It is challenging for program leaders to know all of the answers and to have complete content knowledge. In the course of the program youth leaders may be asked to support students with geometry homework related to the Pythagorean Theory, consider the theme and the protagonist in a Shakespearean play, coach and referee a soccer game, and finally talk with a youth about poor behavior choices. Is it any wonder that they don’t have 100% content knowledge? It is important that these program leaders be supported by their peers not only to facilitate their own learning but as a model for the best practices for working with youth.
One of the things you can implement in your program is intentional is peer-to-peer learning. Peer learning can encompass staff-to-staff and youth-to-youth learning. Actually, if you want your program leaders to implement peer-to-peer opportunities for youth it will be most effective if they have experienced it themselves. Consider asking more experienced staff to mentor and coach the newly hired, set up time for them to meet and talk through the challenges several times each week. Perhaps as the site coordinator you can engage two groups of youth in a physical activity while the leaders have a chance to work together. Connecting staff members to one another is a natural peer-to-peer endeavor. You can also support these peer-to-peer interactions by praising them at a staff meeting. Remember you will get what you support.
With kids, you can have peer-to-peer interactions through a process called Hear A Peer (check out our video on this topic) and you can also have cross-age groupings where younger children are supported by older youth. It will be easier for your staff to see the value of peer-to-peer support if they have experienced it themselves and can articulate the benefits of this type of support.
Check out C4K’s information on peer-to-peer learning and in particular, Hear A Peer