Chronicles of an Educator

We are hearing but not listening to our youth

30th Dec 2019
Teshil (as an Outward Bound instructor) describes an anecdote of one of his interaction with a young boy aged 15. The anecdote was revealing to Teshil in that it reinforced the belief that he holds dearly; the role of an educator is highly critical in today's world.
During a 5 days outdoor character building program, one of my participants was named X. X is a typical 15 years old boy who is socially awkward in bigger group settings. He needs time to warm up to people. As part of the 5 days program, there are tasks that require the whole team to help, but X hardly took the initiative. I kept reminding myself to be patient and that this behavior is quite normal for this age group. For some, just managing oneself is already a big challenge.

The beauty of outdoor education is that it brings people together through fun and meaningful activities
On day 3 of the program, X surprised me by volunteering to be the leader of the day. There was hope! Yet, he still did not help the team when there were some group tasks to be done. Intrigued and unable to comprehend his behaviour, I pulled him to the side and asked him

'Why are you not helping the rest when you voluntarily stepped up as the leader?'

His reply left me puzzled.

X: 'Instructor, I don't know how to help'

Wait a minute, did he just say that he does not know how to help? At that age!

Me: 'What do you mean by that? Just help them.'

X: 'How do I do that?'

Me: 'Well you could either approach somebody to ask him/her whether he/she needs help with the task at hand or shout out loud 'anybody needs help? I am free.' '

X: 'Ok thank you'
I do not know whether I was more surprised by the question he asked or by the fact that he followed my advice word for word. He literally approached his friends one by one and asked them whether they needed help and when they said yes, he had this glow on his face.
I would have never imagined that such a simple social skill was something unfamiliar for some of our youths. We are now interacting more virtually that we miss out on the social skills involved in physical face-to-face interaction. In retrospect, I am happy that I did not judge his actions but instead sought to find out why he was behaving as such. We often forget that what seems straightforward to us is not to others. At the end of the 5 days programme, X wrote me a note: 'without a doubt, you are honestly the best teacher and I mean the best instructor throughout my entire life'

I did not do anything fancy nor did I teach him anything mind-blowing. I was simply there to understand and guide him. Let's all consciously seek to understand our youth; a small step on our part can mean a lot to them.
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