This week has been very challenging for me. Whilst in previous weeks I’ve had some experience of the topics we’ve covered, this week I was completely out of my depth. Monday’s session was about young people at risk and the challenges we will face and things we need to consider when working with them. Having never worked with these groups of young people before, I have to admit, I was daunted. However Helen as usual was incredibly insightful. Her honesty and sharing of experiences really do help to ground us and give us realistic expectations.
These three were the key characteristics that we discussed when working with young people at risk. Not everyone learns in the same way, so having the flexibility to offer options, being sensitive to the individual’s needs and being patient enough to work at each person’s pace is so important. Listening is also vital as young people have a voice and we can facilitate putting them in the driver’s seat but within safe boundaries.
As Helen put it, ‘build a flexible house’, and create a space for young people to move forward into. In some respects it doesn’t matter if things don’t go to plan as long as you can present options and room to grow, not just hit a brick wall and have to stand still or turn back. After all, art is intrinsically interesting, so inspire curiosity! We also talked about how group working is not for everyone, and when putting new people together there will always be time needed to adjust and get used to the people around you. We therefore discussed the importance of valuing the individual and the idea that chaos isn’t a bad thing! Just because splinter groups have formed and lots of different things are going on, doesn’t mean progress isn’t being made.
Not only does your planning for projects have to be flexible but so too do the artists you are working with. They need to be just as engaging and grounded as you, with a good sense of humour! After all, an artist is there to engage young people, not to prioritise the purity of their art form.
We took four main points from this part of the session.
- Be on their level: the project is for them after all.
- Recognise obstacles: name it, call it out.
- Treat young people as fellow artists: the are just at different stages of the journey
- Turn negatives into positives! Don’t be afraid to ditch an idea completely, and use positive reinforcing language
We then moved onto icebreakers, talking about how these can be used to gauge the mood of the group, characters and behaviours, work out the pecking order and assess human and environmental hazards. Additionally we discussed the importance of creating and establishing ground rules as these are something that the group can decide on and can be referred back to. You are giving ownership of the rules to the young people! We are here to prevent trouble more than deal with the fall out.
One of the activities we did in the afternoon was role playing how to diffuse tense situations using positive language to re-engage the ‘young person’. I must admit I found this really difficult as I’ve never had to deal with conflict before on such a scale. However, watching how the young leaders, Helen and Beverley approached the exercise was really helpful and it was definitely a worthwhile thing to do as I felt I learnt a lot from the others.
The main points I will take away from the session will be:
Be grounded as an artist – we’re not miracle workers
Dig in – the more you commit, the more young people are likely to commit also
Change is painful – it has to be worth it!