; that there are Christians working with children using the tools they learn on this course fills me with excitement and awe.
There is, of course, a plethora of training providers mentioned elsewhere in this magazine. Do take a look to see which will fit your own needs.
For specific training on Schools Work then look up SchoolsWorkUK’s training days on the Youthscape Store www.youthscape.co.uk/store or Scripture Union’s Schools Worker training which can be accessed from their website https://content.scriptureunion.org.uk/training-schools-work-course
If you’re in the South East then also check out Brighton & Hove City Mission’s Schools Work Training programme here www.bhcm.org.uk/training/schoolsworktraining .
For specialist training in SRE then try ACET UK https://www.acet-uk.com/
For RE training: www.understandingchristianity.org.uk
If you’re looking for more general training in youth/children’s/families ministry, and can’t see anything that fits your situation, then contact Jenni using the contact form or social media buttons above. You might also want to try your local Diocese, Baptist Association or other denominational department.