Youth are vivacious, innovative, enterprising, hardworking and adorable! Yet they perpetually seem to be getting into trouble with parents, teachers and elders. When I look closely at each of my encounters with youth, I find that I have a lot to learn for myself, about how to deal with them, especially when I as an educator want to draw out the best in them together with achieving the goals I dream for them and imparting some of the values and principles I live by.
Youth have always been a bundle of energy, who enter into a web of relationships each day. Not all of these relationships are cordial and growth producing! My life as an educator has helped me to ponder, struggle and find a few answers and helps to make such strained relationships truly positive and growth inducing.
My treasure trove of experience with youth has taught me a few tricks of the trade. I begin with self- disclosure, telling them a little about myself, who I am, my role as an educator and my methodology of teaching by example. I communicate to them that I am available for them 24X7 as a friend and guide. We teach each other and I learn from them as much or more than what they learn from me. I ask them to share something about themselves which will impact the others around and help us to remember them. This helps me to understand the person, find out where s/he is hurting or needs healing and go about in a concerted manner to slowly fill in the gaps whenever and if possible.
I live by a few dictums which I gently help youth to see, understand and imbibe. This I do in a fun-filled manner in order to make it acceptable. For example:
- God does not make junk. Each of us is unique. We all have a purpose in life which no one else can fulfil. Life is worth living, to be faced boldly as only cowards quit.
- Nothing is impossible as every problem has a solution and the essence of life is to find or work out the right solution to every problem.
- There is no substitute for hard work. We ought to put in our best and leave the rest to God. Each of us is the maker of our own destiny.
- Miracles take place daily. We have to cultivate the eyes and heart to recognize them in our lives. We are God’s hands and feet as He works miracles through us for others and vice versa.
- We ought to live in peace and harmony with all God’s creatures by finding God in everything and everything in God. Treating human beings as persons, not as commodities or a piece of furniture is the secret to life.
Youth are live wires teeming with energy and enthusiasm. Disrespectful engagement or non-engagement depletes their energy, eats away their reserves of innovation, motivation and commitment and worse still increases burnout while generating a large amount of negative energy. My heart bleeds, when I even think about the unemployed educated youth of our nation. No wonder there is such anomie in society!
The key to transforming the youth of today into enlightened citizens and leaders of tomorrow is to build and nurture what could be called ‘high-quality connections’ – marked by mutual positive regard, trust and active engagement. This will enable the young to instinctively feel more open, alive, competent and brimming with ideas. They are thus ready to give, the very best of themselves generously, readily and positively. Besides it will also ensure a friendly, co-operative, productive and conducive atmosphere all around.
Encouraging respectful engagement among the young creates a sense of social dignity that confirms everyone’s self worth and re-affirms competence. It empowers and energizes youth giving them a heightened sense of their abilities. Conveying a sense of personal presence, being genuine, communicating affirmation, effective listening and supportive and helpful communication are five major strategies educators of today can employ to foster respect and thus encourage quality connections among youth. Used in conjunction, these tools can help eliminate the corrosive relationships that sap youth of their creative zest, often pushing them to indulge in temporary pleasures, relief, vices or even suicide.
It is very important to convey a sense of personal presence to youth. Psychological availability, eye contact, turning one’s full attention to youth, helps in activating a synergizing sense of mutual connection and making contact with them leads to positive emotion.
As educators dealing with youth let us greet them with a smile, help them decipher a positive love filled culture, ensure that they have access to interesting tasks and introduce them to the ‘right’ people. By being their advocate at their side, encouraging them to provide input, expressing interest in all they do and providing them with dozens of personal contact points we can help them forge ahead. Once youth feel at home in the environment around and experience love, they reciprocate with whole hearted love, give their very best and astound all with a cornucopia of pleasant surprises. God bless all youth. They are indeed a blessing! They keep us young. This Christmas, let us make our youth feel honoured by taking the time and trouble to notice them and give our very best to them.
May you feel young at Christmas and all through the New Year. Happy Christmas 2014 and a youth filled New Year 2015 full of youthful surprises.
Dr (Sr) Mudita Menona Sodder RSCJ
Patna, Bihar, India