Cathedral Building

Another Teaching Blog

Posts tagged youth

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Good things, Painful packages

In education we make sure to tell our challenging kids that they’re not bad people, they’re just making bad choices.

At my very first psych training around crisis, the organization there made sure to tell the people they counseled that they weren’t ‘crazy’ - that their trauma reactions were a normal reaction to an abnormal event.

I’m finding those sorts of nuggets are helpful.

And after tonight, working through an incident of a kid making holes in their wall with their fists and throwing things and their siblings hiding in the next room and their parent crying, it turned out alright.  It didn’t resolve by the end of the night - it wasn’t that kind of alright. There was physical damage and emotional damage.  But the kid was able in all this to tell the parent something that others suspected but no one knew for certain, and something that the parent needed to hear.

Painful packages.

Good things.

That seems to be the theme of this work.

Filed under counseling mental health youth children families therapy social work

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Teens, your worst social media nightmare is actually good for you


Friend your mom!

I do want to point out that there was no definitive causality here.  It could just as likely be that teens who already have positive home relationships are more likely to interact with their parents through social media.

It’s definitely something to consider, with how the study has thus far been presented by so many sources.

(Source: dailydot)

Filed under youth parenting parents social media

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YouTube Eating Challenges Sending Kids to the Emergency Room: Looking back, playing Chubby Bunny in our youth wasn’t the wisest thing—in essence, you’re basically stuffing marshmallows in your face until you, well, can’t. But now risk-taking eating activities are rampantly viral on YouTube, where dares like the “cinnamon challenge” (take a spoonful of the stuff, straight up) or eating baking soda and vinegar can take a more dangerous turn than the prank might seem. Food challenge-induced poisoning, choking, and respiratory problems are on the rise; a toxicologist at Loyola University Health System in Chicago recently treated a dozen 9-year-olds in the emergency room for cinnamon exposure.


At my last position, before I’d been hired, the supervisor had to be away for two weeks on a family emergency.  During those two weeks, whoever was in charge had had so little control (or knowledge) in regard to our kids that some of the youth attempted the cinnamon challengeat the program spacewith cinnamonfrom the program space kitchen.

And vomited.  Everywhere.  All over the program space.

And they still tell the story, on occasion, as a wild ride tall tale of triumph regarding the things they got away with when no one was really watching.

Also be aware of the salt and ice challenge, which involves pouring salt onto one’s hands, then gripping ice cubes until one can no longer stand the physical pain.  Obviously, this can cause serious damage.  I never thought we’d have to so carefully regulate ice, of all things — the kids would bring salt packets in from local shops.  Luckily we nipped that one sooner rather than later with a little stomach-churning lesson on what frostbite is…

Filed under education safety sometimes kids do dangerous stuff for fun hey college and high school students reading this: don't do it okay? youth kids

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A Memorable Send-off

Friday was the last day of the program for the summer, and my last day with the kids.  We open the program space at 11am.

At 10:44 I got a text from the second adult staff, the substitute from the main branch of the program, letting me know that their car was broken down and that if they could come, they would be late. I called the director to see if I could open the space with one adult staff.  They asked how many kids we had on average this week — no go.  They told me to wait on their word while they contacted the adult staff member in question and see what was going on.  I let the kids milling around on the porch know what was going on: that the other staff’s car wasn’t working, that they might be late, that I needed them to just hang out on the porch for a few minutes past eleven while I waited for a call from my boss because I couldn’t let them in until I got the okay.

The adult staff never answered their phone for the director or that staff’s supervisor.  I called at around twenty after to be sure I hadn’t missed a call when a parent called to talk to their kids — I handed them the phone through the open window — and I was told I could not open the program space.

"…there’s a little park across the street.  If I have a completely unofficial non-[progam]-sponsored picnic or something over there with the kids, would that be okay?"

"Yeah.  Sure."

I’d bought about thirty dollars’ worth of yogurt and frozen fruit and cake mix and all other sorts of additional supplies to make them earlier-promised smoothies and fare for a going away/end of summer party.  We had some homemade pasta sauce left over from the cooking program the day before; lunch was going to be a surprise based on a mutual deal — they help make the program space sparkling clean in the first hour of program time, and instead of going down to the local elementary for the free lunch we make spaghetti and sauce and fresh veggies and garlic bread.  None of that works particularly well as picnic food, especially since some kids have to be monitored by an adult staff until their parents can get them — I had seven kids like that Friday, whose parents said that it was totally okay for them to participate in a non-official hangout while club was closed as long as they were with an adult.  If I can’t let them into the club I can’t exactly make the food.

So we rearranged things.  They hung out on the porch for another hour, with the windows open.  I handed through board games, paper, crayons, water, cups.  One of the kids had their makeup kit and did makeovers and temp tattoos from a box of words that looked a bit like a magnetic poetry kit.  I went back and forth to monitor them and make a cake out of a box.  I leaned out the window with my arm dangling to get a tattoo that was put together just for me: “Imagine happy things.”  I had already started crying a little twice while they were there, because I’d miss them.  All the kids thought it was hilarious.

We walked downtown together and got pizza.  I’m pretending I don’t remember how much I spent on pizza for the sake of my mental health.  I brought the cake with me and we had it there.

We came back to the park, I brought the board games and crayons and paper and water and cups.  We couldn’t use it in smoothies, so the kids whose parents wanted them in my sight hung out on the porch while I grabbed the watermelon I’d bought and cut it up to bring over.  For a couple of hours, the kids played tag and laid on the grass.  My makeover turned into making me into the Tin Man with the existence of silver stage makeup.  I still don’t know why she had silver stage makeup. 

I walked the kids home who needed an escort, because we ended early so I could get the program space clean on my own.  I met cats and baby nephews and chatted with parents.  I gave out my new mailing address and my email.  The girl who gave me the makeover insisted on walking back with me to the program space, cried, pretended she wasn’t crying, laughed, asked a hundred times if she could just come in and help me clean and we didn’t have to tell anybody.  She was okay when she finally did leave; I didn’t want to rush her so we sat on the program space sidewalk for a little while.

Cleaning didn’t start until five.  It lasted until past seven.  Over at the main program space they were staying open for the kids until 11pm, and it was like one big party, with dance music and a conga line and everyone ready to close out the summer and get ready for the fall.  I gave my email to a staff I’ve had a crush on since I started working there because I was too nervous and awkward to give my phone number.  She actually invited me to stay in that program space and watch the movie they’d just started upstairs, but I had to get home to finish cleaning out.  But I’m glad I got to be there — it’s a place that I’d want to stay into the morning if I could, so I can’t imagine how cool it must have been for some of the teens that were using it.

In the parking lot, on the way to my car, a girl probably about 7 or 8 years old was jumping up and down screaming excitedly to her dad about what someone had done in the program space skate park. 

One of my kids gave me stick-on earrings yesterday, and I’m still wearing one.

Am I sad to go?  Well, I may have started crying a bit while writing the end of this.  But more than anything, I’m glad I was a part of it.  I’m glad that I had the chance to see that programs like this exist, and how they operate, and how much they do for the kids that need them.  No matter how frustrating some moments may have been, this is a good organization for kids — and if you asked me privately I could even tell you which it was.

I’m glad this place exists.  That’s the feeling I’m walking away with.  And even though I’m going to miss my kids, even though the last day we weren’t even technically open — everything felt like it closed out the right way. 

I just hope they take it easy on the new person.

But they won’t.

And when the new person shows them that they can take it, that they’re stubborn, that they care enough to stay, that person will start to become important to these kids, too.  Whether or not the kids will admit it.

Filed under education youth youth programs leaving crying less than I thought I would

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Today’s accomplishment was keeping a particular group of girls from physically assaulting one another through the whole of the day.

It took both staff members, watchful eyes, some very conscious seating arrangements with the van, and a land-to-water relay race between the two of us to head off what quickly escalated into a screaming match but never made it to attempted drowning.

These are not young girls, mind.  These are teenagers who probably think they could beat me to the ground if they felt like it (and, since I would be likely unallowed to defend myself, get some pretty good damage in).

So this was one heck of an accomplishment today, and I feel like we did pretty darned well.

Filed under education sometimes this is the job youth

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When one student in particular — the source of the issue that had me walking another student home at the end of the night — is angry with someone, he hits them wherever it will hurt the most, specifically and especially in regard to identity, whether it be race, gender, sexuality, whatever.  And last week, because of some severe and persistent issues, he was told he could not come back this week until Friday.

My supervisor, the only other youth worker at the site (it’s a small site), is genderqueer.  It isn’t something that’s felt important to mention, because so far it hasn’t been.  But today written in the dirt on the side of someone’s car facing the building was “f*ck you queer” (sans the censorship) and on the other, “big deak woman” (deak being a misspelling of a similar-sounding anatomy).

We took a glass of water to it, then a spray bottle, and finally hazarded a paper towel (we’d been reluctant, in case it was alarmed).  And I have to hand it to her…though it obviously bothered her, her first verbal response was “And it’s not even my car.  Like what, they seriously think I drive a giant blue Subaru?”

Filed under education youth lgbtq

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The kids will either begrudgingly get a kick out of me, or wish I’d just disappear.

I LOVE BAD JOKES. I tell one to my students everyday. What diid the buffalo say when his son left for school? Bison.

Hee hee hee!

I’m thinking of purchasing an additional white board, a small one, probably from the dollar store or something, to put up in the program space just for a daily cheesy joke.  This one…is definitely going to have to go up there.

Filed under education youth bad jokes puns

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Accidentally Earned Props

Today there was no school, so I met the kids and my boss at a larger branch of the program, with enough space for things like a skate park, multiple game tables, and a music room.

The music room stays locked.  And when a few of the kids asked if they could use it I didn’t think twice about getting the keys and hanging out in there with them (supervision required, expensive equipment).  It’s a small enough space, and the major attractions despite a couple of larger more expensive pieces and a host of others are the two full drum sets and the electric guitar. 

If they could put the amp on that thing to 11 they would, but it only went to ten.  As it was, I had to remind them that drums are not impervious to damage, and that purposely wailing on them as hard as possible counted as misuse and would cost them the sticks.

I didn’t know any better, but apparently most staff put time limits on that room, because their hearing can’t stand it for long chunks of time.  We went for a few rounds of different kids switching out on the instruments, always both drum sets included, until they all found other things to do and it was just me and a girl with a karaoke mic.  She sang me an unfinished original, and then we shut it down.

One of the staff members I was chatting with later told me that the staff were occasionally asking each other if I was still in there and hadn’t I come out yet with a certain sense of awe.  I outlasted everyone.  I told her it was because I have two younger brothers who both made the rounds of drumsets and electric instruments — one has a friend in a band (and thus the whole band comes over back at home) and the other did a brief stint on the bagpipes.

Now they’ve got me on tap next time our group is over there if anyone needs the music room.  That, and I outlasted some of the tougher-to-get-to-know kids from my group and, as a result, won a couple of them over.  I’ve got a headache now the size of Texas, but that’s pretty much worth it.

Filed under education loud thank goodness those amps did NOT go to 11 youth youth center headache

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The one major downside: boundaries.

It’s difficult to tell where they are and how to enforce them.  I’m used to, for better or worse, a very different work environment.

One of the oldest students walked over and said “I do this to all the workers,” to which the others in the room agreed — before she picked me up bridal style, then put me back down on a couch because I was flailing.

But then, this same student also got right in my face and made a vague challenge to me with a big friendly smile when no one was in the room.  None of the other students have broken that personal bubble.  And I put her in her place very firmly, without being harsh or inappropriate.  Just a basic “This is not how you treat a staff member.  You need to remember that I am staff.”

Later I checked in on it when she was sweet as pie, noted personal space etc., she sheepishly agreed, and we’ll see what happens tomorrow. 

Filed under education youth youth center job switch personal space physicality