Professional Development

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How to Make Caring Cool

Monday, 16 September 2013 00:00

Kids want to feel safe and cared for both in and out of school. Some children don't receive the loving care they should when they get home so who will be the one who will care for them? You. Take some time and check out these helpful tips for caring for kids in your program and teaching them how to care for others too. 

1. Gift / Interest / Passion + Issue = Change

  • Gift / Interest / Passion: Help young people by encouraging them to follow their interests. What are the types of 'gifts' they feel they might have (gifts can be an intimidating wordbut think of this as 'what are you interested in doing a lot of, and what do you like doing?' Maybe it's a sport, maybe its art, maybe its organizing things...)
  • Issue: There are SO many problems in the world, but the biggest problem is not doing anything about them. So support young people in picking an issue they care about and learning as much as they can about that issue.
  • Change: When you take your gifts / interests / passions and you connect them to the issue you care about—youth have the potential to initiate change.

2. Your Program Can Role Model "Caring is Cool" Right Now!

  • Show that your program is interested in "caring" all the time. Make it apart of your program instead of something that happens one day a year.
  • How to Role Model "Caring is Cool" all the time: Stay up-to-date on current affairs, and include young people in the learning and conversation. Every day, offer a newspaper article, video, book, documentary, website, statistic, study, or resources where students are seeing how "caring" is making a difference in the world.
  • Sign up to get a weekly article sent to your inbox about social issues and current affairs, with youth focused discussion questions to follow the articles:

3. ASK young people what they care about right now. Start with what they know. ASK them to get involved. Sometimes we forget to do that!

  •  Ask them questions about why they care about the things they care about. Facilitate an opportunity for your young people to share with each other the types of things they all care about. Listening to others talk about their passions breads more passion.
  • If a young person doesn't know what they care about or can't identify anything—ask them a different question (that gets at the same sort of answer). Ask "What bothers you in your community right now", "What is really frustrating you at your school, in your community, in your town, state, country, and/or world"? Follow with this question, "okay, so why does that frustrate you?" and as you continue to probe, you'll be able to uncover what that young person cares about.
  • Empathy builds compassion. Compassion builds peace. Create ways for your young people "be in the shoes" of others, so they can truly understand the world from different perspectives.

4. Social Issues Research Project

  • Start Local: Present real problems that are facing our local community right now and as young people "What can we do about this?" Sometimes the best thing to do is to problem solve the real issues that are facing your community right now. And by involving your young people in the conversation and the solution making, then they "own" the problem and therefore want to take responsibility for the solution.
  • Local Social Issue Research Projects: After role modeling how you can present a problem and involve everyone in potential solutions, ask your youth to do a five minute presentation on an issue they identify in your community. What are the five W's (Who, What, Where, Why, When) and How's of the issue. Then brainstorm as a group what possible solutions there are to these small issues.
  • Do a Needs Assessment: Now that your young people are turned onto the idea that issues to exist in the community and that they might be able to help—issue a "needs assessment" survey in your community. Ask the people in your school or community what are the issues they see and want to fix. Ask people if they have ideas on how they want to fix these issues. Include their ideas for solutions.

5. Go Global: Do something similar to the Local Social Issue Research Project, but have your young people look at the problems facing the global world.

6. Pick an Issue the group cares about. Make a Plan. Take Action.
It's important to constantly DO. Talking about issues is important, but experiencing what it means to see and understand issues and to try to make them better is what makes the most impact for young people.

  • Always find time to talk about the experience and what youth learned from taking action.
  • Take what youth learn from one experience into the next.

7. Connect Caring to the Calendar

  •  Find ways to connect with holidays, birthdays, historical events, political events, sporting events, and more. It makes planning more fun and relevant!

8. Bring outside to you. Go outside:

  • Invite guest speakers in to come and talk to your young people about the social issues they face, or the understanding they have about social issues.
  • Go on field trips to better understand social issues facing your community. Ask questions. How did it come to be like this? What are solutions to making this better? What's working? What's not? What can we do to make it better?

9. Success Stories from Youth!

  • Share stories of hope! Find examples of young people make positive change in their communities, addressing local and global social issues and making real impact!
  • Check out how Free The Children and Me to We got started with the story of the Co-Founder, Craig Kielburger at the age of 12

10. Have Fun!

  • Keep it student centered, celebrate successes often. Include youth in all aspects of planning. Have your youth "drive" the fun! Choose themes, have music, be flexible, reinforce positive behaviors, laugh, and enjoy eachother as you make collective positive change.

Source: Hannah Feldberg, Director of Leadership and Service Learning at Me To We. Image courtesy Me To We.


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