When God grants me the blessings I’ve been seeking him for, don’t think it’s all of a sudden. I’ve been seeking his face, tithing, serving, crying, waiting and praying. When I change my routine don’t think I’m funny acting. I told God some things and he is just giving me what I asked for. It’s been a long time coming, but to your eye it’s fast. I’ve watched others toil and receive the blessings and I was happy for them. Please be happy for me. Please celebrate me the way I celebrated you. My time is on the way, but don’t be surprised at my super-sized blessing. I’ve paid the price for the blessing God is sending my way. Amen.
I just wanted to help people. That was all I asked. I never knew the scope of helping people. I’ve been helping people professionally since 2003. I didn’t feel I was doing that much, at the time. I learned a lot, from the kids and my co-workers, but my heart wasn’t centered. I moved on with kids and babies in 2005. I don’t have kids and I didn’t feel adequate. I worked with amazing women who taught me a lot of things. They taught me how to look at things from a different perspective. They showed me how to be compassionate. I gave my heart away in 2007. My heart was in preparation. I went back to school and learned principles, techniques, foundations, theory, and ethics that challenged my heart. In my intern experiences my thoughts were more developed and my heart was more receptive, in a different type of way. When I gave my heart away and decided to change my life, my spirit and heart aligned. I had more of an awareness of my purpose. I learned that what I was doing, working with youth and families, was what I was meant to do.Everyday I walk into my job, I have to make sure my heart is in order. The students and families I work with have high needs. They may need a hug, words of encouragement, or a joke. I have to be in a right place to provide that. I don’t take it lightly, the things that I do are therapeutic and done in love. As a social worker it is vital to have your heart in order. It makes life easy if what you do is attached to the calling on your life. Look at what you do and how you do it. Is it fulfilling or draining? Do you love your population or hate to see them? Rest and re-evaluate why you do what you do. Rest always help to reinvigorate your heart. Also, yoga, exercise, journaling, medidation, and prayer are good ways to check your heart. I want to continue being an agent of change so I make sure my heart is in order.
I have been out of graduate school for 6 years and I wrote this three and a half years ago. I have been a working school social worker the entire time. I had a wonderful internship and I felt like I learned a lot, but it is very different from being the “real” school social worker. So, I would like to share a few words of wisdom.
10. Reiterate to the school staff, students, and families that you are the school social worker
Traditionally in a school setting everyone knows who the counselor is. They have an idea of what he/she does but no one is really familiar with a school social worker being in the school, let alone what their job entails. Word of advice, make sure to announce that you are a school social worker and let them know there is a difference between the two. Also, have items that say “Social Worker” such as a business card holder, keychain, mug and ink pens. This will ensure that they don’t get confused about your title and place in the school setting.
9. It get’s lonely, make friends with everyone
In some cases, you may be the only school social worker in your building or district. As the school social worker it is your job to be social. Engage with all the staff, including the custodial staff, lunch staff, and security staff.
8. You are supportive, support the staff
There will be times that the staff will need a helping hand. Watching a classroom, moving boxes and chairs, shoveling snow, and possibly saving a cat! This step can be problematic due to the way you may perceive yourself and role in the school or what others may perceive your role in the school to be. As a school social worker, you support the staff wherever needed to ensure that learning takes place in the school setting. If you are available and able to assist, you want to be helpful. This solidifies the importance of your position, helps you to be identified as a team player, and clears up who you are in the school setting (going back to number one).
7. Connect with other school social workers
This is very important as a new school social worker, especially if you don’t have a lot of resources to get started in the school setting. I was very fortunate that I had a mentor who let me use resources to get started and pointed me in the right direction. While I was in my internship, I was able to connect with other school social workers who spent time talking with me and giving me advice. I made sure that at the end of my internship I asked for their contact information (business card, Facebook, email). Another way to connect with other school social workers in your area is to join your local/state organization. For example, I am a member of Michigan Association of School Social Workers. By connecting with other school social workers you gain knowledge about what is going on in the field and you are creating a professional network.
6. Speak up for yourself
As a school social worker (or any kind of social worker) it is your job to advocate for the students and families you work with. You may find it hard to advocate for yourself. One reason it may be difficult is it is hard to describe to people all the wonderful things you do and to express your added value to the team. Start practicing speaking up for yourself, it can be something as small as needing post it notes or something as big as needing a permanent office space. The worst you can hear is “No”, but you don’t want to feel bad because you didn’t attempt to speak up for yourself. You are valuable to the school and staff. The more you advocate for yourself, the better you will feel and the more effective you will be for the students.
5. If you don’t know, ASK!
Being a new school social worker and possibly being in a setting where you are the only one can be a bit overwhelming. You may believe that you should know it all because you received your MSW and you have completed your internship. Don’t put that type of pressure on yourself. If you don’t know something ask, familiarize yourself with the people who have the information you are seeking, whether it’s a school social worker question or a general school question. You would rather be right by asking then being wrong and looking unprofessional.
4. You are an expert, Act like it!
One of the biggest challenges you may find is feeling confident in the position of school social worker. If you are new to the profession and your colleagues ask you questions or you have to make a tough decision without advice (because you are the one who makes the decisions now) it can get overwhelming. Positive self- talk is a great way to overcome this obstacle when you are new to the field of school social work. You learned great techniques during your internship, your higher learning institution prepared you, and you have what it takes to succeed. Walk it out, that’s all you can do until you feel the confidence you need, trust me it will come.
3. You are a teacher
This nugget of information can be hard to accept. As a school social worker you may not consider yourself a teacher, a helper maybe, but not a teacher. I mentioned previously that most people will think you are a counselor. It is your job to teach them what school social work looks like. It’s great that it is not one way to be a school social worker. Whatever your style of delivery of services is what they will learn. Also, you are teaching about who you are, for example, if you are in a culturally diverse district and you are of another race/nationality. I have had the pleasure of teaching staff, students, and families about my culture. It has been a great experience because I can answer questions that they may have, as well as dispel any negative stereotypes they may have had previous to meeting a person from a different race/nationality. Students are constantly trying to evaluate you and see what you stand for. Everyone you come across in the school setting (school staff, students, families, community stakeholders) will learn about school social work by the way you speak, dress, how resourceful you are, and the way you handle a situation. Make sure to project a good example. Remember, they are watching you.
2. Be visible
For those who may have an idea of what a school social worker is, most of the time their idea is negative “Oh, you’re just sitting in your office” or “She/he doesn’t pick up my students”. It is very important to be visible. One reason is so the students will know who you are, as well as know your role in the school setting. You want staff and students to know you are available to assist as needed. Some ways you can be visible include assisting during passing time in the hallway, dismissal, lunch time, push into the classroom and do mini lessons, chaperone a field trip, and there are many other ways to be visible. You want the staff and students to know who to go to with a problem and being visible will ensure they make it to you. Also, you want the supervisor, staff, students, and families to learn that you are an important part of the school. If you are hiding in your office, they may get the impression that you are not valuable in the school setting, and you don’t want that to happen. School social workers are an intricate part of the school and you determine your longevity in the school setting based on what type of work you are doing in the school, and you don’t want people to get the wrong impression that you are not working, which would not be a proper representation of all the things you do in a school day to make sure staff and students are able to have a productive day. The more the students and staff see you, the better they can connect with you.
1. Be flexible
This is the best advice my mentor gave me. I am such a planner and I want my schedule to go as planned. Most days my schedule never goes as planned. You have to be ready and equipped to deal with any and everything. You can’t get bent out of shape because you are off schedule. When something comes up, it’s for a reason and you are still helping, even though it was not planned. It is always good to have a direction for the school day, but when things pop up breathe, count to 10, and get in there and be the great school social worker I know you are!
Dear Heavenly Father,
I thank you for the gift you have blessed me with, with helping your people. I thank you for the way you have positioned me to show empathy and compassion for your people. Please give me the words to say in any given situation that I may encounter today. Please search my heart and make sure love is expressed through my words and actions. Give me the strength and the words to say when I hear the unspeakable from your children. Help me to advocate for the children, families, elderly, all the various people who you have entrusted to me. I pray against burn out and stress. Please teach me how to rest in you. Encourage me, push me, and help me to learn all the upcoming techniques to better care for your people. I’ll give you all the honor and praise. All these things I ask in Jesus name. Amen.
The month of March is Social Work Month, among other things like Reading Month and Women’s Month. I’m a school social worker and in most cases you are all alone in a school. I’m blessed this school year to have a collegue. So I make it my business to educate my staff and students about social work and school social work. So take a journey with me this month. If you are fortunate enough to work with a social worker show them some love this month.
As an adult I’ve been blessed to be able to reflect on my flaws and where the root began. I think it’s a worthy cause to note the significant Daddy issues and discuss them in depth. This is my introduction to love letters to my younger self, which will explore the connection between daddy issues, self-esteem, and a list of other things I noticed along the way. My prayer is that this blog bless someone and encourage a self examination to tackle our inner issues.