the helper as a tool of change
May 15, 2013 by
Categories: Relationships

Change doesn’t happen because of you, it happens through you. In the helping profession, it can be easy to get swept in the idea that who you want to change is the people you work with. Because you love what you do, you work tirelessly; giving time and emotion. Unfortunately, self-care, reflection, and your own growth can take a back shelf as a result.

As I reflect on the past year (and more), I want to dispel the motion that not only is the helper going through their own stages of growth and change, but that they should be. People are dynamic and especially with work around relationships, it would be a loss if we didn’t stop to recognize the effects, rewards, and growth that we also experience. While the work in itself has intrinsic rewards, it is imperative to also be conscious of our own reactions and successes in the process.

When I think on my students and pairs, I can’t help but realiz2013-03-14 19.26.50e all that they have taught me:

My students constantly remind me of the powerful voice of youth. Often looked over- not yet adults, yet expected to act like them, they have intelligent, and raw experiences and emotions that gives me courage to not be afraid of my own. Better yet, knowing that they possess this voice propels my great desire to help them speak up and share their thoughts with the world.

My students live perseverance. They show up day in and day out and using English as their second language, face the academic and social world. I recall how hard it was to express myself in any language, let alone have to make mistakes every day in order to learn and fit in (and be tested on them, literally). Abundant challenges can and do arise, yet my students seem to find strength and wisdom from each one. Over and over, students reflect on the value of family and despite distance and loss, express an appreciation for life that is unfounded.

With the honor of be privy to those great moments, I’m equally honored to be there for the rough, painful, confusing ones. Those are harder. I have to swallow my instinct to entirely protect them from those feelings, as I know that they can be the most valuable in shaping them into the resilient human beings they are. These are times when I especially am conscious of being a “tool” where I can transmit change, but that it goes both ways.

My pairs show me human potential. Through this new, exciting, and very different type of relationship, I have witnessed “aha” moments, mentees utilizing growth mindset to not give up, and mentors realizing that they have as much to learn from their mentees as they do them. Through each other, they have gained insight on what it means to have a healthy relationship, depend and be depended on, and how you can always find common ground with a fellow human. By intentionally looking for strengths in one another, human potential can take a mentee’s quiet whisper of doubt and make it thrive into confidence.

And that brings me back to redefining my concept of change; it’s mutual in surprising ways. When I walk into that classroom or interact with co-workers, the truth is I bring myself and that day with me. Sure, as professionals, some things must be put aside. But the very characteristics and experiences that shape us shouldn’t be completely checked at the door. Those pieces of reality are what allow us to truly connect and empathize with others, and that’s something youth are excellent at detecting.

With that, who am I to deny learning experiences? Who am I to say that I have nothing to learn from others? In fact, it is that moment that I am no longer growing and learning something new that I know it’s time to move on. And so I’m lucky that on a daily basis, I am constantly surprised, challenged, and given space to reflect.

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