TEDDIE and Pagan Youth Facilitators
Article ID: 13652
Age Group: Adult
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Author: Lori Dake
Posted: January 10th. 2010
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We all know the rare joy of finding that one Pagan who has “It”: “It” can sometimes be hard to describe, but we just know “It” when we see “It”. This person seems to have all the charisma of a suave politician, the wit of a British comedian, the experience of a decorated veteran, the common sense of a farmer, the patience of a saint and possibly the most important of all, the humility of a beggar. This is the Pagan we all secretly wish we could be, and when we are privileged to circle with someone who just seems to have “It”, the experience can last a lifetime.
Pagans who have “It” are partly born, but mostly made. “It” comes from a great deal of hard work and dedication, with a genuine love and adoration for their chosen faith and the Gods and Goddesses they revere. These are people who are truly beautiful on the inside, who are selfless, compassionate and able to quell arguments with a humorous anecdote.
We cherish these people and hope they never burn out or leave us. Unfortunately, all great flames eventually smolder and then extinguish entirely, but while they burn, they warm our hearts and stir our souls.
With these few individuals so hard to come by, finding that special Pagan who has “It” and is also willing to venture further into the world of youth facilitation is even more rare and precious. As with all people entrusted with children, Pagan youth facilitators are held to an even higher standard; these folks are extended an incalculable amount of trust, but with that trust comes a great deal of responsibility. Added too is the doubled workload and expenditures, most times out of pocket, in order to ensure the children entrusted benefit, learn and enjoy the experiences the facilitators present.
In other words, wrangling a bunch of other people's kids is already tough enough, but when they're Pagan kids – uhhh, yeah: good luck with that! [cue record scratch]
Below is an anagram I developed, TEDDIE, and it has served me quite well during the years I spent working with the children in my community. I wouldn't exactly say I have that “It”, but hey, I try!
For the brave, kindhearted, generous, sincere, patient, caring and dedicated people who wish to take on one of the most important but also most under served positions within the Pagan community, I hope this serves as not a deterrent but as a guideline and as an inspiration. So if I may, I'd like to list of all the tasks I had assigned myself, complete with contradictions:
Teach, but do not proselytize.
When it comes to teaching other peoples' children, it's important to remember first and foremost these are other peoples' children. What they practice at home may be different than what I practice. What I did to tackle this was take a cue from stage performances. Not only did I create a program for the day's events and ritual, but also I transformed it into a coloring book to take home. I did this by spending a great deal of time chatting with the very parents who were entrusting me, as well as doing a great deal of research. That, and nothing equips one better than good old fashioned experience, especially the fail variety!
Explain, but do not patronize or condescend.
If there is one thing I have learned in life, it's that no one likes to be talked down to, including kids. Children have an innate BS detector and know when they're being treated differently (i.e., like babies) . Some of these kids already have a great deal of experience and some don't, so while it is important to rephrase or cut back on certain aspects of a ritual or project for the little ones, it is equally important to provide options for the older ones. Mentoring goes a log way in this area.
Disclose, but keep it G-Rated.
Most Pagan paths are centered on fertility, death and rebirth in one way or another, and nowhere is this more prevalent than around the Wiccan holiday of Beltaine. Referring back that these are other people's children, it is not the facilitator's job to get into the Great Rite department and should steer clear of any discussion thereof! Symbolism, games and stories are the wiser roads to take, as well as projects that may already be familiar. Maypoles, coronations and May Day baskets are fun (and G-Rated!) alternatives.
Likewise, the literal death aspect of holidays like Samhain is a little more than some facilitators will want to travel, so sticking with the fun and silliness of the secular Halloween activities is a safer bet. Even ghost stories might be a little much for the youngest ones to handle, unless perhaps popular friendly ghosts are used.
Discern, but do not directly discipline.
This is another one of those areas where it can feel like walking on eggshells. While it is of the utmost importance to watch out for everyone's safety, as well as ensure everyone is having a good time, the facilitator is again reminded these children have their own parents. I have never directly disciplined anyone's kids, but I have also never had an issue saying something to their parents, usually in front of those children. Ground rules need to be set, in print and in an area where everyone can read them, and the consequences (being asked to leave) are posted as well.
Interact, but not too closely.
A lot of innocent situations can be misconstrued, so it's vitally important to do a lot of self-checking whenever one is around other peoples' children. Even something as innocuous as offering to walk a little one to the bathroom can set off warning sirens for some parents, so it's best to retain a three foot ring of personal space at all times. This self-checking also includes things like proper language use, dressing conservatively, and keeping personal vices personal and out of view and earshot of the impressionable.
I should also mention it is my personal belief people entrusted with children should be as open and as visible as possible, which includes using legal names. I know that's a big deal to ask, but when it comes to kids, I believe facilitators of all guises should have all their cards out on the table. (Stranger Danger and all that!)
Exercise, but do not exhaust.
Kids are so full of energy, and getting many of them to do things like grounding and centering can be rather daunting. Let's face it: a standard adult ritual can be rather long and boring to most kids, so revolve it around a lot of movement, and keep it under ten minutes. The easiest way I discovered to get kids to ground is to shake away all the energy, from head to toe, ending it by some foot stomping. Simple call-and-repeat songs and rhymes, dancing, and child-led interaction really keep things moving along. And, it doesn't hurt to keep the potluck munching for after it's over, because there is bound to be a plate of cupcakes taunting them over yonder!
So that's TEDDIE. There are plenty of other details to list, which I would be happy to share to anyone willing to take up the challenge. Gods know our community could use a few more folks with “It” to take their service a step further.
Location: Chicago, Illinois
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