Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Graduation is right around the corner. For some of my kids graduating means success, completion, celebration and achievement. For others it represents fear, loss and anxiety.

What they all share in common however is leaving the comfort zone of a school they attended for several years with a supportive team of Partnership with Children social workers. Many of New York City’s high schools are large - much larger than our middle school. The social environment at high schools, especially in tough neighborhoods, can also be intimidating. Big classes and limited support from guidance counselors who are stretched thin serving hundreds of kids do not make the transition to high school any easier.

As with so many situations I face as a social worker, there are limitations on how much I can help the children I work with. I can’t walk them through the process of entering high school. Instead I have to prepare them with skills and knowledge. My role is to teach them how to cope with the challenges of entering a new school. What exactly does it mean to transition successfully into a new school? It means making new friends who have a positive influence on you, staying away from those students who are negative leaders, avoiding fights, and of course focusing academically. These may be high expectations for adolescents growing up in tough neighborhoods with tumultuous personal lives, but by showing them I hold these expectations of them I am also expressing that I have confidence in them to meet the challenge.

The truth is that transitions are not any easier for adults. While I am busy prepping my kids to graduate and enter new schools, I also have to ready myself to let go of them. Even after years as a social worker I still have a difficult time resolving the attachment I build for my students. Will I continue to think about them? Yes, definitely. But I have to compartmentalize in order to survive emotionally in my profession and understand and accept the limitations that go along with the incredible rewards of my work.

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