Getting started working with young people
Everyone has their own particular set of skills, preferred way of learning, and individual needs that influence how they respond to any given situation. This is true of YAC members, and if you don’t have much experience of leading groups of young people it can be a steep learning curve! Working with young people is something you get better at with practice, so long as you take the time to think about what you are doing and how you can do it better. Here are our top tips to get you started:
- Learn from your members: observe how they respond to different activities and ask them for feedback. What would they like to be doing?
- Learn from your team: YAC volunteers come from a wide range of backgrounds and your team is likely to include at least one person with experience working with young people.
- Vary your activities: give your Branch members the chance to do the things they’re good at as well as to learn new skills by including a range of activities in your sessions. If one activity involves reading or writing, for example, make sure the others include hands-on crafts, exploration, experiments or drawing.
- Allow members to choose: let them move freely between a range of activities so that they can spend time on things they find most engaging.
- Celebrate their differences: praise their achievements and ideas, especially if they’re not at all what you were expecting! Try to get to know the young people in your Branch and appreciate their individual skills and personalities.
- Think about how you communicate: be consistent and clear, and check their understanding. If you’re talking about, for example, geophysics, instead of either assuming they know what that is, or assuming they don’t and telling them, try asking if anyone in the group can explain it to the others.
- Be careful with humour: while humour is a great part of working with young people, be aware that some young people may not fully understand facial expressions or tone of voice, jokes, metaphors and sarcasm. Something you say in jest may be taken seriously or literally by a young person. Don’t be worried about using humour; just be aware of how people respond.
- Finally, remember that your members are there to enjoy themselves! Archaeology is brilliant because it gives people the chance to get out of their seats and learn by doing, getting mud on their boots and under their fingernails. Try to include really ‘active’ activities in every session.