On June 3, youth excitedly and nervously gathered at the United Protestant Church in Silver Bay to attend a community education babysitting class. The class is designed for youth in 5th grade and above, and teaches basic safety and babysitting skills “that will prepare you to stay home alone and be a dependable, capable babysitter when the time comes.”
The class was instructed by Sharon Searls, who has taught this class for approximately fourteen years. She says that this class, composed mostly of 11-year-olds, was the youngest class she remembers. Often, students are ages 12 or 13, or into their teens. “Students who wish to take this class need to be able to be serious enough to participate and understand the material being covered. Each class takes on its own form depending upon the age and life experiences of the students participating,” Searls explains. When she first began teaching the class, the demographics were primarily William Kelley students. Now, there has been “more of a community involvement with students from outside of the William Kelley School.” Searls says that this expansion “has been good for the class, because it brings in input from others who might not be in their immediate circles.”
Currently, the babysitting class is 6 hours, held from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. with a working lunch. “Meeting in one intense day helps reinforce knowledge and skills by intensively studying the topics, and continuity is seen in how one topic builds on and flows into the next. Interwoven throughout the day is how these topics relate to babysitting,” Searls explains.
The structure of the class has three parts that interweave with each other. Personal safety is the first topic, because, “if one can’t care for oneself, how can one care for others?” Searls said that “this area of personal safety has become heavier and more intense as our world has changed exponentially in the last 14 years, and especially the last 5 years. I have had to rewrite our material almost completely since the advent of my service.” As the class discusses personal safety, Searls builds connections as to how personal safety relates to caring for siblings and the children the students may babysit. “Being prepared and aware is key. Open communication with the grown-up in their lives is vital,” Searls emphasizes.
The second area covered is basic first aid, CPR, AED, and Heimlich Heroes. Students who wish to become certified in first aid, CPR, or AED must then go to a certified instructor or complete their certification online. “Emphasis is placed upon being aware so that accidents can be prevented; being prepared so that when an accident does occur, the skills to handle an emergency situation are second nature; and staying calm so that care can be given efficiently.”
Specific babysitting skills are covered in the final section of the day. Depending upon the class, some areas that are covered are: obtaining a job, routines, ages and stages of development, feeding, safety, diapering, and “what to do if…” “Emphasis is placed upon the students to be open and honest with their own parents, as well as with the children’s parents. Babysitting is a real job, and they are being entrusted with someone’s most valuable treasure.”
Class material is taught through hands-on participation, role playing, videos, workbooks, discussion, direct instruction, and library materials. Students are told that “while the certificate shows that they have participated in a Babysitter Clinic, their lives reflect to others whether they are really ready to care for someone’s children.”
“Student response to the June 3 class was amazing,” Searls said. “Students were engaged and asked astute and pertinent questions. They probably used their highlighters to highlight course material more than any other students to date. Laughter was heard and new connections made to other young people along the North Shore.” Some girls worked on filling out their workbooks on the way home, and even quizzed family members on the poison control number (800-222-1222).
Searls would like to thank Angie Goutermont for “all the work she does behind the scenes to make this class and other community education classes happen”, the United Protestant Church of Silver Bay for opening their doors to “training the next generation of leaders”, the parents “for their part in allowing their young people to attend”, and the students for a “fun day of learning together.”
Student Nora Goutermont said, “I liked the packets, they showed me what it takes to be a babysitter. And I learned the Heimlich maneuver.”
Another student, Claire Dreier, added, “It was super fun. More hands-on than I expected it to be. I learned very important skills to prepare for babysitting.”
Natalie Symons said she “enjoyed learning CPR and ‘Stranger Danger’. I feel like I gained the skills to babysit confidently.”
As of the time of writing this article, there are only two spots left for the Two Harbors Babysitting Clinic scheduled for June 17, with Searls again leading this class. “It is important each session to sign up early in the registration process, as there are normally waiting lists, and the number of participants is limited each session so that students can receive instruction more efficiently.” Sign up for the Babysitter Clinic at https://lakesuperiorcomed.ce.eleyo.com/course/608/spring-summer-2023/babysitter-clinic%E2%80%941.