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4 Steps to Help Power Up Youth in Your Program or Classroom

April 1st, 2015

Excerpted from Groups Troops, Clubs and Classrooms by Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor, 2014

Where Will I Start? How Much Can I Do?

Your first challenge is to think about what your program’s intention is and then, based on your answer, determine how your program can realistically evolve into helping youth discover their passions, purpose, and power. Assessing your program will help you get clear about what you offer and where you can and want to “power up.” It will also help you be clear and honest in presenting your program to youth—what it is about, what they can expect from the experience, and what the opportunities are. It eliminates any erring sense of enthusiasm to be all things to all young people. In being real, you put the choice into their hands—they can decide whether your program is the right one for them.

In order to be that articulate and knowledgeable about your program, it’s important for you to understand where you are right now. It’s important for you to self-assess, to identify where you are and then think about where you want to be, how much you want to expand efforts and power. As you self-assess, be as honest as possible. Keep thinking about what you’ve learned regarding the importance of building strengths and power. What are you willing to do? And by that we mean, what are you really willing to do, day-in and day-out, in your program?

Self-assessment involves the following:

  1. Identify where you already expand power (and celebrate what you already do!).
  2. Ask yourself—and be brutally honest—about how much power you are willing and able to share.
  3. Think about how you can, to the best of your abilities, expand power. Identify where you want to be as a program, classroom, and leader.
  4. Assess your plan: How much support can you expect from your agency on your quest to give youth power?

Here’s a visual to give perspective to the assessment: Picture yourself standing over a pond. Toss a pebble into the water. Does it go straight for the bottom creating a deep reach? Or does it have a light touch that nevertheless sends waves across a great expanse of the water? Notice the circular ripples and waves that gently expand out from that intentional act. Notice how wide the circles expand, how far out they extend before things become calm again. Your program creates ripples. Your actions generate power and expand power.

Take time to ponder how much you can expand power in youth right now. Then determine how much and how far you want to extend and widen your powerful surge.

Want to learn more?  Check out our newest book, Groups, Troops, Clubs and Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth.  It is full of strategies to help educators, coaches and youth workers bring out the best in young people!  Check it out and share it with someone else that loves young people!

Words from Youth

March 30th, 2015

“I need a neighbor who says “hi” to me even though we may be too loud or play in the street.”

youth leader from the Green Hills YMCA in Nashville

 

You might hear similar pleas from youth around you:

“I need a teacher who cares about me, even when I don’t make good grades.”

“I need a coach who will let me be part of the team, even if I’m not the best player.”

“I need a counselor who will believe in me, even after making big mistakes.”

 

Do you believe in the young people around you?  Do you support youth, no matter who they are?  How might you love young people from the inside out?

Youth Heroes go to Mexico with their Families

March 27th, 2015

‘At our church in San Diego, California, we started leading family mission trips between Christmas and New Years,’ Julie Stevens recalls. ‘The basic idea was for 100 people from infant to 70 years old to go to Mexico and lead Vacation Bible School, build classrooms on a school, and at nights offer intergenerational services.

 

‘It was a great bonding time within families. They worked together on a common goal. The adults went out of their way to include kids (it took longer to build a classroom or what have you, but they took the time to make it happen).

 

‘The kids learned to see outside themselves and how good they have it, but the adults also learned the same lesson: I have it better than I think I did. To have a whole family see that and to value family at the same time, they were able to see they shouldn’t take things for granted and were able to see how they worked together in a 3rd world country. The could see how families in another country value each other and take care of each other. The saw people who have peace and don’t take for granted the basic things in life.

 

‘The 1st year we built houses and did VBS in a dump. The next year we built two classrooms and did VBS. All the kids would be on the side playing with kids in the neighborhood in the dump – soccer was very popular.

 

‘Our kids also shared their faith with the kids they got to know there in Mexico. There was one boy, Enrique, that was there every day that the kids got to know well. The kids would show Enrique their favorite story in the Bible and he would look it up in his Bible to read it in his language.

 

‘I had been teaching them stories and they were able to turn around and share their favorite stories with their new friends in Mexico.’ Julie explains. ‘It completed the circle of sharing with each other. They ended up taking my Bible (Pastor Julie’s) and every kid circled their favorite verses in the Bible and gave it to Enrique before they left.

 

They did it at the end of the trip when we had a ceremony to give the keys to the family we had built a home for. That’s when they also gave the Bible to Enrique.’

Reprinted with permission from our book Ready to Go Service Projects: 140 Ways for Youth Groups to Lend a Hand. Find more ways to help youth engage their skills, talents and passions in serving the community by picking up your own book at your favorite online bookseller OR bring us to your school, church or community organization to lead service-learning workshop!

Advice on Choosing a Career

March 9th, 2015

“The best career advice given to the young is ‘find out what you like doing best and get someone to pay you for doing it.’”

– Katharine Whitehorn

6 Ways to Remember Names

February 25th, 2015

To build relationships, you have to learn the names of the youth in your program.  Knowing a person’s name is a way of showing honor and respect. When someone tells you her name, repeat it and ask if you are saying it correctly. If you don’t get it right the first time, practice until you can say it correctly. Then focus on remembering that name, so you can call the person by name in the future. Taking time to know names communicates value and appreciation.

Here are some simple strategies for remembering names:

  1. Repeat names as soon as people introduce themselves. If one person says, “My name is Jim,” then respond with, “It’s so nice to meet you, Jim.” Make a point to use his name again in the conversation. Repetition will cement the name in your memory quickly. (Remember what brain science tells us—you have to repeat to remember!)
  2. Keep a list of young people you interact with on a regular basis. We like to keep this list in a calendar or journal. Sometimes we include the phonetic pronunciation of their names (Shanella = shane + ella) or a phrase to remind us who they are (tall red-headed boy who looks like cousin Jake).
  3. Take pictures of young people in your program, and let them autograph their pictures. Seeing images with the names will help you remember.
  4. Link their names with someone else you know or an object that will help you remember the association. Perhaps Angelica reminds you of an angel. Or George makes you remember your grandpa George.
  5. Combine their names with random facts. You could also ask anything like the following: What color can’t you live without? What decade would you want to live in? What kind of car do you want to drive? The more off the wall less frequently asked question the better. The approach keeps youth on their toes, makes them pause, adds in an element of novelty, and helps everyone in the group remember names. Jake Lawrence asks his youth to share their names and what shampoo they use. Random facts create a lighthearted tone and set people at ease. Believe it or not, these crazy facts will also help you remember their names.
  6. Mix movement with the sharing of names. Here’s another brain booster from Jake to help your entire group retain names. The first person says, “I’m Weston, and I like to move.” Weston then does some sort of move or dance. Everyone else says, “Hey, Weston!” and they copy his move. Continue on to the next person.

This is an excerpt from our new book, Groups, Troops, Clubs and Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth.  It is full of strategies to help educators, coaches and youth workers bring out the best in young people!  Check it out and share it with someone else that loves young people!

One Strategy that Will Completely Change the Way you work with Young People

February 18th, 2015

Wanna change the way you work with young people?  Adopt what our counseling friend Jake calls “unconditional positive regard”, and determine that you will maintain that attitude no matter what.

Unconditional positive regard is a belief that no matter what happens or what is seen, this person (the youth in front of you) is good even if he or she has done terrible things. Even if the good isn’t obvious. Everyone has the capacity to do good. Your job is to believe that and offer encouragement to your group to cultivate it.

This is the attitude you commit to before you meet any child, during your interactions with your youth, and even after those trying moments when they walk away and you want to start grumbling and generalizing about “kids today.” It’s okay to get the frustrations out of your system  but always return to center: to a belief and hope in unconditional positive regard. This attitude will bring hope to your group and strengthen your efforts to see and cultivate the best in others.

How would this change the environment in your home, classroom or program?

This is an excerpt from our new book, Groups, Troops, Clubs and Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth.  It is full of strategies to help educators, coaches and youth workers bring out the best in young people!  Check it out and share it with someone else that loves young people!

Engaging Youth: Finding and Connecting with a Sense of Purpose

February 9th, 2015

This has been one of our most popular workshops over the last few years.  Young people yearn to live a life full of meaning and purpose.  Caring adults are critical in helping youth discover and achiever their purpose.  This highly engaging workshop will teach youth workers and educators tricks and tips for helping youth find their sparks and cast a vision for their lives.

title: Engaging Youth: Finding and Connecting with a Sense of Purpose

description: The latest research on “sparks” shows that when youth know and can name their sparks, then good things happen – in schools, in themselves and for their lives. This lively session will educate participants on sparks; how sparks connect to developing a sense of purpose; and ideas for cultivating them in youth. Experience and learn for yourselves some fun, interactive venues for youth to identify strengths, resources and goals for themselves that they can carry with them into adulthood.

time: 2 hours

Audience:  youth workers, educators, parents

Contact us if you want to bring this workshop to your organization – 615-262-9676 or cad@TheAssetEdge.net.

 

James Vollbracht on Youth Development and Education

February 4th, 2015

James Vollbracht, author of Stopping at Every Lemonade Stand: How to Create a Culture That Cares for Kids, gives this wonderful advice:

We must remember that children are very new to the world and don’t have the sense of context that we do. Everything they see, hear and experience becomes a part of them. We are stewards of this most important resource, to which we have unquestionable responsibilities: to shield them from harmful and inappropriate experiences, to provide them with opportunities and invitations to participate in the life of the community that will allow their innate gifts to unfold naturally, to guide them through important rites of passage, and to love them unconditionally.

Growing Kids through Literacy, Creativity and Play

February 2nd, 2015

Character is an ageless hot topic for educators, parents and youth workers.  We all want to nurture character development in children, but sometimes we don’t know where to start.  And we don’t know how to find time amidst standards, tests and group dynamics.  We worked with educational experts to develop some creative strategies to build character.

Title: Growing Kids through Literacy, Creativity and Play

Description:  How do you teach character to children? You play games; you act out storybooks; you let them paint. And while they’re having fun, you weave in conversations about positive values. Explore and learn creative and playful methods for teaching character and literacy from the book, Building Character from the Start and from the guidebook “Tales Told Twice.” Collect ideas and learn how to get a free copy of the Tales Told Twice! (adaptable for grades k-12)

Audience:  k-12 educators and youth workers

Time: 2-3 hours

Schedule: 615-262-9676 or cad@TheAssetEdge.net

Inspiring Youth to be Bold and Courageous

January 28th, 2015

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

–Mark Twain, author

 

Encourage young people to be brave and try new things. It’s easy for people to get stuck in a rut, doing the same things they have always done. Sometimes that stems from complacency, insecurity, or fear. Challenge your youth to be adventurous and be bold. If they express fear about something they have always wanted to try, ask them to consider these questions:

  • What’s the worst thing that could happen if you tried it?
  • What’s the best thing that could happen if you tried it?
  • What would give you the courage to try it?
  • How can I or other adults support you in your adventures?

Sometimes that little push is all a young person needs. Remember that for some young people, trying new things is a scary adventure. Be the cheerleader and the encourager as you guide them into the unknown. They just might discover a whole new part of themselves along the way.

This is an excerpt from our newest book, Groups, Troops, Clubs and Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth.  It is full of strategies to help educators, coaches and youth workers bring out the best in young people!  Check it out and share it with someone else that loves young people!

 

3 Ways to Use the Arts to Explore Sparks

January 21st, 2015

Visuals can give expression to feelings and interests that words can’t express. Music can reveal emotions and aspirations better than simple words. Poetry can capture hearts, imaginations, and minds, giving us new understanding. The arts can expand our view and help us see our experiences and the world through new eyes. Collect photos, songs, and poems to use as prompts to help youth explore purpose and passion.

Strategic Moves

  • Let youth use Pinterest or Instagram to craft a visual story of the things that are important to them. Use picture books to engage with youth to explore a variety of topics. Peter H. Reynolds’s The Dot illustrates how a teacher helps a student discover a hidden talent.
  • Use music fromYouTube, Pandora, Songza, or Spotify to engage in conversations about passions and purpose. (And, as you’ll recall from Chapter X, music feeds the brain as well!) What message does the music hold? What song would they choose to represent their values? Their purpose? The difference they want to make?
  • Use poems or quotes written by youth or adults that speak to passion, purpose, and possibilities.

This is an excerpt from our new book, Groups, Troops, Clubs and Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth.  It is full of strategies to help educators, coaches and youth workers bring out the best in young people!  Check it out and share it with someone else that loves young people!

Who Are You? (A Game to Explore Diversity)

January 14th, 2015

Excerpted from Groups Troops, Clubs and Classrooms by Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor, 2014

This activity, developed by Sharon Williams, a seasoned youth services professional, lets youth explore their identity. Get into pairs. One participant will be the “questioner”; the other will be the “respondent.” When the facilitator says “go,” the questioner asks, “Who are you?” The respondent answers with a descriptor of themselves (“I am a brother,” “I’m a gamer”). The questioner asks the question again, “Who are you?” and the respondent answers with a different descriptor. The question and response goes back and forth until the facilitator calls time (after about 60–90 seconds). When time is called, the partners switch roles.  Afterward, debrief them with the following questions:

  1. Did you learn something new about your partner?
  2. What things do you have in common?
  3. Looking at the different things that make you “you,” what are you most proud to be?

Want to learn more?  Check out our newest book, Groups, Troops, Clubs and Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth.  It is full of strategies to help educators, coaches and youth workers bring out the best in young people!  Check it out and share it with someone else that loves young people!

How Culturally Savvy are You about Your Group?

January 7th, 2015

This quiz is excerpted from Groups Troops, Clubs and Classrooms by Ragsdale and Saylor.  Take it yourself to see how up you are on your young people’s heritage and youth culture.

 

How well do you . . . know them?

Do you know what name they want to go by—their given name or a nickname?

Do you know how to pronounce it correctly?

Do you know their skills and interests?

Do you know whether they have food allergies? Are any sick with a critical illness? Are any on medications?

Do you know whether they have experienced a personal trauma?

Do you know whether they have a learning difference?

Do you know their MI bent?

 

How well do you . . . know their world?

Do you know what their primary, first language is?

Do you know the current trends in youth dress?

Do you know the cultural requirements of their dress (dresses, covering faces . . .)?

Do you know their rituals and traditions?

What’s the popular manner for greeting each other? Knuckle bump? Something else?

Do you know their music? What are the top five songs/bands/groups your group is listening to?

Do you know the social media venues they use to keep up with each other?

Do you keep up with the books, movies, and art interests that appeal to your age group?

 

How well do you . . . know their family life?

Have you met their parents?

Do you know what the family rules are—the ones that might impact rules you set in your program or classroom?

Have you asked about their family traditions?

Do you know whether the family is going through something serious such as a divorce, loss of a loved one, or other major trauma?

 

How well do you . . . know their spiritual and cultural practices?

Do you know whether they must pray at a certain time each day?

Do you know whether they must avoid certain foods?

Do you know whether they are allowed to touch (shake hands, do a high five) a member of the opposite sex?

Do you know how they approach holidays? (What holidays do they celebrate? Are any holidays taboo?)

Do they have meaningful holidays that you should know about?

 

Young people are so amazingly diverse and it takes time to get to know them and their cultures.  Want to find simple strategies for discovering and embracing their diversity? Check out our newest book, Groups, Troops, Clubs and Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth.  It is full of strategies to help educators, coaches and youth workers bring out the best in young people!  Check it out and share it with someone else that loves young people!

Are You Listening?

December 24th, 2014

If you want young people to really talk and voice their opinions, you need to listen twice as much as you speak. Never ask for youth input if you don’t intend to truly use their ideas. Disregarding young people’s feedback is one of the best ways to ensure that youth won’t contribute to your planning.

Want practical ways to practice listening more attentively?  Check out our newest book, Groups, Troops, Clubs and Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth.  It is full of strategies to help educators, coaches and youth workers bring out the best in young people!  Check it out and share it with someone else that loves young people!

5 Questions to Ask Yourself about Student Leaders

December 17th, 2014
  1. Who makes most of the decisions that affect youth in your program—youth or adults?
  2. How can you start giving youth more opportunities to make decisions in your program?
  3. What young people could you ask for program input?
  4. What would you like to know about?
  5. How will you let them know that you are listening to their feedback and implementing their ideas?

These are some of the questions we ask in our newest book, Groups, Troops, Clubs and Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth.  It is full of strategies to help educators, coaches and youth workers bring out the best in young people!  Check it out and share it with someone else that loves young people!