At work, we have hot desks which means that although we mostly sit in the same sort of area we don’t have an allocated desk. This is because we are in and out of the office so often that it doesn’t make sense for us to have allocated desks. I am based in one location for four days a week and another for one day a week and then I do visits throughout the day with some occasions hours/days at the third office base.
Because of this there are some people we may only work nearby once or twice a week. There is one woman who sits near me about once a week, but not always. One time I was debating with another colleague – one who I sit by regularly. I won the debate and my colleague said ‘will there ever be a time when I argue with you and win?’ I responded that I only got involved in arguments if I could win. The woman laughed and explained that the last time she had sat near me I had said the same thing to someone else.
I suppose it is something I do throughout my life – I am successful in things because I do them knowing that I will be successful in them. I am currently undertaking a masters with the open university in childhood and youth studies. I’ve had no problems with the modules directly related to working with children and young people, however, really struggled with the unexpectedly not children focussed module about continued professional development.
I know that I am excellent at working with children and young people. I am able to build relationships quickly, take an interest, remember things and challenge behaviour. I have studied and have the relevant book knowledge. I have no doubt in my ability to work with children and young people in a variety of situations.
However, I have no idea what my abilities are. I don’t know how it is that I build relationships quickly. I don’t know what it is in me that means that when I took a week off work a young person refused to talk to any of my colleagues and instead, waited for me to return. I don’t know what I’m doing.
Perhaps, that is the reason why I found the module on continued professional development difficult. How can I develop myself as a professional if I can’t reflect on what I do? How can I develop strategies when my most successful experiences seem to have come out of nowhere? How can I continue if I don’t know where it is that I have started?
When I was a teenager some WEC missionaries visited my church and were involved in the youth club that I was volunteering at. They were shocked to find out I was only 15/16 and said that I should consider a gap year with WEC when I was 18. I think it was the first time that I realised that maybe what I was doing was something, was a skill, a talent, a thing.
In some ways I think it is important that I continue to recognise that I have no idea what makes a visit with a young person effective. I have no idea when my words will resonate. In the end, the skills, talents, success isn’t down to me. How can it be when I don’t know what I’m doing? There is something greater at work, something more than me that leads to an easy rapport.
However, that doesn’t mean that I should just walk into visits and hope that whatever it is will do its magic and everything will be ok. I don’t understand how it works so maybe it works better when I have a plan, resources, knowledge. And that is the reason why the boot of my car is full of resources and activities so that I never walk into a visit empty handed – even if I never use them when I’m in there. That is the reason why I put so much effort, research and planning into each visit. To make sure that whatever it is that helps me working with children and young people has the best chance of getting used.
And sometimes it is the game of top trumps or table top bowling that opens discussions, sometimes its a willingness to discuss minecraft, vampires or lego. Sometimes its my nails, my shoes, my hair. Sometimes its nothing, just a case of being in the right place at the right time and being willing to listen.
I think sometimes, it’s saying I don’t know what it is that I’m meant to be doing, I don’t know why I’m here but I’m here and I’m willing to do my best in this situation. I’m in the debate and I don’t join if I can’t win.
There are gifts that are given by God. There are situations that are used by God. There are things that are made sacred by God. It is my responsibility to make sure that the gifts I was given are in the best condition to be used. It is my job to make sure that I have gone into the situation and it is an honour to be able to reveal the sacred to others.