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7 Habits of Highly Effective Youth Workers

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Dear Friends and Readers, 

I have never actually read the “7 Habits” books. I have read the tables of content, which told me the 7 habits, and I inferred the rest. (If you are interested in reading the books or their tables of content, you can find them here).

Never the less, here is my list of 7 habits of highly effective youth workers. I will save you the time of having to read a whole book and just give you the highlights. 

  1. Know Names. Use Names. Kids need to know that they are important to you, and not just another face in a crowd. Stop and talk with them. Ask them about their day. And when you do, use their names. 
  2. Manage Your Time Effectively. Every youth worker has too much to do and too little time. Manage your time well, be willing to say ‘no’, and do less better. You will make a bigger impact and lessen stress.
  3. Have High Standards. The grocery store that is near my house has posters for their employees that say “Engage 80% of Your Customers!” Who is inspired to strive for anything less than the best? Expect your kids to be responsible every time, and more often than not, they will. 
  4. Have Empathy and Understanding. Being a kid is hard. Kids have no control over their environment, are just learning to navigate their social worlds, and are constantly needing to adapt to the expectations of different adults in their lives. Remember that being a kid is hard, and that when you discipline a child, they are often just learning the rules and expectations. 
  5. Practice Creativity. Creativity isn’t just developing fun and new programs or activities. It isn’t just making your spaces look nice or having a great logo for your organization. Creativity is finding the best possible solution the the problems that arise every day. Be willing to think openly, seek the opinions of others, gather as much knowledge as possible, record all of your thoughts and ideas, and follow through on implementing them. 
  6. Be Genuine. Kids want to know you. They want to be your friend. Let them. Be yourself and have fun around them. Be honest when they ask you questions. They will see through you if you don’t, and they will have trouble connecting with you and respecting you if you never open up. 
  7. Be Consistent. Adults come and go in the life of a kid at least once a year. Kids spend 8 hours a day with a teacher, and 9 months later, get a new one. Kids have family and youth workers and friends who are constantly changing. Rules and expectations are constantly changing as well. I once read a book that said nonprofit/ministry organizations and workers rarely make a lasting impact on a community unless they are there for 15 years or more. Stick with it for the long-haul. Create positive and lasting organizational culture. Have traditions. Have rules and expectations that don’t change. Be consistent. 
What “habits” are the most important in your work?

~Miss Brenda

Hey Girl…

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Dear friends and readers, 

So it is confession time. I love… LOVE… LOVE the Ryan Gosling “Hey Girl” pictures. I think they are hilarious. I have even considered making my own for this dear old blog of mine. Unfortunately, the combination of the “he is hitting on you” style of writing, and references to children… VERY CREEPY. Also, Ryan Gosling? Really? Don’t get me wrong, he is one good looking fellow. But of all the men in the world, him? I don’t get it. 

Anyway, I wanted to reblog my favorite “Hey Girl” so far… This one comes to you from http://librarianheygirl.tumblr.com//  Enjoy!

~Miss Brenda

Harry Potter Theme

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Hello Friends and Readers, 

I solemnly swear that I am up to no good. Last spring, we at the Boys and Girls Club offered a “Parent’s Night Out.” This was an opportunity for parents to pay a small fee (to offset the cost of their child’s dinner) and have their member stay at The Club for the evening. Our theme was “Harry Potter.” 

At least half of our staff (including myself), LOVE Harry Potter and our kids do too! I will not lie, Miss Brenda was VERY burned out at this point during the spring, and the day leading up to Harry Potter Night was a wee bit stressful. Fortunately, staff were all “characters” from Harry Potter and I was Professor McGonagall. Being a bit uptight and cranky just became part of my act. 

Here is how we did it: 

  1. Decorations:
    • Rooms were labeled with signs that said “Great Hall,” “Potions Dungeon,” and “Quidditch Field.” 
    • We re-created house’s crests hanging from the ceiling above . 
    • We draped maroon, gold and white sheets over the “head table.” 
    • We lit candles (out of reach of children!)
  2. Staff Characters: 
    • Staff dressed up as characters or just general witches and wizards. 
    • One staff dressed up as Peeves the Poltergeist and caused trouble all night long. 
  3. Icebreakers: 
    • Harry Potter Trivia
    • Harry Potter Would You Rather
  4. Sorting: 
    • We printed “Gryffindor” and “Slytherin” in appropriate brave and snake like fonts onto gold mailing labels. 
    • One staff called up youth one by one, placed a witch’s hat on their head, and yelled out the name of a house. 
    • We used only Griffendor and Slytherin because it was easier to have just 2 groups. 
  5. Wand Making:
    • After dinner, kids all received a pretzel rod and rolled it in frosting and sprinkles. Voila dessert! 
  6. Potions: 
    • Our staff “Snape” taught potions. 
    • We made geysers with Mentos and Coke. 
    • Kids combined types of Koolaid to make their own Polyjuice Potion.
  7. Quidditch: 
    • Dodgeballs = Bludgers, Volleyball = Quaffle, Super Balls = Snitch. We used multiple “Snitches” because it was too easy to find just one. 
    • We had hoops with nets attached from a different bean-bag toss style game that we used for the goals. 
    • Kids were divided into two different teams (Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff). They wore jerseys in the house’s colors. 
    • We played multiple quick games so that everyone got to play seeker. 
  8. Broomstick Relays:
    • We took our brooms from throughout the Boys and Girls Club and had kids do classic run back and forth relays between cones. 
    • To switch it up a bit, we had kids also weave back and forth between the cones.
  9. Make Your Own Mythical Creatures: 
    •  We never got to this activity because of time, but here is what was planned… 
    • Using recyclables and art supplies, have kids build their own mythical creatures (in small groups of 4-6)
    • On a sheet of paper, have each group write the name of their creature and a quick description (including things like: where it lives, what it’s special powers are, what it eats, etc.)

Mischief Managed. 

~Miss Brenda

“Mud Pie” Camp Theme

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Hello Friends and Readers, 

When I lead the four year old camp at the YMCA, one of our themes was “Mud Pie.” I am a firm believer that at camp (and pretty much any other time that kids play outside), kids should get dirty! During “Mud Pie” week? They were definitely going to be a mess. If you are super particular about kids staying clean, you might want to stop reading now. Here was my disclaimer for kids and parents:

Dear Parents,

It is such a joy to have your child as one of our Little Big Leaders at YMCA Camp this week! We are so glad that your child is able to join us. Thank you for your support!

We wanted to let you know that this week is “Mud Pie” week and we will be getting fairly messy. We will have projects that include mud, sand and clay, and on Wednesday we will be having a “mudslide.” We will do our best to give children and their clothing a good wash with water, but would greatly appreciate your help in making sure nice clothing does not get ruined.

We request that they do not wear any nice clothing, do not wear any white clothing, and bring an extra pair of pants/shorts and an extra shirt.  We will rinse and soak any clothing that gets muddy, but will need something for your child to wear for the rest of the day. They may still be wet and covering their car seat with a towel would be wise as well.

Thank you so much!

Miss Brenda

Here are some of the ways that we made sure to fulfill our promise that kids would be a mess: 

  • Making Mud Pies
  • Burying Counselors in Sand
  • Playing in a “Mud Box” (instead of a sand box)
  • Making Mud Finger Paintings (with mud mixed with tempra paint)
  • Making/Eating Dirt Pudding
  • Having a “Mud Slide” (a slip n slide without the plastic)
  • Making Pinch Pots (with air dry clay)
  • Making Sand Castles
  • Playing “Stuck in the Mud” (freeze tag)

Even our dolled up preschool princesses got excited about this week! I am very much of the persuasion that if you make a child at least try something, they will end up enjoying it at least 75% of the time. They only activity that kids were wary of was the “clean mud.” They all wanted to keep washing their hands to get the “mess” of soapy water off!

What is your favorite messy game? 

~Miss Brenda

MYSTERY DAY: Preteen Girls

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Hello Friends and Readers,

A few years back, I was co-leading a small group of 5th and 6th grade girls at my church. Our 5th and 6th graders were in a separate Sunday school/youth group so that we could focus more on that awkward transition from elementary age child to pre-teen. It was great!

While mainly my role was to spend time with a group of about 10 girls on Sunday mornings, my co-leader and I also planned a few events for the girls outside of normal Sunday morning programming.

One such night was our MYSTERY DAY. Here is what we did:

  1. Went on a Treasure Hunt.
    • I was living in an apartment on campus at the time, and that is where we met. I drew a map of the university and cut it up like a puzzle.
    • The girls each received an envelope with a different piece of the map.
    • They had to work together to figure out what the map was saying and then walked around campus searching for the clues that were at different landmarks. The clues lead us all around campus to give them a tour, and then back to my apartment. 
  2. Ate food (because fellowship isn’t true fellowship without food!)
  3. Watched Nancy Drew. I am a complete coward when it comes to scary movies. I held the girls hands… or rather, they held my hand.

It was a ton of fun! The girls got to know one another during the treasure hunt and then after “breaking the ice” with a more formal/structured activity, we just spent time hanging out.

~Miss Brenda

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