One of the best things about having a mostly teenage staff is seeing the opportunity for growth in them. For many of our staff, this is their first job, and the most basic components of having a job need to be taught. I've had to explain that you have to call in sick every day that you're sick, not call in the first day and then wait until you're better and let me know you're coming back to work. We've discussed showing up for work in shoes that aren't going to sprain your ankle if you're running after a child, using appropriate language in front of children, and letting me know ahead of time if you have a doctor's appointment, instead of telling me 15 minutes after you were supposed to be at work. I love having these conversations because we all had to learn this (and, of course, some adults still aren't there) and I get to be a part of the learning process.
In December, I implemented a self-evaluation process. Staff members evaluated themselves and then my youth coordinator and I met with them to compare our evaluations and talk to them about what can improve. The process was especially memorable with Ayana, a high school junior. Ayana was a child in our program for a few years, and came back as a high school student looking for employment. She started working with the youngest group of kids and was good but lacked initiative . She waited until they asked her for help and wasn't very proactive about finding out what the kids needed.
When we had our evaluation meeting, I talked to her about this and gave her some suggestions. Immediately, I noticed a change. She noticed the change as well. she started setting higher standards for herself, which culminated in her wanting to talk to me and my Executive Director about her own grades. She told us about some things she was worried about at home and how that's been affecting her grades, and then told us we had to make sure that she stayed for the tutoring provided for her and that she did her best. I even had her write down the agreement so I could remind her of it.
Last weekend, Ayana talked at our fundraising dinner, in front of 240 people. She brought this up herself and chronicled the change in her life since she had come to Harbor House. It was really impressive to see a 17-year old with the maturity and insight to see how being honest and accepting feedback helped her grow, both in her own life and in how she helps the children.
Now, just like the rest of us, Ayana is not perfect. I had to talk to her this week about teamwork and last week about getting along with all colleagues. But the amazing thing is that she takes that feedback and she resolves to do better, and that's all anyone can ask.
She got three notes from students last week. One told her that she was just like a queen, one said that she loved her, and one said "thank you for teaching me to read." I'm so thankful for her work with these kids.