A while back, I made a blog post which was initially aimed to be a rant, a way of getting some things from that day off of my chest. I followed it up a week later, feeling slightly more positive and upbeat about the situation.
Since that post, everything seemed to be going well. I had been acquainted with and begun working with the foreign exchange students. They have been fantastic – their energy and keen attitude to getting involved has been a breath of fresh air. It’s amazing the difference between these students and the British students who are doing the course I did. They really are great. They’re inquisitive and open to offer suggestions.
So, when I went back this week, I was expecting more of the same. But when I arrived, I didn’t have any foreign exchange students – instead I had a girl who had come 3 weeks ago and not been since and wanted to ‘help’. One of the kids was sick and couldn’t come, so I tried to collar one of the managers. I explained the situation and asked what he wanted me to do with this girl who had turned up out of the blue. He got in a huff, said ‘I can’t do your job for you; you ask me what we want you to do when we know you’re capable of making your own mind up’.
I was thinking… you tell these people to come, I don’t. You tell people to come down here for ‘work experience’ but don’t actually ask what ‘experience’ they want – and just pawn them off on me. I could feel myself immediately getting annoyed. So I said – ‘Well you keep putting more students on me, then taking them away, then giving me more – without telling me what they’re here for. So, can you ask whoever has asked this girl to come here tonight what they discussed on the phone so that I can make sure I’m providing her with what she’s asked for?’ – ‘Ok’ so off he goes. The other manager comes out and says ‘Ah yes. Well… she started with us as a client years ago.’ So, I asked – ‘in that case, am I treating her as a client or as staff?’. He responded ‘both’.
It turns out this girl has low self confidence issues. She’s 21, pregnant, and looking for some kind of work before she goes back into education after Summer. So, I paired her up with the service user who was attending, and she became a vocal coach as well as a service user herself. I wanted her to come out of her shell; she was adamant she only knew and sang ‘rock’ songs. So I asked her to sing songs that weren’t rock – I put songs on and told her to try them and to sing them with our client which she did. It wasn’t a bad session by the end – I hope she will return next week but she sounds like she’s a drifter who comes and goes so I won’t expect either an attendance or an absence.
See, it’s not the service users/volunteers/students that are the problem. They’ve come for a reason and that’s great. My problem is, again, this persisting lack of support. The managers throw things at me and if I question it, I’m being a problem. It’s actually pushing me further away from the business. I’m starting to feel a little dread before my sessions. It’s hard enough trying to work with my kids who don’t have the drive and ambition they would have if it weren’t for their learning disabilities. They need to be told what to do, how to do something, you have to force out the energy from them. If you didn’t speak to them, or give them a task, they would sit in the corner silent. I’ve worked my hardest to give them a safe and comfortable space so they don’t have to feel shy or awkward – and it’s making progress. The youngest comes in now and shouts ‘HEY’ at me. Before, she wouldn’t say a word. Beautiful little souls. But it hasn’t been an overnight process, it’s taken me months. I really have to spread the session out between them as there’s less kids than there was.
But, as well as this continual battle with them, I now have to occupy and find work for the students/volunteers. I’ve become a manager and coordinator. I’m not just devoting my attention to the kids – I’m having to think of and coach these other people too, teaching them what we do and how we do it. I feel as though I’m under scrutiny; it’s great that they have feedback and offer up points for new things to try. I implement what they suggest so that they can see how it works. But – my session is under pressure because they need to find areas to improve for their personal development journals. So every week there’s an added stress. I feel like I’m being pulled from pillar to post. After the way my manager reacted to my plea for help this week, I don’t have the confidence anymore to go to them. I may as well be talking to myself.
Think of it this way – imagine you are a manager of a team in an office. You are trying to coach your team, be their support and what they need. They’ve learned to trust you, and you are their source of comfort. Management then call you in and say ‘we’re giving you some trainees to work with’. OK – fine. But then, each week you return, there’s more trainees. There’s more trainees than there is staff in your team. You are one person – and you’re expected to remain a strong and available manager for your team – whilst also now being a flexible and non-distracted trainer to your new trainees. But, you can’t ask for more support. You can’t ask management for another manager or assistant to come help. When you ask, they grumble and say you’re capable of coping. They offer no support, they tell you to just ‘keep going’ knowing that you’re not providing what your team or your trainees need 100%. As well as telling you to cope, they keep dropping more on your plate every time you come back to work – whilst telling you not to complain and that you’re capable.
This is what I’m facing. And I’m losing patience with it. There’s only so much of me that can go around – I’m a manager of work placement students, volunteers as well as an assistant with learning disabilities who has behavioural issues that the organisation is aware of. I’m a coordinator of a session – I have to continuously move with the way the session is moving – assessing the needs of the service users, as well as trying to take into account the learning objectives of the students. I’m also a source of support – I can’t look as though I’m under pressure or unavailable as these kids need to know they can come to me for anything and that I’m not ‘too busy’ to listen to them. But I’m not being supported to do that fully – and I’m losing my patience with it. I don’t want to get to a point where I have to throw in the towel but how much more can a person take before enough is enough? It’s not the students or whatever – it’s the principle. The lack of support and listening.
Frustrated and exhausted with it. I really am. But I can’t give up yet – those kids need me to stay focused and strong.