Alex Whitehead: How to engage the disengaged

With almost a decade of experience, Wales Health Mentor Alex Whitehead is truly an expert in engaging and supporting children from a variety of different backgrounds. This is his story with a particular focus on helping a disengaged youngster during the school holidays…
I have been working for Evolve for nine years. Within that time, I have seen the company ‘Evolve’ from just doing PE lessons and after school clubs to where we are now – offering high-quality delivery in a variety of different areas. This now allows us to reach more children and have a positive influence on their learning and life experiences.
During my time, the company has added more strings to its bow to accommodate and reflect changes in society. Three of the main focuses now are cognitive, physical and emotional wellbeing. In recent years I have personally taken on more senior roles becoming Welsh Regional PE Coordinator and a mentor to new staff in our region. This year I have started to conduct formal observations of new staff to support their delivery.
My greatest success whilst delivering our XLR8 holiday courses was working with a disengaged child that just wanted to disrupt and be centre of attention. After this became apparent on the first day, we decided to always have someone working alongside him. Firstly, I tried to make a connection with him by trying to find common ground – something we both enjoyed. I found out that he liked football and Marvel and DC comics. So, from then on, everything we did was then related to his favourite team or superhero so he was engaged.
As soon as the child saw that someone was taking an interest in him and that they were listening, his behaviour started to change and the child really enjoyed the week, even taking part in the talent show with a rap.
My ambitions for every child on an XLR8 camp is first and foremost that they enjoy the camp in a safe and engaging environment. After that, I hope that they make new friends and become aware of their new school environment ready for September. Along the way, I intend to support children in developing their social skills and gaining a boost in self-esteem and confidence.