Quite a bit has been written about the importance of and nature of conversation as education within Youth work – see for example Jeffs & Smith (2005 & 2010) , or http://www.infed.org as examples. It is something that i often maybe incorrectly ask trainee detached youth workers or volunteers to deconstruct too far, when they start training in detached work. Yet within detached youth work, conversation remains a critical, if not sole tool for interaction. Within which is a whole host of aspects, such as verbal/non verbal cues, questions, tone, endings, power, secrecy – or styles such as ‘banter/chit-chat’ or what might be considered more meaningful dialogue ( Smith H 2010 in Jeffs & Smith 2010).
Often, however, its not just the content of these intentional interuptions that has an impact upon young people in our detached youthwork, its the fact that we have interjected at all. By being there, in some cases to respond to a cheeky comment – this week the opening gambit from a young person was “arent you a school teacher?” – one time in Perth it was swear words from across the bus stop. Our response to these questions says something not just about ourselves, and our attitudes, but also how we seek to value the young person as a human being.
After all, its part of who we are that we are communicative beings, maybe to be is to communicate (Vanhoozer 2010), and thus being in communication, or shall i say interjecting in conversation with young people, in the unpredictable , unplanned environment of detached youth work is akin to helping us and them fully realising our identity as humans.
As Migilore claims “We live in Dialogue” , Bakhtin would argue that “To live, means to participate in dialogue; to ask questions, to heed, to respond, to agree, and so forth” , having dialogue or Dialogism could mean “less about literature than to life, “Dialogism begins by visualising experience as an event. the event of being responsible for (and to) the particular situation existence assumes as it unfolds in the unique (and constantly changing) place i occupy in it” (Holquist) And so, as we occupy spaces in these particular moments of space and time and make an injecting effect in it, we change history for the young person, we affect them, share the way, or the stuff of life. Being an outsider interjecting in and with young people in our detached youthwork we communicate in voice and acts to enable potential to be fulfilled.
So whilst Conversation and dialogue is considered a useful tool, or core method of education in the philosophy of youthwork, fundamentally it is much more than that, it is part of who we are. we are dialogical communicative beings. As christians this kind of dialogical interjection also represents something of the God who speaks and acts to us, his creatures, in as much an unpredictable way, and we are free to accept or reject the call of his voice.