I have had an idea ruminating over the last few years. I have lots of ideas. So do you.
In my day-to-day job as a school social worker, the role I fill in a school setting was never my intention. ‘Social Work School’ was a means to an end. I originally intended to get a Master degree in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT).
I’ll add a little context.
I began my teaching career in Illinois. I suppose I began it in Vista, California. If anyone from that original job were to ever share stories of my site-sub-sally days at RBV, I would probably have to shut this whole operation down.
I attended undergraduate school…for six years…full time…in Illinois. I grew up in Illinois. In the exaggerated ignorance of my ‘youth’, I assumed a school was a school, and a school district was a school district. Not true.
In Illinois, from my perspective and understanding, teachers were on a trajectory to receive a master degree from the start. The additional schooling resulted in additional pay. I don’t think this is NOT true in other states. What was available in the four-highschool-district in the Chicago suburb I worked in, was not what I witnessed in Southern California and the greater Denver area. The salary level and additional pay available with master level education in the Illinois school district I worked in was significant.
My point is that I assumed ‘everyone’ (teachers) got a Master degree. Illinois was my original reference point, and where my belief began that it wasn’t IF I’d get a master degree, it was when (and where…and what in…).
In California, I taught Behavioral Health. At the time, Behavioral Health class was a collection of state mandates. I loved teaching Behavioral Health. I also loved that students stayed after class to talk, or would show up during lunch and passing periods. The students were living experiences in real time that, in ninth grade health, were being presented as ‘preventative’ measures. Way too late to prevent anything.
I decided that if I got a master degree in Marriage and Family Therapy, I would be a much better teacher AND I could do private practice after school instead of coaching. The students that came in during the off hours shared things that I had to report to the counseling office as a mandated reporter. Even though I knew it was not my job to ‘help’ them, I wondered how I would ‘help’ them if it was my job. I had no clue.
Massive equity in the house I owned during the California housing boom was enough to pay for a significant portion of graduate school. It seemed scary to sell, stop working, and attend school full time. My brother lived in Colorado. I could move and attend school full time. My original thought was CSU, I had always loved Fort Collins. Not happening. It was next to impossible to get into the graduate program in a state school. It was going to have to be a private university. University of Denver just completed a new building to house the graduate school of social work. GSSW did not need prerequisites. It needed the private tuition cost.
In Colorado, Marriage and Family Therapy looked different than in California. In Colorado, the Denver Family Institute was integrated into the GSSW clinical track. To receive an MFT in Colorado required a master in social work (MSW) and a certificate in the DFI program. I got the master. I didn’t have enough equity in the home to continue what it would cost to complete the program. Halfway into the third year I was done.
The original plan was to continue teaching health and develop a private practice for after school hours. Since this plan was developed in the context of California, I didn’t have a plan for Colorado. The only job setting familiar to me was high school. I was stunned by the salary structure compared to Illinois and California. I completed my CO licensing for school social work. I needed a job.
Be careful what you wish for.
In 1999, the school shootings in Littleton, Colorado disrupted my sense of ‘school’ reality to a level of obsession. I was in Illinois. I wrote an article for the school paper, Everyone Matters. I knew there was more to the story of Dylan and Eric. There had to be a way to prevent the end result.
In August 2017, I sat in the Columbine high school library to attend the Welcome Back message from the Special Education area director in Jeffco. At this time, I was a full-time mental health provider in a Jeffco elementary school.
Always something more.
As a school social worker, I have adjusted to the role of a service provider for students who require direct services in social and emotional skill building to support their access to learning and to level the playing field.
I have also adjusted to the role of an evaluator. I evaluate children to see if they qualify for specialized social-emotional services in a school setting.
Long story short. In this role of a mental health provider, I evaluate for concerns in the areas of emotion, behavior, attention, and social differences (intensities and peculiarities that disrupt access to learning). The students exhibiting symptoms may have any level of cognitive aptitude, or general intelligence.
Because the clinical role was never my pursuit, nor my education and training, it has been a long suffering effort to educate myself in clinical screeners and evaluative processes for students with emotional, behavioral, social, attention, and sensory concerns. I have educated myself through a variety of resources to understand what it means for a child to require additional services. As with everything, experience has been the greatest teacher.
My role can be misleading as it can present itself to be in opposition of my core belief that all humans are born with skills, talents, and abilities to thrive and be exactly who they are here to be. No one is missing anything.
Back to the ruminating idea:
To share the tools I use to assess and intervene on behalf of the children, as self care strategies for adults.
For the 2021 blog year, I am beginning with the most valuable inner resource: our executive functions. The first nine months will explore nine executive functions: initiate, working memory, plan, self monitor, organize, shift, emotional control, inhibit, monitor/read-the-room. The last three months will look at the functions of our behaviors and how to reinforce replacement behaviors.
January: Initiation. What does it mean to Get Started. What does it mean to move toward discomfort.
Let us not assume the children are to master the inner resources that the adults have long forgotten to use with intention and day-to-day functionality.