Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Another School Year Ahead

Just one more week and it starts again—I’m excited and nervous all at the same time about the new school year. My life as a social worker is filled with challenges, successes, failures and the overwhelming desire to make a difference in children’s lives. Even if I only reach one child this year, that’s one child who has found a better outlook on life, new skills to help him achieve and a better chance at success.

This is my fourth year as a Social Worker Supervisor with Partnership with Children and my third year in this same school. Every year starts out the same with kids entering the classrooms, discussing their summers with old friends and meeting new classmates, but each year always develops a little differently. I hope for the best, that we can really reach these students and impact their lives, but in truth you never really know what will happen until the year ends. My yearly goals never change—improving school attendance numbers, helping students achieve socially, emotionally and academically and keeping parents engaged in their children’s lives.

The weeks leading up to the new school year are very busy. Each year I work with my team (usually another social worker and a few interns) and the school’s principal to determine which students are most in need and how we can best support these students. Our approach is multifaceted—we work in classrooms, with small groups and with individual students. The principal will usually choose 3-4 classes with the highest need that we will work with once a week, selecting a curriculum that will best meet their needs. We also operate 4-5 small groups which focus on topics such as peer mediation, bereavement, boys only, girls only, etc. These groups are generally mixed in grade levels and students are pulled out of their regular classes once a week to participate. For students most in need, we will work with them on an individual basis, assigning them to either a social worker or intern. All in all, we work with approximately 180 students, grades K-5th, just in this one school.

Once the students are identified we need to contact their parents for consent, which gets tricky sometimes. Some families don’t have internet or even phones, making personal visits the method of choice. There are also language barriers and other family challenges. It’s our job to make sure these parents fully understand our role in the schools and make sure their children are getting the best possible support.

The most fun of all is decorating the Partnership with Children classroom! We make sure we have supplies, signs are hung and the room is warm, bright and inviting. We’re excited to meet a new group of students, get to know their personalities, home life and struggles and figure out how we can fit in and help them achieve success. Let the new school year begin!

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