Thursday, 26 August 2010

Strike Two!

I have had a second article published... this time on "Dawn Comes," the blog of some friends who are doing a brilliant job writing and publishing articles from all over the world, and I feel very privileged to have been asked to write for them :) They post something every week, usually on a Tuesday. Have a look here.

I have a fun story coming about the acquisition of my new house (woop!). It's been quite an adventure. Hopefully get it written up at the weekend.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

M:Powered by Cod for Life

... so said the pens that were once printed for the summer camp- unlucky the print just wasn't clear enough!

So another M:Powered has been and gone. I vaguely remember posting about last year but that seems so long ago now. My overwhelming impression this year was how much my little ones have grown up! Most of them I have known since they started secondary school, and many of them are now starting college. Enough to make an old-timer like me feel, well, old.

But it was a beautiful time. We focussed a lot on going home, and how everything we learned could be transferred into 'real life'. In that sense, only time will tell whether it was a successful week or not! But I believe it was.

I don't really know what else there is to say about M:Powered. I just thought it deserved a post. It was fun. Rachel Munn is my hero.

Cool Dudes

I recently read a great blog article entitled "The Concept of Cool" which I thought I might share with anyone passing by. I liked it, you might too.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

The Big Smoke in pictures

Maybe I should reflect on London as well? It is kind of a major city and I did just spend a month there (although admittedly most of that time was spent at City of London Academy- an impressive school but a little repetitive nonetheless).

I have an oyster card. These things are amazing! A £4 journey without a card is reduced to £1.80 with. However they are also very confusing and I get a 'seek assistance' message on pretty much every journey I take because something's wrong, I'm out of money or didn't scan the right thing or I don't even know. Also Tubes are horrible if you actually want to get anywhere. On holiday it's lovely because you probably didn't even realise it just took you an hour to travel between 5 stations on about 3 different lines, but when you actually want to get somewhere it's a nightmare, especially with the whole being in the belly of the earth thing and no phone signal to express your apologies that the only tube closures are on the tiny strip of line that you wanted to use. Frustrated much?

However I did visit the V&A museum. I had several hours to kill whilst waiting for my bus and I'd seen a photo of one of the exhibitions (Architects build small spaces) which looked interesting so I spent a happy 3 hours lost in other people's creativity from over the ages. And it was free! I'm getting old; part of me really wanted to stay and look at all the other museums too, but I didn't get chance.

Other claims to fame- I drove past the houses of parliament, spent a day at BBC (didn't see anyone famous apart from possibly a newsreader that no-one could remember the name of) and spent 3 weeks in Greenwich without ever reaching the observatory! About halfway through the first week I spotted the 02 arena and in my excitement said something about the millennium dome. These kids were born in 1994 and didn't even know what the millennium dome was!I am very familiar with the walk between Victoria coach station and Victoria tube station. This is beginning to sound a bit like a bizarre personal statement so I'd better stop, however I will comment that the grass is DEFINITELY greener in Leeds! None of that Southern drought stuff up here I can assure you!

My team was great. The other residential mentors: Bri, Eva, Tabitha and Bobby were brilliant and we all got on so well. That was commented on every week and was a real strength because it's a tough week if you're on your own. Tallulah was the 'logistics officer' for the Team challenge so she did all the organising (and is still going now for another 2 1/2 weeks) and is amazing at what she does- she held us all together and solved all our problems and was generally super. I don't know that any of them will ever read this but I reckon they deserve a special mention anyway :)

And finally... I don't have a photo but I spent the weekend with Maj and Seb in their beautiful new flat in Colindale. We didn't do much; just talked speech therapy and had crazy ideas for making resources (yes, we are planning whole weekends of colouring in!) and discussed being Muslim and ate good food. I miss those guys; gutted that they live so far away but happy that I discovered £4 coach tickets so I can visit them lots!

Sorry this hasn't been very entertaining reading. I expected better of myself after such a long break. Maybe next time.

The Challenge

So, "The Challenge" part one is complete. What a whirlwind it was, but what an adventure, a huge learning curve and a fantastic opportunity. (Have a look here if you missed the last description- I worked on the Team Challenge 4 times).

It was interesting repeating the same program 4 times with 4 different staff groups and 4 different teams of young people. So often on residential trips, the people and individual events are what make a program what it is, but in this case the program became detached from the people. It means that we as residential mentors were able to learn from the mistakes of others and pass them on to subsequent leaders, and equally learn that there are many ways of approaching the same problem.

Each week I worked with a team of young people and a Senior Mentor (who had spent the previous week doing outdoor pursuits with the team) on the Enterprise program. I saw a lot of different leadership styles, from very hands-on to very detached, and I saw the benefits of each. I hope that I began to learn where guidance is needed and where it can be withheld. I saw problem-solving techniques and ways to address motivation within a team, and learned the value of admitting and apologising for mistakes. I learned new behaviour management skills. I broke up my first fights. I enforced discipline rules. I learned that you don't have to be "cool" to relate to the cool kids. You just have to care.

I also found fellowship in surprising places. I haven't "been to church" in two months as a result of various work commitments but I have found that the church is all around me. A number of the staff that I worked with across the different waves were Christians (and a number of them would shudder to hear that word describing them but that's a story for another time), which was odd because I've never really encountered Christians outside of a Christian setting before. My first senior mentor fed me worship music on the minibus on the way to our workshops, and had me singing Matt Redman songs whilst the team were planning debates in an activity one day. One of the teens in another group said grace and prayed for the entire team when we had a meal out in a restaurant on their last night. I shared a room one week and we stayed up late talking about our experience of church and finding what we really believe for ourselves. My challenge is to become as comfortable talking about God in these situations as we are talking about church. But that will come.

I don't really know what else to say! There's so much inside of me and so many thoughts and experiences but I can't quite get them into words. I guess I was a little bit surprised that I succeeded. I live under no false pretences- I know I'm not cool and not particularly streetwise and my life experiences are a million miles from any of those kids, from private or state schools. But I can be there for them and care for them. I can also learn to do those things that I find difficult: be the loud, bouncy, motivating person; enforce discipline where it is needed; direct big groups of people. I can make friends quickly and learn 50 names every week for a month. Sure, there's lots of things to improve on and I have huge lists of that too but I aint too bad at all!