Teens need role models

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By AN­DREA O’NEIL

Troubled teenagers world­wide could ben­e­fit from lessons learned in Cannons Creek through a new book put out by two lo­cal teach­ers and youth work­ers.

Lloyd Martin and his Mana Col­lege teacher wife, Anthea Martin, spent three years writ­ing Small Sto­ries, but it con­tains three decades of dis­tilled wis­dom about what vul­ner­a­ble teenagers need to thrive.

The book is be­ing dis­trib­uted in Amer­ica, Aus­tralia and Bri­tain, and will be used by Mr Martin to train youth work­ers in New Zealand, Aus­tralia and the Pa­cific.

Small Sto­ries is a se­ries of ob­ser­va­tional es­says draw­ing on the Martins’ ex­pe­ri­ence set­ting up Porirua Al­ter­na­tive School in the 1980s, and fos­ter­ing needy chil­dren for 15 years, Mr Martin says. ‘‘It’s kind of a set of re­flec­tions about what we did then and what we do now, and how the com­mu­nity is chang­ing.’’

Its core mes­sage is that young peo­ple need pos­i­tive, healthy con­nec­tions with adults in or­der to de­velop.

Young peo­ple have four ba­sic de­vel­op­men­tal needs, Mr Martin says – the need to be­long, to master skills, to be in­de­pen­dent and re­spon­si­ble, and to act gen­er­ously.

‘‘Kids seek to have those needs met through in­ter­ac­tions with adults. When things break down they lose those de­vel­op­men­tal op­por­tu­ni­ties,’’ he says.

With­out adult role models, teenagers look to their peer group for di­rec­tion, which leads many into gangs.

‘‘ What hap­pens to young boys when they don’t be­long any­where else?’’ Mr Martin says.

Porirua Al­ter­na­tive School was es­tab­lished in Cannons Creek in 1985 af­ter the Martins watched count­less young peo­ple drop out of the main­stream school sys­tem.

A more holis­tic ap­proach com­bin­ing school and youth work was needed, he says.

Schools and gov­ern­ment agen­cies tend to treat troubled teenagers as a prob­lem to be cured, whereas Mr Martin be­lieves young peo­ple need ‘‘ care’’: adults to be there for them with­out judg­ment.

‘‘ The key idea of care is be­ing present in an­other per­son’s sit­u­a­tion. Just be­ing there ex­presses some­thing,’’ he says. ‘‘Rather than re­act to the prob­lems [young peo­ple have], it’s bet­ter to re­spond to the need.’’

Be­ing a pos­i­tive role model as a teacher and youth worker at the al­ter­na­tive school led nat­u­rally to fos­ter­ing, Mr Martin says. ‘‘The de­ci­sion to be a youth worker is usu­ally a de­ci­sion to make your home and your fridge avail­able to young peo­ple.’’

While he is pas­sion­ate about al­ter­na­tive ways of teach­ing young peo­ple, Mr Martin says he has not been tempted to take on the gov­ern­ment about its nar­row view of ed­u­ca­tion.

‘‘Writ­ing is as po­lit­i­cal as I’m go­ing to get.’’

Small Sto­ries: Re­flec­tions on the prac­tice of youth devel­op­ment is avail­able at prax­is­pa­cific.org/small­sto­ries

Book learn­ing: Porirua teacher and youth worker Lloyd Martin has dis­tilled 30 years of ex­pe­ri­ence with troubled teenagers into a book em­pha­sis­ing the im­por­tance of adult role models.

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