Sunday, July 19, 2009

Operation Enthusiastic Cupcake!

The plan is in place.

Cupcakes have been baked and frosted.
Mr. Roger's Day at the Circus DVD has been ordered.
My smiling muscles have been assigned a rigorous training regimen.

Operation Enthusiastic Cupcake
has begun.

No, that is not me. She looks pretty enthusiastic though, doesn't she?

I have become tired of hearing myself complain about the movies that they show to the youngsters at the place where I volunteer. If I am not going to try to do anything about it, then I should shut my mouth.

So, what to do?

One of the reasons I haven't said anything to the staff about it is because I have never felt quite comfortable with them. Never felt like they even wanted me there. I have been going there once or twice a week since March and none of them have ever asked me my name. I usually come in, smile and say hello to the staff people who are there and then look around to see what the kids are doing. When I first started to volunteer I was completely surprised that none of them said anything to me about what I should do or how things work. I thought that if they saw a new face, someone would acknowledge my newness and try to fill me in. Nope. Nothing.

But of course I need to take responsibility for not being more assertive myself. I could have introduced myself to any of them and told them I was new and asked for direction. I felt intimidated and awkward. The vibe was so weird. Maybe I am too sensitive, but I really got the feeling that they could care less that I was there. Sometimes when I said hello they barely grunted at me. To this day, I still haven't figured out if there is one lead staff person on duty.

I am also aware that no one appreciates a person coming into their workplace and telling them how to run things. Especially if that person is only around a few hours a week.

So I go in and play with the kids. I have no problem sitting down on the floor with a bunch of two- to six-year-olds and interacting. Play just naturally happens with them. It is their sole purpose in life and it flows out and around and between and through them as easily as breathing. I'll try to engage with some of them and let them decide if they want to allow me into their play world. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't. If not, I can sit back and wait for other chances to interact. Some nights I end up reading and playing with many kids at different times. Sometimes only one or two.

I was talking with someone about my experiences there. She works for an organization that helps troubled teens so she knows a little about the child and foster care system in this area. She pointed out that there must be a lack of leadership there and that the staff are probably under-appreciated and don't feel like they have clear direction. In a challenging social services job like that, it is easy to become unmotivated and apathetic if you don't feel genuinely supported by your management.

It made me realize what I have to do.

Operation Enthusiastic Cupcake went into effect at 1800 hours on Wednesday, July 15, 2009.

Here is the plan:
1. I have to get over my shyness and feeling awkward and start to be more engaging and friendly with the staff. I have to initiate conversations and ask them questions and start calling them by name. I have to get past my anxiety about making small talk and just do it.

2. I will show them that I appreciate them. I baked cupcakes. I frosted them with chocolate frosting and colorful sprinkles. I brought them with me on Wednesday and gave them to one of the staff. She said thank you and I heard her tell some other staff that I had brought them in.

3. I will give them genuine compliments that acknowledge their strengths. I will ask them how the day has been going and sympathize with how hard it must be sometimes.
The goal of all this is to make them feel more comfortable with me and make me more comfortable with them. Then it will be easier to approach one of them with a suggestion or concern. Hopefully I can bring up my concerns about the scary movies in such a way that they will not feel attacked and will be open to listening.

I can also bring in the Mr Rogers Day at the Circus DVD and suggest we watch it some night. If that goes over well, I can bring in more.

If I can't get through to them and there continues to be ridiculously inappropriate movies shown to these fragile youngsters, I will be forced to change the battle plan.

We'll have to resort to
Operation Ballistic Chicken
....and nobody wants that to happen.


Anonymous said...

I do believe the cupcakes will work!! Brilliant plan! love it... could you please reveal the details of Operation Ballistic Chicken... I may need to unlease it here on the East Coast...I'm afraid you'll have to do a lot of baking for me to feel the ripple effects here! Wow.. I'm in a mood!

Bethany said...

Great plan. Hope it works out. Sounds great so far. Thanks for the laugh at the end.

Joshua Bleier said...

Can you provide a link to Operation Ballistic Chicken?

I'm pretty sure I invented it and I need to research potential patent violations...

No, wait, isn't it that dance craze from the 70s? Yeah, I used to be pretty good at the Ballistic Chicken...