Thursday, November 21, 2013

educational care

This article has a way of telling a story through the eyes of youth as well as the eyes of a researcher and teacher. When Dr. McKamey questions "...if researchers' deep-seated anxieties and fears are unconscious, then how can a researcher begin to recognize and understand them?" (McKamey 403) she asks a question a great deal of educators probably wonder. How can we resolve our dilemma of understanding what our youth interpret as caring for them without projecting our beliefs about care unto them? It's challenging because there are so many different cultures. I think the best thing that Dr. McKamey did was get in touch with herself. Understanding yourself is the best way to empathize and put yourself in another's shoes. Communicating with youth and simply asking them what care means to them would probably be an affective way to reach them. As stated "...that students conceptualized caring in other ways, including caring about issues that were important to them." (McKamey 414) this is clear that showing an interest in youth and their conflicts or issues in school could be interpreted as caring as opposed to other forms of care we may have. 

Overall this article is extremely useful to our work with youth because it focuses on us getting in touch with our beliefs and values and helping us be open to being aware of youths perspectives as well. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Childhood trauma may affect parts of brain

During a meeting at my internship we had a conversation about how we can empower youth to succeed when we can't change factors in their lives (i.e. IQ, Socio-Economic, etc). It's discouraging really, when you are familiar with the backgrounds that a lot of the youth we work with come from. I had a light bulb moment and everything I've been working for during the past six years as a Youth Worker became clear. I've been fighting to understand what I could do to help, because I am all too familiar with the circumstances that these youth are facing and the barriers they will have to knock down in order to succeed. It's a long journey, this has been a very long, challenging journey (that's not finished yet, but I'm getting there), and it's been because I can't quit. Somewhere along the line, someone (well a couple of people) told me I could do this. They helped me believe that there is a light at the end of this tunnel I've been running down for six years. The key to success is grit. Resilience, optimism, self-control, willingness to try new things, belief in your ability to learn and succeed are all things that we can control and contribute to our youth despite the circumstances we can't change.

If we can encourage youth, and be the voice that pushes them, and tells them that they can succeed. We can help them believe in themselves, and encourage them to keep trying, keep failing, keep getting back up, and that the road to success isn't an easy one, but it's possible.

We discussed something that sits in the pit of my stomach. There's studies that show that when something traumatic happens to a child (in the meeting she said 3 or more traumatic experiences) it sets them up to fail, more or less. When a child is in a toxic environment and trauma happens (physical abuse, emotional abuse, exposure to domestic violence, a parent who abuses drugs/alcohol) the body begins to produce adrenaline (which stays in the body for 30 min ). When this continues to happen the body is focused on being in defense mode, and it affects the front part of the brain. If this is happening consistently the brain doesn't develop the way a child who is not exposed to trauma would. This ultimately makes it harder for them to reason, make positive emotional connections, and other things we discussed but I can't remember.  (I googled the subject after the meeting and here's a brief article if interested

Let's not forget low self-esteem, and other effects from growing up in such an environment has on youth. If we are aware of what could be happening in the lives of our youth, we can be the cushion that they can rely on to provide them with healthy, supportive interactions. We can show them what normal is, so that they don't grow up feeling inferior, or that they aren't good enough. I had a student in my homeroom tell me he was stupid yesterday. Of course I told him that he wasn't stupid, he was incredibly smart--but I'm not sure if he believed me. If I tell him he's smart everyday, then at some point in his life (ten or fifteen years down the line, or hopefully sooner) he will remember that. That could be the difference between him applying for college, or opting out. I still remember every adult who believed in me, and who told me I was smart, that I was an awesome person, and every adult that believed in me, and encouraged me to be the best I could be. Unfortunately, I can count on one hand those people, and while I wish there had been more positive interactions with the adults in my life, those people helped change my life. It's so important that we never underestimate the power of our words and actions because we could be the defining factor in a child's life that can determine whether or not they believe they can succeed. Just something I thought could be useful in our daily work with youth.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Who am I? *we don't even know half the time*

Parental support can make youth or break youth in their quest to discover who they are. A lot of times parents panic when their children begin to show rebellious behavior (and understandably so, I'm not a parent but if my child started rebelling I would fear the effect that the behavior could  have on their future) and they then shut down the youth expressing a desire to figure out who they are, or who they want to become.

"To dismiss such experimentation and the anxieties associated with it as a mere "phase they'll get through," "raging hormones" or simply "rebelliousness" is to devalue the unique opening this developmental era represents." (Understanding Youth, Identity in Context p24)

When Mitch takes the situation with Julian (Julian is caught tagging a bathroom wall with spray paint) and he further investigates what could be driving Julian to engage in rebellious behavior, he is opening his ears to listen to youth, and to understand what is happening, rather than to chalk it up to Julian being a jerk, and having no respect for school property.

"The evidence in young lives of the search for something and somebody to be true to can be seen in a variety of pursuits more or less sanctioned by society." (Understanding Youth, Identity in Context p26)

There's a reason why extra curricular activities are proven to help keep youth out of trouble. This is because it gives youth a place to belong. These clubs, hobbies, or even extra time helping with homework can make all the difference because it can help youth find out who they are or who they would like to become. It is our opportunities as adults to guide youth into building who they are in a space where they are safe and valued.