Blog Post

Staff Practices: Responsibility

By Staff at Weikart from Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality

Coaching is about balancing the need for youth to take responsibility and ownership with providing supports youth need for developing mastery. It is about holding youth accountable, supporting ownership, and negotiating at the same time .

Staff Practices: Responsibility

Structure | Modeling | Coaching

This month, we are diving further into the experience of Responsibility.

Coaching is about balancing the need for youth to take responsibility and ownership with providing supports youth need for developing mastery. It is about holding youth accountable, supporting ownership, and negotiating at the same time . For youth who have taken on a long-term role, staff typically follow a sequence of first defining, training, and providing substantial supports for youth in their roles, then gradually backing off and holding the youth accountable to perform to high standards with considerable independence. Staff attempt to provide no more support than is necessary but exercise care and wisdom to know when and what support is needed for each individual.

Whether new or experienced, some youth still benefit from reminders and encouragement. In many programs, staff do a lot of reminding, nudging, and prodding to reinforce accountability within the group. La’Ketta Caldwell, senior program manager of social emotional learning at Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee (BGCGM), shared the challenges she faces in keeping youth focused on their roles and commitments and the coaching she provides to promote that expectations are upheld:

“For instance, the young person I saw today has senioritis. I have to make sure I’m there and checking in. It’s like case management. The hardest part is to be consistent all the way through, to keep up. Really, in the fall it’s easier to do that. In the spring, whoa, it gets harder. You’re competing with so much during this time period.”

Letting youth figure something out on their own does not imply a passive role for staff. Considerable skill and energy may go into pressing youth to struggle with a task, use their own judgment, and make their own decisions. When youth are passive or ask for direction, staff might reflect the question back to them. At The Possibility Project (TPP), this is a form of deprogramming staff do with the youth, many of whom are used to being told what to do by others. Paul Griffin said:

“A lot of them, if there’s a problem, they say, “What are we going to do?” And of course we say, “Well, what do you think we should do?” That’s a constant refrain for us. We’re trying to empower them to do those things for themselves. It takes a little while for that relationship to shift. TPP staff are trained to listen first, ask questions second, and offer options third. They understand that youth must lead the way, and our role is to facilitate that leadership.”

Having high expectations and giving youth ownership and the latitude to make decisions encourages a high level of responsibility when staff have scaffolded effectively and set up a supportive learning environment. Youth ownership leads to youth learning from doing, including learning from mistakes and perceived failures.

For more information about SEL Challenge Program or Responsibility Practices, see https://www.selpractices.org/domain/responsibility

Join the Discussion

Learn more about the best practices for social and emotional learning.

Download the guide