Since October 2009 I have been working with children at an afterschool group in Winn Gardens.
In the beginning the kids were:
So much so, that our first session descended into chaos with nearly 20 children trying to smoke, ride bikes inside, steal materials, swear at us and fight each other!
By our final session we had a core group of 10 dedicated kids who were:
It was a long road from that first session. There were times along the way when it seemed like we might never get there but it was an experience that I learned so much from, as an artist and facilitator, especially about managing behaviour and working with challenging kids. I’d like to share some of that with you tonight.
Imagine that you are eleven years old. Imagine that one night at 2am you have to call the police and get your uncle arrested for violent and drunken behaviour in the home. Imagine that the estate where you live is held under siege by a man with a gun. Imagine that your baby sister is mauled by a pit-bull. Imagine that your brother is hospitalised with a serious illness. Now imagine that this happens to you all in the space of one month. All of these things actually happened to one of the children we worked with at an afterschool club in Winn Gardens.
Let’s call her Lucy. When we first met Lucy she was sullen, rude and intimidating. She didn’t have a good word to say about anyone. She swore at Aitp staff, threatened other kids and had recently been excluded from school. She refused to take part in activities and wilfully destroyed materials. If she did make anything during the session, she threw it in the bin or smashed it up on the way home. Two months later, she was the mainstay of our group. She was the kid who kept other kids in line. Woe betide anyone who tried to disrupt a session while Lucy was there! She turned up every week, she participated and she even started to smile and give compliments. On a session evaluation she wrote “This group is the best thing that I have ever done.”
There is no magic formula for success but here are a few of the things that helped us:
1. Know the area and understand the challenges these children face everyday.
Winn For those of you who aren’t familiar with the area:
2. Find your group and cultivate it.
3. Set yourself up for Success.
4. Handling Difficult Behaviour.
5. Plan your Sessions carefully.
6. Don’t take it personally.
7. See the big picture.