An Ethical Dilemma

For the last two weeks I have worked with a group of young people who are very dear to my heart. I don’t know most of these young people yet, only a few, but the organization through which I am working with them is WONDERFUL and I adore all of the kids that come through there. As of late, I have been having a huge ethical dilemma about the work that I am doing there…and truthfully…have since we first began planning the series of workshops for this fall.

Every year there is a Benefit Dinner held to help raise money for this organization and every year the kids are forced to sing in front of all the people who attend…which makes them feel awkward and uncomfortable. So…and I loved this, this year, it was decided that they wouldn’t have to sing, but instead an alternative performance piece would be created. This is where myself and my co-facilitator were brought in. I came in with ideas…tons…but mostly expressed the need for TIME with these young people…and this was even when I was thinking that a majority were the same from last year and they’d have a years worth of experience with me….not the case, but I digress. We were told we had 9 weeks of 1.5 hour sessions to work with the young people, boys and girls seperately to create a piece that they could perform. When it was further divided, we would have 3 weeks with the boys, 3 with the girls, and 3 weeks to put everything together…my doubts are creeping in…but I’m going along…

…now, 2 weeks in, I find myself pondering the good that these workshops are bringing to these boys. I walked into a situation where I thought I would be working with 8 young men I had worked with last year, to 26 young men, only 3 of whom I knew…and in 4.5 hours total, I’m supposed to get them to share stories about their pasts (which, for the most part…are rough…there is a reason why they are living where they are…) and their hopes for the future. They don’t know me. Yet. They don’t trust me. Yet. Most of them don’t know each other! They are new to each other…and herein is where I find myself at an ethical dilemma…I feel like I’m asking WAY too much of them in such a short amount of time…I’m asking them to risk SOOOO much in such a short time without really giving them time to get comfortable and adjusted to their new surrounding, to working with me in this new way…everything. I walked away yesterday feeling almost as if I had used them…I sucked out the information that was needed for this Benefit performance and…that was it. Is that how they felt? How do they feel about this process? ..is it benefiting them the way it should?…and I ask myself all these things…and I wonder if I should be doing it…but then, what if the assignment is given to a facilitator who doesn’t care about these things…who doesn’t care about THEM?

Needless to say, I’m going to continue through…but, I wonder about this way of working…that its not really beneficial…that we are using the techniques and using the students as a means to an end for US….instead of an outlet for creativity and expression and socialization for them…I fear that the focus isn’t in the right place…and it bothers me.

Practical Theory…

I had an interesting conversation yesterday with a colleague and friend of mine about what it takes to be a good facilitator and or teacher. We all know it when we see it…and often times we write it off as being some innate talent or ability that the person possesses, dismissing the possibility that it could be something that is learned. At the same time we discussed how we have been in room with very well educated people who have large amounts of academic theory backing them up, and yet they are unable to connect with participants/students. So, there is a gap. How much of great facilitation/teaching is instinctual and how much can be learned?

Personally, I find myself drawn to the work. I feel it in my bones and my breath and my  heartbeat. Suffice to say, I would count myself as an instinctual facilitator/teacher, however, because I do have such a desire to honor the people I work with, I have made a point to educate myself in order to be the best that I can. Even so, I sometimes feel the disconnect between theory and practice. Perhaps because sometimes the people writing about the work aren’t the people DOING the work.

I suppose this blog is a call to artists and practitioners to begin writing about their work, journaling about their process, and sharing. It is so easy to get wrapped up in a bubble of the work that you are doing and forget to check in with what other artists are up to. Also, there are a great many artists and facilitators and teacher who don’t think to chronicle their work because they don’t even realize how revolutionary it is…they do it because they love the communities they are working with, not to gain fame or notoriety by publishing, etc. However, I believe that it is important that these people start writing, start sharing…because  in doing so it will enrich the quality of the theoretical academic learning that current students, like myself are receiving. It will help create a new generation of facilitators and teachers who are informed by theory rooted in practice.