In the world of volunteering, there are countless opportunities to work with the kiddies. With over 2.2 billion kids on the planet, you´re bound to come across projects with them as the focus. Education, health care, cultural and linguistic projects overwhelm the databases with ways to contribute to the lives of children.
They’re awesome, fun, energetic, and not to mention- our future.
They also make you wanna rip your hair out. No work is harder than trying to organize 50 12-year-olds. Like kittens in a basket, they´re all over the place. Hats off to all the teachers out there with orderly classrooms and successful lesson plans!
Here is compiled some tips for making your child-focused experience a little easier, a little more fun, and ultimately, a little more successful:
1. Use the space you have to communicate that its kid-friendly, and that you want them around. Child-height signage, colorful and fun appearance, but avoid being patronizing. They smell it from a mile away.
2. Avoid negative talk. Try trading ´DO NOT´ rules with ´DO´ rules. Positivity is always a better way to go. Additionally, everyone likes breaking the rules. As soon as some door is off limits, its the first one to be opened.
3. Embrace the noise. In modern learning environments, social and collaborative learning is encouraged. Try to focus the talk, not eliminate it.
4. Be hands on, make sure the children are actively involved in the lesson. They’re attention spans are even shorter than adults, so giving them a responsibility, something to touch and participate in, is best. Also, this can engage children with different styles of learning.
5. Know and engage in all styles of learning! Change it up- some are auditory, some are visual, some are tactile. Use all methods in order to reach the widest audience.
6. Make connections. Don’t just talk to them as a group, but forge individual relationships. I don’t necessarily mean outside of the project, just make sure they know you know who they are, and have interest in them as people.
7. BE PREPARED. This means with materials, with alternative lesson plan ideas so you’re not stuck with just one when it doesn’t work, be prepared to answer tough questions.
8. The most important day is the first one. Set the tone, let them know who you are, that you´re there for them, and that it´ll be fun. Also.. in a smooth way.. let them know who the boss is (you).
9. Have consequences and rewards. Everyone has their own way or recognizing good and bad behavior- but be sure to address it.
10. Have lots of patience. Some of us are born with the natural ability to not be affected by the difficulty and frustration that comes with working with the littler ones, and some of us (me) are really not. But breathe. Take a break, and a step back, be rational and kind. Laugh it off. The day will end and there will be a new opportunity tomorrow, try not to take the challenges they present you too personally.
As always, remember what you´re there for.
It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.