Job Title: School Social Worker
Type of Company: I work in elementary schools for a suburban public school district that has an urban component as well.
Education: BA, Psychology, Binghamton University (Binghamton, NY) MSW (Masters of Social Work), University of Connecticut
Previous Experience: For two years, I worked as a clinician in clinical day schools. These schools are for students unable to succeed in ordinary public schools. I then accepted a job at a public elementary school.
Job Tasks: I provide counseling services to students throughout the day for anger management, anxiety, making friends, impulse control or solving conflicts. The only criterion for seeing them is that their emotional problems affect their ability to succeed in school. Some students I see individually, but many are part of a small group. Counseling can take many forms: talking, drawing pictures, playing games, role playing (acting out a scene to practice what could happen in real life), and learning and practicing life skills (how to greet someone, calm down when angry, etc). I also see students in crisis: when they are having a tantrum, when they talk about wanting to die, or when someone at home has been abusing them).
Classroom groups allow me to see an entire class at once. Some of these groups participate in a "low elements" course, which is a series of indoor and outdoor activities that teach communication, problem solving, teamwork, and other important life skills. These groups can help a class become more cohesive and engender a more supportive environment for learning.
In addition to meeting with students, I attend various meetings with staff and parents. Some of these are more formal and require written reports and updated goals, while others are more informal support meetings, where often different ideas are discussed and tried.
Another large part of my job is organizing other supports for the students: mentoring programs, holiday assistance, camp and sports sign-ups, and referrals to other counseling services in the area.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of being a school social worker is seeing students succeed in using the skills you've been teaching them. Even small steps are great to see! The worst parts of the job include having to call DCF when a student discloses an unsafe situation, trying to calm an out-of-control child without success, and being on the receiving end of an angry parent's diatribe.
Job Tips: Do well on your SATs because the scores can sometimes exempt you from the certification test to work in a school system.
If you are interested in working in a school system, it is important that you have at least one internship in a school. The courses don't give you much information about being a school social worker.
It is difficult to find a job in public schools, especially as a first job. Consider private settings or residential treatment facilities for children. You'll gain clinical experience fast.
Additional Thoughts: A MSW degree gives you many options. School social work is just one of them. I love this degree because it is so versatile. I happen to love school social work but if I ever changed my mind, I could also work in private practice or in another setting since I have my LCSW (meaning I am licensed. The licensing requirements vary by state but you need to have so many hours of experience and supervision before taking and passing a standard test). I highly recommend becoming licensed if you become a social worker.
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