“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” Brene Brown
Mentors in the Free Arts Weekly Mentor program are charged with a lot.
Each week they:
- Plan meaningful art activities
- Gather art supplies
- Drive up to an hour each way
- Complete and submit weekly survey forms
- Manage a group of children in a positive way
Well, here’s the deal: The most important thing that you can do when working with children is to be AUTHENTIC.With all of these responsibilities, it’s easy to lose site of the most important thing mentors do: connect with kids. Our mentors come in a variety of ages, genders and cultural backgrounds. Sometimes they have experience working with children, sometimes they are artists themselves and more often than not they are individuals that just want to make a difference.
They all have one thing in common though; when embarking on a journey of connection, they feel a lot of pressure to do it right.
They often ask themselves questions like:
- What if they don’t think I’m cool?
- What if I say something that upsets or triggers them?
- What if they hate the art projects I bring?
- How am I going to relate to them? Our life experiences are so different!
“Well, here’s the deal: The most important thing that you can do when working with children is to be AUTHENTIC.”
What does that even mean?
Being real, relaxed, grounded, speaking aloud what you’re feeling inside.
What does authenticity sounds like?
Here’s a situation: you’re mentoring a group of teen boys who keep talking about something in street slang that you don’t understand. You want them to think that you’re on their level so you could pretend that you know what they are talking about and nod, laugh and smile along with them. Or, you could very simply say, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Can one of you please educate me?”
Here’s one more: You walk into Free Arts Camp program after a very difficult morning that included almost getting rear ended and losing your wallet. You are walking down the hall with 2 of the campers from your group who are trying to tell you about the project they are making in World Arts but you are having trouble concentrating. You COULD pretend to be interested in what they are saying. You could also stop walking and say “Guys, I am really shaken up by some things that happened to me this morning and I’m not listening to you right now in the way I want to. I’m going to stand here for one second and shake out my body and take a few deep breaths.” After you do this explain to the campers that you feel a little bit better and can fully listen now and thank them for letting you take the time to do that.
Why is authenticity important?
It’s easier! – Being tense or faking it is hard, and tiring. Authenticity allows you to put more of your good energy to good use! By being authentic you allow others to be authentic too.
What can you do to be MORE authentic?
Pay attention! Watch your breathing and your body. Some people clench their teeth or crack their knuckles when they are uncomfortable. Noticing these things is a great first step to self-awareness.
Self-regulate. Learn what helps you relax and become practice these things anytime you notice tension in your body or breath. Share your journey. Everyone is working on this to some degree.
Sharing your journey. To be authentic with kids will impact other people in other areas of your life.
Be gentle with yourself. If this is new for you it’s going to take you a while to cultivate. Notice and celebrate moments of authenticity throughout your day. Share those successes with others!
Ask questions. Asking open ended questions is a great way to be authentic and help others feel valued as well.