My specialty is not kids. Usually speaking, for all that I may be complimented with certain moments of positive interaction between myself and those of a single digit age, I do not engage by choice. However on Friday, despite my inner anxieties, it was a delightful process to interact with the twenty young people and see how I and the other facilitators there handled the situation. To an extent, we were short changed due to some unforeseen complications to the point that most of us did not get to engage the youth with our activities. From a retrospective point, I would have said yes, huzzah I have escaped. However, after having stepped into the positive energy of the space and seeing the warmed up youth it did make me feel saddened that we were not able to interact with them through our principles of Nonviolence activities.
For future reference, I can and will refer to this experience as a jumping off point of practical experience in order to help me focus my thoughts when designing materials but also what to hypothetically expect from a room full of youth. I have to keep in mind that they are a group of brilliant minded developing people and they are only as intimidating as I allow myself to think that they are.
Have you ever had a million thoughts flying around in your head at one time but since so much is going on you don’t have time to sort through them so you have to just…focus? We were in a room full of children that probably scarcely see stability, rarely get to speak, and hardly ever get listened to, and we are supposed to teach them. Sometimes I get nervous to do workshops for young people. I imagine myself in their shoes and think about what I look like to them. Someone interrupting their daily routine to try and convince them to be peaceful. What if they are surrounded by violence and my attempt to shine some type of light is looked at as a pitiful attempt at fixing something they’re used to being forced to give up on? I’m looking at these kids as they look at me like “what can you possibly teach me that I can use?” it’s a sink or swim type of thing. Either you jump in without fear or they will eat you alive. Children sense fear; they can tell when things are genuine and they can tell when you’re there because you have to be. I refused to be eaten alive. I looked at them as if they were my own little brothers and sisters. I imagined that my own little brother was in the room asking me how to cope with his father ignoring his cries for help. Asking me what to do when he wants to scream back at his mother. When he asks why he shouldn’t fight the boy who picks on him in class, and I begin the exercise. I remember that there’s no need to be afraid that they reject our advice because as a kid, all you really want is someone to talk to. An adult to take you seriously. With every event we do I gain more and more experience with things like maintaining attention, how much is too much animation, or how to calm down the crowd. It felt good to be there. To see the kids raising their hands to answer questions and watch them pay attention to the other interns. It was frustrating to be put out of the room before we could finish the workshop. Especially by the Tulane students who rudely rushed us out of the room to teach a dance class that was clearly put on for service hours instead of a genuine interest. But I refused to let that keep my spirit down. So when the kids asked the question that all the kids end up asking at the end, “will you be back next week?” – I said yes. I can’t sit here complaining that the other people that are there don’t really care and then in turn don’t come back. So I asked Mr. Guy if I can come back on my own to do creative writing workshops. With his okay I came back the next week and had my first session with the kids. We sat in the room for an hour and a half and discussed the lyrics to Tupac’s song Dear Mama and talked about the ways they personally relate to the lyrics. By the end of my workshop one of the kids told me “this is what we need man, a place to just let go.” Those words made it all worth it.
Follow the link for more pictures at the Boys and Girls Club