Challenging Youth Gurus

They have become a staple of the world of afterschool programs and nonprofits: youth gurus.

I’ve spent a few years traveling around the country teaching adults how to relate to children and youth, and a few more before that doing exactly that. Through reflection and relentless critical self-examination, I’ve arrived at a few trinkets of learning that I enjoy using to help others discover what they know.

Along my path, I’ve interacted with a number of folks who are out on the circuits telling youth workers, teachers, and parents how to do their jobs. These are the “experts” about youth who often come armed with an big egos that match questionable credentials in youth work.

Here are some signs that you fall into the guru category.

25 Signs You’re A Youth Guru

  1. All of your friends in real life are youth.
  2. You think people over 30 can’t “get” youth.
  3. “Said no one ever”, “twerk” and “friend jack” are normal parts of your everyday vocabulary.
  4. You check your TakingITGlobal and KooDooz accounts every day.
  5. You can’t go a day without taking a selfie.
  6. You get excited by pop culture disasters because it means another topic in your convos with youth.
  7. You don’t really know much about youth themselves.
  8. You spend a lot of time thinking about your resume.
  9. You met your boyfriend or girlfriend at a youth program.
  10. You drop pop culture references while talking with your grandma.
  11. You swear by the mantra, “YOLO.”
  12. You think having a website is the same as actually creating an organization.
  13. You always talk about youth without youth.
  14. If you’re young, you talk about youth like you’re not one.
  15. You describe yourself as a “youth networker.”
  16. One of your proudest moments was when you were retweeted by the White House.
  17. You see nothing wrong with dressing like a youth no matter what age you are.
  18. You talk about all youth like they’re the same, no matter who, what, when, where, why, and how you’re talking about them.
  19. You only go to new places, listen to new music, or try new experiences based on youth recommendations.
  20. You write guest blog posts as a “youth expert” to share your wisdom about how to get more followers and likes.
  21. Your worst nightmare is not being to access a group of young people for a whole day.
  22. You have used a variety of descriptors for your youth guru-ness, like “ninja,” “evangelist,” “maven,” “pro.”
  23. You would never email a youth; you only txt ppl instead.
  24. There is almost nothing you wouldn’t share with youth.
  25. You don’t see why it’s so hard for adults to relate to youth.

All that’s not to say that these youth gurus are bad or wrong. However, it is meant to challenge the assumption that simply because someone calls themselves a guru, they are one. Do your due diligence and ask about folks, ask hard questions, and find out whether they pass the muster beyond simple appearances. That’s the only way to know when you’re dealing with a genuine article!

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to Learn more at!

21st Century Community Learning Centers

For three years, Adam contracted with the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction to facilitate professional development sessions for more 100 educators involved in the 21st Century Community Learning Centers across the state. Held as annual events in different locations across the state, he focused on three subjects.
  • Student Voice 101 – Understanding the basics of student voice can be challenging for 21CCLC programs. In this session, Adam Fletcher uses his The Guide to Student Voice to teach participants Who student voice is for, What student voice can do, Why student voice matters, Where and When student voice happens, and How student voice can transform their activities. This session is very hands-on, interactive, and practical, and uses reflection, group work, and examples to show how student voice can improve learning, teaching, and leadership for all students.
  • An Introduction to Youth-Driven Programming – Focused on practical action, this workshop teaches 21CCLC programs how to take Youth Voice and Choice to the next level! Focusing on Adam’s Youth-Driven Programming Guide, this workshop shares powerful tools, meaningful tips and hints, and substantive planning tools. Practitioners utilizing this approach consistently claim the highest levels of success with voice and choice, and this workshop will show why.
  • SoundOut Student Voice Curriculum  – Working with educators who were committed to adapting and facilitating the curriculum in their classrooms, Adam conducted train-the-teacher sessions. Walking through the facilitator’s guide, teaching different approaches for using the curriculum and otherwise preparing educators for different things that may come up in the curriculum was the goal.

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CommonAction at 2012 Bridge Conference

Next Monday and Tuesday, October 8-9, I will be in Seattle to facilitate at School Out Washington’s 2012 Bridge Conference. This year’s theme is “Empower Youth Voices”, and will be attended by 500 people. I’m excited! This is my first time presenting there, and I look forward to a great time. I am presenting sessions on my own, and with a few great friends and colleagues. 

Let me know if you’ll be there and we can connect! Following are the descriptions for what I’m involved in.

  • More than Voice: The Cycle of Engagement – FAIL!?! Why don’t our youth voice programs work? This session will answer that question by examining a research-driven process that lets youth voice advocates WIN every time! Participants will learn how to move youth voice towards passion, purpose, and power. Participants can learn how to engage the disengaged through a more effective approach to working with all young people everywhere all the time. This session focuses on a pattern from Adam Fletcher’s research which he calls the Cycle of Engagement. The Cycle has been used in K-12 schools and youth-serving organizations around the world for programming, planning and evaluation, and as a staff and youth skill-building tool. Discover what its for, how its used, and the impact it can have.
  • How to Engage: Learning from local youth engagement practitioners – (with Kyla Lackie) Participants in this session will explore the King County Youth Engagement Practitioners Cadre, and the role of establishing professional learning communities among youth development workers. Launched during the 2011-12 school year, the first cohort of the Cadre was a collaboration between SOAR, Seattle Public Schools’ Service Learning Seattle, and CommonAction Consulting with funding from the National Corporation for Community Service Youth Engagement Zone program. This session will focus on the new King County Youth Engagement Handbook, a compilation of tools, lessons, and cutting edge writing by Cadre members.
I’m also going to be leading a table in Jessica Werner’s session on Tuesday afternoon. My table will be focused on Meaningful Student Involvement.
Learn more about what CommonAction is available to do at your conference or event by looking at our catalog! You can also contact us anytime…
Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to Learn more at!