So, im not at many Dinner Parties, but the odd social occasion, like a friends wedding, or even some moments in churches, dont go past without that feeling of slight dread, when someone asks ‘What do you do’? , Often i try and be so interested in other peoples lives, careers, jobs and families ( a good youthworker trick) that time goes by without them asking, but when the time comes and they ask the question, we can often plan ahead to the blank look that you know is coming when they hear ‘Well Im a youthworker’ – and knowing what this reaction is all about, its a safer bet that going for the jugular and saying ‘ Im a detached youthworker’ though at times this generates more intrigue and curiosity – and people then try and relate to other things:
Is that like the community wardens?
Is something that is said , or
So do you help out the police?
But generally, ‘whats that then?’ is the most common response to their new knowledge about my own role as a detached youthworker. I wonder also, whether many roles in the voluntary and charity sector seem to be a bit ‘underground’ rather than clearer demarked roles in the private or public sector.
Anyway – Along with the ‘Whats that then?’ I wonder – what are the other questions that we get often when we let people know that we’re involved in detached youthwork. Heres 10 of the most common
- Is that like the Street Pastors?
- Thats great, trying to keep youths (pronounced yooovves) off the streets
- That sounds really brave, I could never do that
- Dont you get a whole load of abuse?
- So, do you preach to the young people on the streets about Jesus?
- Is that like Social work?
- I really enjoyed going to a youth club, but young people nowadays they’re all into technology – how do you deal with that?
And when on the streets, the questions from young people can include:
- So – what are you going to do?
- You must get paid a whole lot for doing that?
- I dont need a youthworker, my life is ok!
- Are you going to take us on trips and stuff?
- We used to have youthworkers and they didnt give us what we wanted, just did their own thing!
- Are you going to make us do something? Are you trying to make us go to church?
- Are you working for the Police?
Youthwork in its head in the sand moments has often maintained a desire to be ‘unlike’ other things, social work, police, school teacher etc, and I think in the general public domain, though people may have had a youthworker previously, many wont have done. I think one of the dangers in the current knife crime debate in London is that youth workers are seen as somehow the magic answer that couldve prevented these things, the parties to consult, or the magic answer in the future. Its thrusting ‘youthwork’ as a field into the mainstream thinking, at least for a short while (until the news narrative changes, and Syria/Russia still dominates) might have both positive and negative consequences for its public perception. Though i wouldnt imagine it would help the majority actually know what a youthworker actually is, does, or is meant to do. Let alone a detached youth worker.
In a way its not that people have wrong percepetions or expectations of detached youthwork, often its that there is such a small plane of reference for people, that it is something completely new. Having said that, sometimes the unknown is good, people can make up their minds about teaching (they hated school) or nursing (present you with ailments) very quickly. Maybe the mystery is good. Maybe we should discuss our body armour or the dangerous escapes we face on the streets all the time. When the reality theres alot of walking and getting wet.
And at a friends wedding – i really cant be bothered trying to explain, what many take up to three years in university still trying to work out what a youthworker actually is.
What are some of the common questions that you get when you say ‘ Im a detached youthworker?’
And, in case you were wondering, heres a link to a post that gives 12 responses to the question – ‘What is youthwork all about?’ https://wp.me/p2Az40-1h3