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Career Story: Social Worker In An Urban Elementary School

Social Worker In An Urban Elementary School

Job Title: Social Worker

Type of Company: I work for a children's hospital, but I work in a local public school.

Education: BA, Oberlin College.

MSW (Master of Social Work), Boston University School of Social Work

Previous Experience: I have worked as a social worker in many different settings and different agencies, but almost always with children and families.

Job Tasks: I work in an urban elementary school as a social worker. Because my work is grant funded, I can provide services that are not billable through health insurance companies.

I am available to meet with teachers and administrators about students and families that they are concerned about. I can sit in on parent/teacher conferences and help families connect with needed outside services. Often I meet with a parent to assess problems and needs and make a plan to get them support services outside of the school.

I also run social skills groups for the children. Teachers refer children with behavior problems or trouble getting along with other kids. The groups meet weekly and we practice sharing stories, making decisions, taking turns, and being respectful and friendly. We also work on school wide initiatives, like planning activities for turn off your TV week or setting up a positive behavior program in the cafeteria to help make the lunch room a safer and calmer place.

I have a colleague in the same program and she runs a lot of whole classroom lessons on Bullying, Body Changes, etc. We also offer Parent Workshops on a variety of topics.

In the spring we help families find affordable summer camps. In the summer we plan new programs and develop new mental health related curriculum for use with teachers and students. Once a week we also go to the hospital to meet with our colleagues who work in other schools and to attend administrative meetings and trainings.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part is working with the kids and families. The kids are hilarious and very open and energetic. It is nice to be able to spend some fun, positive time with them. The parents are often struggling and are very responsive to support. The hardest part is the scarcity of resources for the things people need. Not enough tutors, not enough affordable after school activities, not enough subsidies for basic needs, housing and utilities. Also it is hard when a child is suffering and a parent is unwilling or unable to help and support them.

Job Tips:
1. Make sure you have personal boundaries with your clients. You will want to rescue them, especially the kids, but there are lots of limits to what you can do and how you can do it.

2. Make sure you have a plan to take care of yourself when you are witnessing hurt, disappointment, injustice and suffering. You need to know how you will take care of yourself and keep doing the work.

3. Make sure you have a good supervisor and good supervision and support. That will help you know you are doing what you can, and get you through the overwhelming parts.

Additional Thoughts: An MSW is a very flexible degree. You can do so many things with so many types of people and organizations. However, the pay is not great.

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