This is a question that often arises; how can we normalise non-religious, meaningful connection to the self, to the other, to nature, personal awareness, integrity, accountability, passion…? How do we help catch the fiery energy of adolescence and help young people to harness it for personal and moral development from the inside out? Without an enforced ‘you will / you must…’
I have yet to meet a young person who actually wants to be a young git!
A three way approach is needed to influence long term change; what I call Bottom up, Top down and Middle out.
Bottom up – we need community-led mentoring groups, that create their own unique mentoring approach whilst working with Journeyman’s central hub in order to be safe, well run, compliant and have good governance. These mentoring circles will be run by local groups of volunteers who show up for the teenagers in a structured way, whilst having the freedom to respond in the moment to the needs of the group and whatever issues/discussion points come up. These groups are not curriculum driven and have no outcomes other than to support the boys to develop a healthy sense of self, support them to make positive life choices and develop emotional literacy. .
Top Down – by affecting social policy, we can work to influence improved outcomes for children and young people in relation to their wellbeing. For example, we support campaigning to incorporate awareness and leadership programmes for every child as a core curriculum requirement in schools (see the Youth Leadership Trust, the Education Endowment Fund).Having Ofsted wanting evidence of young people engaged in circle time with adults, developing emotional intelligence and self-awareness, and marking stages of life through transition events would be a great step forward. This pushes against the inertia of business as usual, which is given a shove up the backside through regulation.
Middle Out – working with parents and carers, plus service providers, schools and colleges, supporting them to up their game and extend the spectrum of outcomes they work towards . Some schools are now posting meaningful outcomes alongside their Ofsted reports, in relation to well-being, happiness, inclusivity, social engagement, creativity and so on.
Sometimes we blame ‘them’, the authorities, for our own narrow, fearful behaviour. In my previous job as a Facilities Manager at a Steiner School, my school department was audited and when Ofsted came to our school it was praised for its healthy risk taking (iron ore smelting using clay and charcoal in the woods, fire jumping festivals, building projects, performing parts of plays in process, school trip in Scotland – deserted island survival). I was thanked by the inspector for allowing her to help me succeed in my part of the inspection. The school was praised for its healthy culture, social cohesion and healthy risk taking. We also successfully fought off the move to make computing in nursery school s compulsory, which has benefitted many young children.
This is where I learnt we need to ‘dance with the devil’, and that by working in partnership with authorities, you can become more efficient and robust as an organisation. . By entering the belly of the beast we effect more social change than staying on the outside being better than them. To do this, capacity needs to grow, and what better way than through increasing the numbers of local, grassroots mentoring groups?
So, are you called to play your part? And are you prepared to take the risk to go through what it will take, no matter what is fate throws up at you, so that you can embrace your destiny, and ‘dare to be great?’ Will you be the adult that made some small difference to a young person, and reap the rewards for them, yourself and our culture?
“Fate is the mistake that was meant to happen. It’s the accident that was no accident. I was a studious kid but also a troublemaker. My aunt asked what I was interested in, and I said, “History.” So she went to a bookstore — she may have been the first person in my family ever to go to a bookstore — and bought me a history book. As I was tearing off the wrapping paper, she said, “Oh, I got the wrong book. It’s a mistake. I’ll take it back.” But I saw Pegasus, the winged horse, flying across the cover and said, “No! I want this book.” It was Mythology, by Edith Hamilton, the first book I ever owned and the beginning of my understanding the world through a mythological point of view. There it was by mistake, by accident, by fate, on my thirteenth birthday: the book I needed to have.”
Journeyman UK is a mentoring charity, dedicated to supporting boys aged 13 to 17 to discover their unique potential and apply their gifts in service to themselves, each other and their community at large.