As a Program Support Coordinator, I am regularly asked by my volunteers for advice or assistance with their programs. This past Wednesday, I went to a Work It Out program full of some chatty 6th graders who had been challenging their volunteer facilitators and being rather unruly in general. It was the first program this pair of volunteers had led, so they felt a little frustrated and they were eagerly seeking some tactics to help curb the girls’ negative behavior.
I started off the session by telling the girls how disappointed I was that they would treat our volunteers this way. It turned out that many of the girls didn’t realize that the two women were volunteering their own time without being paid, and were only there because they wanted to spend time with this group of girls. This certainly changed their perspective. Next, I introduced some incentives and some consequences for positive/negative behavior.
The volunteers and I were thrilled to see the girls’ behavior improve significantly. The session went really well, and we even had time to play a game with the girls at the end. When it came time to do the closing ritual, the girls made some amazing comments. They were supposed to fill in the sentence, “In today’s session, I really appreciated when (name) did ____________.” One girl said, “I appreciated that people listened today and we got to have fun.” Another girl said, “I appreciate that you all (the volunteers) come here on your own time and spend time with us.” Another girl commented, “I appreciate that you gave us a second chance and didn’t give up on us.”
Beyond the incentives/consequences, I really think the girls’ behavior improved because they were moved by the fact that these two women would choose to hang out with them on their own time without being paid and without “having” to be there. Just knowing this made all the difference in the world for these girls.