One of my greatest pleasures and passions in life, since I was a teenager myself, has been working with children and young people. From my first wobbly venture at the age of fifteen, volunteering as a young leader at a community led summer activity week, to leading volunteering programmes to support disadvantaged students and campaigning to enable more young people to play an active part in their communities, it has been a phenomenal journey.
As today is International Youth Day, I thought I would mark it with a short blog on three things working with young people has taught me.
1. To let my creativity run wild
The older I get the more I find myself questioning and taking caution when being creative. As a result, there is something so refreshing and motivating about working on creative tasks with young people, watching their minds overflow with unfettered ideas that so often form the basis for outstanding outcomes I never would have reached with a more restricted mindset.
Now, I’m not saying blue sky thinking is always practical but now I like to try to rediscover my inner child in the early stages of ideas development, letting my creativity run wild (and waiting until later to let my adult brain pipe up and rein it in.)
2. To be fearless
Over the twelve years that I’ve been working with young people, I have consistently been astounded by their willingness to take on challenges I’m not sure I would have at their age. I think most fondly of my time spent delivering workshops which simulated real life business scenarios across one intensive day. Our students would enter a corporate building in the city, quite possibly for the first time, suddenly overcome by an unusual shyness in unfamiliar surroundings, and balking at the idea of the tasks we set them. Present? Pitch? Perform? In front of everyone? No chance, Miss.
Except in the end they always did. Every single time. In the space of a few hours, uncertain, questioning teenagers would go from giggling and hiding behind their hands to some of the best performers and presenters I’ve ever seen. They wouldn’t shy away from the tasks we threw their way, however new and however out of their comfort zone they were. I think of those young people whenever I find myself thinking I can’t do something and push myself to muster at least a little of their moxy.
3. To see the world with fresh eyes
The most wonderful moments with young people are the ones where they capture a thought that never would have occurred to me before. So often even just a single sentence can be so powerful and it is so refreshing to see things from an alternative perspective. It’s healthy, and only right, to always challenge yourself to consider different viewpoints and experiences and, given the opportunity in the right environment, young people aren’t backwards in coming forwards with theirs.
I think one of the things I love so much about working with and on behalf of young people is that I’m always learning, discovering and growing alongside them; even when you’re the ‘grown up’ or the teacher, young people always find a way to teach you something too.