Ritch Hochstetler | December 31, 2021
I once read an article that focused on the impact of an effective kindergarten teacher on the lives of students. The author of the article posited that, if this impact was translated into financial terms, this teacher should be paid an annual salary of around $350,000. The point of the article: the impact of an effective teacher, as it plays out in the lives of students who are well educated and who have a solid sense of well-being, has a ripple effect that touches many more lives and relationships and homes and livelihoods. The same could be said, I believe, for an effective youth worker.
At ULEAD, we have the privilege of serving youth workers and educators across the state of Indiana. As we join together with these amazing individuals, we see, up close and personal, the passion and precision essential to embracing the challenge of developing lives of students in a world of TikTok attention spans and fractured social systems. Not unlike the Avengers whose infamous and varied superpowers combine to overcome whatever is threatening humanity, those among us who develop the lives of students don their “suits” daily and leverage all the tools in their belt to effect the needed changes or results.
It’s a gross understatement to say that we live in extremely challenging times. Many of the problems school systems and youth-serving organizations face are both acute and intractable. Navigating the demands of COVID, subsuming staff and financial resource shortages, addressing the social, emotional, and trauma induced needs of students, striving to effectively meet evaluation criteria and statewide standards, and managing divergent expectations of parents, boards, and the political hot-mess of public politics – ALL have created a culture of ambiguity and trauma.
Yet, when you get to know an educator or youth worker who has made the courageous choice to embrace the challenges with a sense of optimism and gritty-hope, you discover someone who’s passion and resilience is palpable and someone who is more committed than ever to creating living and breathing environments of learning. These environments are not only safe, they are an oasis in the storm, a place where inclusion is prioritized and well-being is an embodied value. Teachers and youth workers, we believe, are no less than super heroes in our midst.
For all the challenges and dark pathways that seem to be looming in the year ahead, we see our youth in good hands with leaders and mentors who are highly skilled, flexible, versatile, and equipped for change. They are people who are authentic, who have a growth mindset, who possess a deep sense of mission, and who have a strong acumen needed to address obstacles and challenges to their success and the success of the students in their care.
The question is, how well are we recognizing and supporting the youth workers and educators in our communities? At ULEAD, we will continue to offer trainings and programs that help them recharge their batteries, grow their skills for servant leadership, and gain tools and resources to grow strong developmental relationships and student engagement. But you don’t have to be a part of a leadership development or teambuilding training organization to be supportive. Every person, whether they have children or grandchildren or children of friends in the system or not, can chose at least one way in the new year to offer their time, treasure, or talent to encourage, equip, or renew a youth worker or educator in their community. Contact your local school or youth-serving organization and ask what their greatest needs are. Volunteer. Donate. Send notes of encouragement. Use your social media platforms to share words of kindness and blessing. Forward positive stories. They need to know that they are not alone. They need to see and feel supported as they pour out their lives for our children. Join us in making 2022 a year of goodness for those who are giving their all for the sake of our kids.
Ritch Hochstetler, Chief Ideation Trailblazer at ULEAD