During the summer I have been lucky enough to work with different staff each week, this could be considered both positive and negative depending on your thought process. There is an argument that the children require consistency in a staffing team, offering people they know and can build strong relationships with, there is also the basis that the playworkers offer something to the environment being a play resource themselves, so having new staff means the children have new characters to play with and suss out.
This past week I have been joined by a colleague who unconsciously reflects upon his practice and how the children differ between the borough’s playgrounds. This has triggered different thoughts for me around how the children play and the relationships this has to the area they live in. The children who choose to play at our playground are extremely streetwise and are considered to be disadvantaged young people by local communities, (but not the young people themselves). They are children who come in with their stories of what has happened the night before whilst out playing on the streets, these children come in and have a laugh and joke with the playworkers, make judgements on what they want to share with us and look for respect from the playworkers, an understanding of their way of living, and the staff to be non-judgemental of them.
Working in this particular area I find it hard when people talk negatively about the children, instantly becoming protective. However today whilst reflecting upon my practice and looking the differences between the playgrounds I realised that actually these children are so much better off than most in the borough, they have strong relationships (gangs) that stick by each other, they know where they stand and just get on with things. In comparison with other playgrounds where the children are described as needy and soft, these children are tough and enjoy the rough and tumble play along with the banter that goes around. What makes them want to keep coming back to their adventure playground, even at the age of 17? Well…
Yesterday my colleague said to me “I just love the way you trust these children”, at first i was taken back, i didn’t know how to respond but soon after i replied by saying “How can the children trust us, if we don’t trust them?”. For me this said so much in just a few words. They were strange words for me to come from another playworker, as I believed that we all put trust in the young people we offered these play opportunities to or do we in fact just work to offer a service, a place for them to hang out. By putting trust in the children, do we offer something more to the children than that space they can come to, it opens up that can of worms once again as to what the playworkers role really entails, where does it stop. This summer has been a learning curve for me, reminding myself that our role is never ending and it doesn’t stop at the door, these children come back time after time because we care and offer something different to most other places.