I first heard about the Salford Foundation through a networking contact. We were discussing the merits of corporate social responsibility and doing something meaningful but adding value to the business at the same time.
This is how Salford Foundation cropped up. It’s an organisation that uses its funding to promote workplace skills in schools across the Greater Manchester area and relies on support from businesses looking to boost their social responsibility and 'give back' to the community.
I signed up to a 6 week programme that involved spending two hours of my time facilitating workshops that were based on learning workplace skills like teamwork, time management, problem solving, organisation, presentation skills, emotional awareness and lots more.
The students were from years 8 and 9 and were specially selected by the school.
I received some training from Salford Foundation’s representative UD, who was superb and a great inspiration. She is so passionate about the work they do that it happily rubbed off on me. I became very excited about what was to come.
Armed with a file full of worksheets, a box full of resources like pens, flip chart paper and post it notes (amongst other things), all provided by SF, I carried out the activities that I had been trained to facilitate. What I hadn’t banked on was the degree that I’d have to ‘wing it’ when the students asked me questions that I didn’t expect.
One of the hardest parts about it was adapting my language so that I was understood. I currently spend most of my days either conversing with an irrational 2 year old or conversing with adults in what I hope to be a professional manner. So finding the right balance and not patronising them was pretty tricky!
Being back in a classroom environment made me think back to my school days and compare them with what is expected of kids today. I suddenly felt old and out of touch even though I thought my world was fairly relevant, perhaps it isn’t.
One of the activities; the students were required to write down and plan their work/life schedule, with a view to finding time for homework, revision and other things like exercise. What was returned to me was a day long list of things, non of which was homework, a lot of which was ‘gaming’ but the majority of which ended at 11pm or later.
I found myself putting my mum head on and worrying about them all having such late nights, on a school night!! How are they all staying awake all day at school? If I went to bed at 11pm every night, I wouldn’t survive longer than a week!
They also genuinely believe that one day they’ll be ‘influencers’ or ‘gamers’ for a living. The thing is that some of them might be but the vast majority, I’m sorry to say kids, just won't. Are we doing enough to prepare them for what is to come? I'm sure that some of them will end up in jobs that don’t exist yet, but plenty of them will end up in ‘boring traditional jobs’ that, once of a day, would have been worldly and exciting to me!?!
Has ‘professional gaming’ become the new version of ‘pro footballer’ or ‘popstar’ ?
I'm definitely guilty of uttering the words 'the world is your oyster' and 'you can do anything if you put your mind to it', but am I also guilty of creating unrealistic expectations for my children? Or are the gamers and influencers weaving a web of delusion for these teens that we can’t unravel??
Who knows? Certainly not me, but it has been a really interesting eye opener and something that I most definitely will do again when I get chance.