tower block and tree
November 18th, 2011

When Worlds Collide

I (Fiona) moved to Tower Hamlets 5 years ago to do youth work and for me that also meant wanting to become part of the local community. I naively thought that being accepted by people meant becoming like them. It didn’t take me very long to realise that however much I dropped my t’s and shopped at the local market, this wasn’t possible! I’m different or ‘posh’ as I am regularly reminded. I’m never going to have had the experience of growing up in the inner city or many of the other experiences that my young people have faced – good and bad. I’m always going to be Fiona who grew up in a village and as a child, played in fields rather on than building sites. But what I also realised was that this was ok and being different didn’t mean that I couldn’t fit in or be accepted and in fact I am more able to connect with people when I embrace who I am and where I’ve come from and am honest about it.

In a recent conversation with another youth worker we found ourselves discussing the fact that as much as we can never be ‘like’ the young people we work with, neither can they ever, or should they ever, be ‘like’ us. As youth workers we need to be careful that in our desire to see young people progress, we aren’t placing expectations on them to become ‘like’ us. As adults and professional reflective practitioners we have put careful consideration into the values and principles that we live and work by. But our role is not to impose these on the young people we work with, however much we believe in them, but to enable young people to develop their own set of values and to have integrity in living them out. This doesn’t necessarily mean they will be in conflict with our own values but we need to be prepared for this to be the case.