Child’s Talk

I had a conversation with a child recently. It started during a group conversation about favourite foods.
One of the children said: my family are becoming vegans actually.
And I said: awesome
(Because when talking to children it’s important to take an interest and to be enthusiastic about what they are sharing.)
Then I said: that means you won’t eat certain foods doesn’t it?
(Because when talking to children it’s important to be curious. To understand what that child understands.)
And the child said: yes, I won’t eat chicken or bacon
So I said: will you eat eggs or drink milk?
He shook his head. Then he said: did you know…
(Because children will continue a conversation once you have shown interest until they run out of things to say… Sometimes they will repeat the things they want to say because they just want to keep that conversation going. Sometimes you wonder if they are talking to you because you’re the first adult in a long time who has shown some sort of interest in what they are saying.)
He said: did you know that the eggs you get at a supermarket… You can hatch them into a chick.
And I said: no you can’t
(Because you can’t and it annoys me that people think they can. It also worries me that people base life choices on incorrect information.)
He said: yes you can. If you get a supermarket egg and crack it and put it in a warm place then it will become a chick.
I said: no you can’t
(Because that’s just not how eggs work.)
I said: if you get the right sort of eggs and keep it warm it might hatch but you don’t crack it and the eggs you get at the supermarket aren’t the right sort
And he said: that’s how you do it. Crack it and it will hatch. I’ve done it.
So why am I telling you this? I’m telling you this because when you’re working with children they already know. Whatever it is, they already know and don’t need you to tell them. In fact they will need to teach you because you are old and don’t know anything.
I could have argued with that child for ages and never changed his mind. I would have needed to take him to meet some chickens. I would have needed to get some eggs and hatched them or watch them not hatch. Through experiment and experience that child would have learnt more about eggs than he could have wanted to know.
Maybe with diagrams and explanations about chicken reproduction (that I doubt his parents would have been happy about) I may have been able to explain why cracking supermarket eggs would not lead to the production of a chick.
Maybe a pokemon walk would have helped him to understand that pokemon stay in the egg until you walk them long enough for them to hatch and that’s the same with chickens….apart from the walking bit.
But this isn’t really about eggs. Google is your friend if you want to learn about eggs. Because learning, changing your mind about things, is about your experiences. If you have experience of one thing, if you have always believed something and it’s never failed you, why would someone else coming along telling you something different change your mind?

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What if I stumble

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.

Watch me! (Whip/Nae Nae)

There have been many songs in the history of songs which include the instructions on how to do the dance…from the twist to timewarp (which is a parody on action/word songs). These songs make everyone happy because everyone can join in and everyone looks as silly as everyone else.

I remember going to a youth club where some guests came and we all did the cha cha slide together. It was awesome.

And so now we have ‘Watch me! (Whip/Nae Nae)

The song is basically ‘watch me’ followed by a dance move such as ‘whip’ ‘naenae’ ‘superman’ and ‘bop’.

This has inspired me to invent a game/compose a song.

For the game, stand group in a circle and give the group a topic eg bible characters; superheroes; animals. Each person then has to say ‘watch me’ followed by something from the topic eg Samson, Thor, Frog. They then have to do a dance move to represent that thing – Samson running his hands through his hair and then pushing over the temple columns, Thor calling lightning from the sky and aiming it at something, Frog…self explanatory. Then everyone has to join in with the dance move before moving onto the next person.

For the song, take the best ideas from the game and put them into a preformed order.

I can’t see any reason why this shouldn’t be the best game/song ever created

How to deal with people you don’t like

1) You could hit them with a stick. They wouldn’t like it and you might get some joy out of it. However, they are unlikely to become likeable just because you’ve beaten them up a bit.

2) Positive reinforcement tactics as seen in The Big Bang Theory and from Science. Whenever the person does something you like you reward them with say some chocolate. This should link the good behaviour with the treat and make them more likely to continue the good behaviours. However, the rewards need to be given quickly and often in order to reinforce the behaviour. This could be difficult if you are not always around the person. Perhaps, starting a positive reinforcement group to help to continue the rewards system.

3) Fight them, realise you are really quite similar, team up to destroy a bigger enemy as seen in Star Trek. Spock and Kirk hated each other and could not get on at all but after much, much fighting, they soon became the bestest of friends and fought together to destroy many space evils. However, if you fight in a public place you may just get into a lot of trouble before you can team up to destroy the bigger enemy. Also, you have to make sure that there is a bigger enemy in order to unite you.

4) Ignore them. Attempt to have absolutely nothing to do with them. Cut them out of your life. This works best when the person is voluntarily in your life. This is more difficult if the person is a work colleague or a neighbour.

5) Attempt to kill them with kindness. Everything they do, every horrible or dislikeable thing they do, just smile and be super overly friendly to them. Hopefully, this will lead to them realising that they are not getting you down and that when they act horribly they just look stupid. This is a long term method and may not lead to the person realising how sucky they are. However, it could lead to other people thinking you’re a really cool person and buying you chocolate.

6) Explain that they are acting inappropriately and that you really feel that they should stop it. Often the horrible person will not realise that what they have done is inappropriate. They may change. They may not but at least they know that you think they suck.

7) Dance to the music of Nsync. This always works.

Language

Language can be a very confusing thing, especially English apparently.

At work, we had a lady from Spain who spoke English pretty well but was still confused about many of the things we said. For example, the difference between lunch and dinner. Depending on who she was working with the mid-day meal was either described as lunch or dinner, or she’d be invited out for an evening meal and it would be described as dinner.

But it’s not just non-native speakers who get confused over English and word meanings. Where I come from, in the Black Country (which is a part of the UK that not everyone in the UK knows exists) we have a word to describe silly things or people which is ‘Saft’ which auto-correct always tries to change to ‘daft’. It seems saft is not a recognised word outside a very small geographical area in the middle of England. (It totally is a real word though because it has been in print and is in common usage. There’s a joke about a foreigner (a Londoner) being called ‘saft’ by a small child and thinking it was a compliment).

Recently, the nursery rhyme Incy Wincy Spider caused confusion for someone I know. Incy famously climbs up a water spout. However, what is a water spout? The only spout this person knew of was on a teapot which is not what Incy was climbing. Incy was climbing up a drain pipe, which doesn’t fit in the song at all.

Language changes, word meanings change, things that were acceptable to say at one point are no longer acceptable to say, things that were not acceptable to say are now acceptable to say.

There are some churches that when people go there they are required to learn a whole new way of speaking, learn new words and apply different meanings to words they thought they knew. I have a tattoo which says ‘Redeemed’ and my next tattoo will say ‘Sanctified’. These are words that I know and I know how they relate to me and my spirituality. I am always well aware that there is a good chance that I will have to explain the meanings and/or reasons why I would want them on my skin to a lot of the people who see them.

When Jesus spoke, he spoke in ways people could understand. There is a reason why Jesus spent a lot of time talking about farming. The people he was speaking to understood about farming. There is a story Jesus tells about a man who is holding a wedding and all the important people he invited don’t turn up so he sends out his servants to invite anyone who is just hanging out on the street. These people come and the wedding party is full of happy guests. The man notices that one of these men that he’s just dragged in off the street isn’t wearing appropriate clothes and throws the man out of the party.

I never really understood this story until the wedding traditions at the time were explained to me, apparently the man would’ve provided appropriate clothes to the people he invited and this man had decided not to wear them. Suddenly, the story makes a lot more sense.  But Jesus didn’t need to explain this point to his first audience, they would’ve understood it!

When I sing songs saying that I have been sanctified, that’s ok for me, I understand it.

I think it is very important for churches, for people who claim to follow Jesus to make sure that the language they are using makes sense to the people who are hearing it. Which may actually involve getting out of our comfort zones and talking with people.

There is a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode which explores language awesomely. Darmok is an episode where the crew meet up with an alien race who only speak in metaphors or references to stories. The problem is that without knowing the stories, the references are meaningless. Like saying ‘I feel like Elijah on the mountain top’, unless you know why Elijah is on the mountain top you don’t know how I am feeling.

In Star Trek, the way the two crews learnt how to communicate with each other was through shared experiences, sharing stories, making new stories.

The continuing saga of the smelly table

The beginning of this saga was me not wanting to talk about it. You can read that here.

Now, since there is more to add, I will tell the entire story.

The table is question is red and has yellow legs. The legs are attached to the table with screws and such mechanism. When fixing the table together it was obviously important to make sure that one placed the ‘gap’ in the table leg over the ‘ridge’ in the bracket linking it to the table.

This had not been done. Instead, the ‘gap’ had been placed facing outwards. This led to two issues – first, there was a gap, second, this gap was mad bigger by the fact that the ‘ridge’ which should have fitted into the ‘gap’ was now pushing against a straight plastic bit which had no space for a ‘ridge’.

This increased ‘gap’ in the table leg meant that whenever was spilled from the table such as milk, water, cereal, other food products, etc, they all went down into the table leg. Where they formed an icky smelling gunk which over time made the table smell.

Today, we removed all four table legs, cleaned them and then tried to fix the legs to the correct sides of the table.

Unfortunately, only three of the legs corresponded correctly to the ‘gap’/’ridge’ principal.

So, I went on a hunt for our missing table leg, and found it, attached to another table, in another room. I removed it and found that it contained a few dead spiders, some raisins, bits of biscuit and some glitter. After, cleaning, it is now proudly attached to it’s table and hopefully my table leg smelling issues are over!

What have I learnt from this table saga?

Well, sometimes, a smelly table leg is a symptom of something larger than just gunk in a table leg. Sometimes, it’s proof that the whole table is messed up!