- Good meeting with @benjamincutting this morning. He's got a great future written all over him (not literally, of course) 3 days ago
- RT @iDrumBuskers: New page added on the website. 'The Show'. idrum.org.uk. 4 days ago
- A privilege to be counted among the @iDrumBuskers (iDrum Show, 12 Apr) http://t.co/wFurzvRNOQ 4 days ago
On Monday we hosted a training day led by Pete English from This Way Up, a charity that specialises in supporting young people through bereavement and loss. So many of the young people we work with today have experienced some kind of significant loss in their lives, whether the death of a parent, relative or friend, the separation of their parents, change of school or any number of other events. These experiences of loss impact on the already turbulent world of adolescent development and manifest themselves in all sorts of ways.
Because we frequently come across young people who are trying to cope with loss we wanted to increase our knowledge and skills in this area. As well as the CYO team we’d opened up the day to others working in education which drew in primary and secondary school teachers, youth workers and those working in the alternative education sector. Pete’s wisdom, experience, case studies and gentle manner allied to the huge range of practical experience in the room made for a fascinating day of learning which we can immediately apply in our work.
Here are just a few of the resources mentioned during the day that come recommended and which you might find helpful:
The Little Book of Bereavement for Schools – Ian Gilbert with William, Olivia and Phoebe Gilbert
Blame My Brain : the amazing teenage brain revealed - Nicola Morgan
Teenagers and Attachment: Helping Adolescents Engage with Life and Learning – Andrea Perry (editor)
Draw on Your Emotions – Sunderland & Engleheart
Supporting Young People Through Parental Break-up – Tomblin & English
and finally, Lost and Found, a course by This Way Up for young people in secondary schools for which youth, family and care workers can can be trained as facilitators.
Over the course of one day recently I met three people who probably wish they had memorised a few vital phone numbers. The first was someone who had been out clearing snow for their neighbour when they got locked out of their own house, their mobile and keys being inside. The second was using a back up phone as their main one had, er, dropped into the loo. And the third was out in town and had run out of battery power. What did they do? (Answers at the end.)
We don’t have to remember numbers because our phones remember for us. But if something happened to your mobile phone and you needed to get a message through, who would you call and how would you find their number? Remembering numbers might not be your thing, but memorising just two or three key contacts could come in very handy. It’s probably best to select people who generally have their phone with them and on, rather than the ones who never answer (you know who they are). If there are more than two or three that might be good options, try memorising the easiest ones first. You could also choose to dial manually the numbers you want to remember. Sometimes it’s easier to memorise the pattern rather than the numbers. You may never need to dial these numbers from memory, but…
What did the three people do?
- The first one had to use a neighbour’s computer to search for contact details to phone another key holder to return home.
- The second one had to wait until at work where a colleague was able to find the vital numbers.
- The third couldn’t remember any numbers accurately and, quite by chance, a friend walked past and was able to help out.
Colchester Institute provides further education, vocational training and higher education to degree level for people from across the north east Essex area and beyond. This week we were involved at the huge Colchester campus as part of their Equality and Diversity week. We’d been asked to run an activity in one of the public areas for two days that would get students thinking about faith in a way that would be accessible to those with any or no faith. We chose one of the activities from Sanctum, our prayer space for schools, that invites people to think about their big questions – “If God did exist, what would you ask?”
The response of students and staff was magnificent!! The location was ideal, being at an intersection of corridors on a major through route so lots of people passed by, paused and contributed. We were also right next to one of the cafeterias which made it easy to wander among the tables offering question cards and handing out lollies to students and often stopping for a chat about the ultimate questions raised by the activity.
In just two short days there were some great moments. So many conversations started about God, most of which we could hear continuing after we’d moved on. Students who recognised us from our work in schools and wanted to reconnect. Then there was the group of three girls on a musical theatre course – one a Christian, one an agnostic and the other a self-professed atheist who loves talking about faith and the big questions of life. They came back several times. And the brief but meaningful conversation with a girl whose mum and gran had died recently who chatted to one of the team who had just lost her gran.
In the midst of the predictable busyness we found a warm welcome. This is the first time we’ve done anything here and this simple activity created a real buzz of interest. What did we learn?
- The smallest opportunity is infinitely greater than doing nothing. It would have been easy to have turned it down for a whole variety of reasons to do with scale, or length of time, or connection with a CU or chaplaincy or something. But just one activity for two days punched a big hole in people’s expectations and may well have opened up opportunities for doing more in the future. (More later…)
- It’s about the people, not just the activity. At short notice an amazing team of people were able to commit to one or other of the two days. They were the right people, in terms of their personality and conversation skills and this made the activity friendly, welcoming and hospitable. As an experiment, for ten minutes when the others were away grabbing some lunch, I stood to one side to observe how people might engage with the activity unprompted by us. Hardly anyone did because there wasn’t a welcome.
- Go. The best interactions came from going to small groups of people, explaining the activity and offering them a card to fill in. This broke the ice, made the activity easy to understand and encouraged people to respond. Most did, and, without our prompting, also ended up chatting with their friends about their answers.
- Adapt. Once set up we immediately saw how two changes could massively increase the impact.
First, we wrote the question on the cards so that we could give them to people other than in front of the activity where the question was displayed on an A2 sized poster. This meant we could take the activity to the people, instead of expecting them to come to us. (See “Go” above!)
Second, we went out and bought some Chuppa Chup mini lollies to hand out. Another ice breaker and an opportunity to be unconditionally generous. When asked, “Do I have to fill in a card to get a lolly?” we said, “No. You can have a lolly anyway.”
- Carpe Diem. It’s all about the relationships… On our second/last day a conversation with one member of staff (a Christian) led to a 2 minute meeting with one of the college managers about how we might serve the college further in the future. I now have a contact card for this manager and also contact details for another member of staff who I’ve been advised to get in touch with. I will.
Sexting: An Exploration of Practices, Attitudes and Influences is a report from the UK Safer Internet Centre and NSPCC which came out in December 2012.
The report surveyed 120 Year 9 pupils from three counties through group discussions looking at how they use technology, a general exploration of their experience of sexting, the relationship with celebrity, the media, body image and pornography, and consideration of gender differences. The research also conducted an exploratory survey about online life for Year 6 pupils which did not address issues of sexual content.
If you work with young people you probably won’t be too surprised by the conclusions which confirm the prevalence and ‘normality’ of sexting among this age group and highlights an imbalance in the practice and perceptions of boys and girls. One, perhaps unsurprising, finding is that when it comes to seeking advice or support young people almost completely set against approaching adults (parents, teachers, the Police) fearing judgement rather than support. However, they appreciated the discussions they had during the research and wish there were more such opportunities in school life.
The people of Bethlehem today retelling the Christmas story.
I love this kind of story-telling. It helped my appreciation of the events of that first Christmas and the events of Jesus’ birthplace today.
h/t to David Keen
When we first created Sanctum we had a zone where students could just be still on beanbags in a white draped area. Amazingly, some ‘got it’ and, understanding the point of the exercise, actually experienced a bit of peace. But to be honest we forever felt that without some sort of direction it would forever be simply a chill zone for a few and a slightly out of the way place to gather for a not so quiet chat for most.
Then we stumbled upon the simple idea of a ‘calm jar’, a way of focusing attention on something for a while to induce a sense of peace or calm. It’s just a jar with water and glitter in it. But early trials showed the glitter settles too quickly. What we needed was thicker water. Here’s our final recipe.
- Large jar, washed out with a well fitting lid.
- Bottle of Glycerin (from Boots or a pharmacy)
- Food colouring
- Washing up liquid
Quarter fill the jar with Glycerin and top it up with water to within 10mm of the top.
Add quite a lot of glitter, probably a bit more than you think. You can always add a bit, put the lid on and shake it to see, then add a bit more if you think it needs it.
Drop in a very small amount of food colouring. Try the smallest amount you can and add more if you need to. You don’t want the water to become too opaque.
Finally, add a small drip of washing up liquid. This is to break the surface tension as without it the glitter tends to stick to the surface of the water. Too much and it all get too frothy.
Now put the lid on and shake it. Does it work well enough? You can always add a bit more of any of the ingredients at this stage. Then top it up with water or more glycerin to leave about 5mm of space at the top.
Take the lid off and dry the top of the jar and the inside of the lid thoroughly
Screw the lid back on very tightly.
Turn the jar upside down and trickle a small amount of superglue into the gap between the jar and the lid in a few places all round. Capillary action should draw it into the gap. This not only helps the seal but more importantly it stops the inquisitive from taking the lid off.
We wrote a script for a narration, setting it to the track Monorail by Port Blue, that students listen to on an mp3 player. Obviously we can’t re-distribute the final audio track but if you’d like the script do get in touch.
The ‘Calm’ activity has now more than fulfilled our expectations. Students often say it’s really helped them to understand the benefit of taking time out to be still. And when we ask them which activities feel most like they imagine prayer to be, the often point to the calm zone.
Sanctum is our prayer space for schools and this was the sixth time we’ve run it at this school over the past four years. Each time we wonder if there’s a creeping danger that young people will start to become over familiar and lose the impact of the experience Sanctum offers and each time we learn new things as we gradually become overwhelmed by the responses through the week.
One of the team said of the impact they saw in the lives of so many young people, “How can we explain fully what goes on here? How can we bottle this and show it to people?” The week was full of stories of students discovering peace, finding release from past hurts and recognising the practice of prayer in many different ways. Then there was the response of teachers, those visiting with classes and others I met who had popped in when no one else was around to pause and read what the students had written. They were overwhelmingly positive and often very moved by what they saw and experienced.
It’s often the simplest of activities that create the biggest impact. One involves holding a glass bead while you pray and then placing the bead in a bowl. We were amazed at the number of times we noticed students clutching a bead, eyes closed in an obvious gesture of prayer. Young people frequently say how much they’ve been helped by the forgiveness activity, a narration that encourages people to place a stone into a bowl of water to symbolise the act of forgiving. One boy said it allowed him, “to forgive other people, and myself.”
The team were able to have many conversations with young people about life and beliefs and our own faith in a God who hears our prayers. And for some, it was a place where they could be open about the pain of life. The Prayer Wall was covered in post-it notes, most of them beginning, “I wish…” “I wish that my dad will find me.” “I wish for God to look out for my friends.” “I wish I was loved.” “I wish I could be with my sister every day.” One of our volunteer helpers was having a conversation with a girl at an activity that looks at life priorities. The girl had picked out ‘loving family’, ‘good health’, ‘friends’ but then, holding back a tear, said, “I need my family to love me.” The girl was encouraged by the conversation that followed to recognise all the other ways she is supported by friends; but you still come away bearing a little of the pain that these young people carry.
There is also much joy, though, and the ‘thankful’ activity helped many to reflect on the good things going on in their lives that they often take for granted. One new activity focussed on ‘random acts of kindness’, encouraging young people to write on a card flower their pledge of a kind action they would do for others. We nearly ran out of space, there were so many cards hanging from the tree. I’ll do some specific posts on a few of the activities in the next few days.
So what of the ones who have seen it all before, some three times? Far from becoming over-familiar or bored with it, they all say it seems to mean more to them each time, something we’d picked up from responses at another school last summer. One boy said his “… responses were stronger because you can trust the space more. It made the experience even more personal.”
Joe and Tom are identical twins, one is a Christian minister, one is an atheist.
Here they talk about their different outlook on faith as part of the Channel 4 series, 4thought.tv
This is just a snapshot of two wonderful people who I am privileged to know and to have worked with. You can find out more about each of them at their blogs:
I have a bit of an interest in the way organisations manage themselves and their people and was particularly inspired by The Starfish and the Spider: The unstoppable power of leaderless organisations by Brafman and Beckstrom a few years ago.
I firmly believe that much of the best work done by CYO has been as a result of letting people work to their strengths and follow new directions based on their gifts and the things they get excited about. Sanctum (prayer spaces in schools), Chaplaincy, Beloved (self esteem course for girls); all have flowed more from a team member being excited about a possibility they’ve spotted and being encouraged and coached to pursue it than a top-down developmental approach.
So naturally I was drawn to this article, Managing without managers by Jennifer Pahlka, Founder & Executive Director at Code for America. Jennifer raises a couple of interesting points about what makes such freedom (from managers, reporting systems, performance reviews) work so effectively.
- Constraints – Ultimate freedom succeeds because of other constraints in the system. Jennifer highlights recruitment at games software company Valve and time at Code for America. Thinking about CYO I think our constraint would be appointing all self-starters. There have been a few occasions when we have had people who find it difficult to devise, plan and own a project and without a history or culture of traditional management we’ve struggled to succeed and have probably let them down too.
- Autonomy, mastery and purpose – the three great motivators. Jennifer writes, “Putting the focus on coaching and supporting, instead of managing, was one way we could optimize for autonomy, and also to some degree for mastery, when professional and personal growth are a stated part of the agenda.”
There are, of course, limits to allowing people to just ‘do their own thing’. But the best work often happens when people are allowed to nurture their vision for a project and see it succeed. And for an organisation like ours, their success makes an impact on all of us.