Tuesday, September 02, 2008

What’s it like to be a….School Social Worker?

What does a normal day look like? Is it consistent throughout the year? If you’ve had this position for a while, how have things changed?
A normal day for me consists of seeing kids in the school setting who need counseling services for social and emotional concerns or behavioral problems. I also meet with teachers on a regular basis to talk about concerns they have regarding students.  I then can offer suggestions and a variety of accommodations and modifications that the teacher can make in their classroom to help that student be more successful. I also spend a large amount of time attending IEP meetings for students who require special education services.

School social work has changed over the years in the sense that school social workers are not pulling kids out on a regular basis from class for counseling sessions. We are now looking to work collaboratively with teachers in the classroom setting to help their students be successful within their learning environment without having to be removed from class for long periods of time.

School social workers also need to be extremely proficient and up to date with the latest special education initiatives and laws as a large part of your role is leading and facilitating IEP meetings for special education students. At these meetings, you help the special education team decide which services are most appropriate for the student in the school setting to best help them be academically and socially successful. 

What other, if any, positions have you held prior to your current job? How did you get to where you are now?
I have always been a school social worker. I got my current job in the Chicago suburbs shortly after I finished graduate school.

What kind of training/education did you have? What would you suggest? What qualifications/skills/attributes make someone successful in this position?
You need to have a masters in social work to work in the school setting. I went to a liberal arts college and got my bachelors in social work. Then I went to straight to graduate school for two years and got my masters in social work. I had to do two internships to receive my masters.

To be an effective school social worker, you need to be flexible, organized, and creative. You need to be able to work with students and staff in a compassionate, empathic, and effective way. You also need to have leadership skills, be articulate, and have the ability to work collaboratively with staff from different disciplines.

What are the rewards in your position? Challenges? What makes a good day for you?
The biggest reward is developing relationships with your students and their families through your role as their social worker. The great thing about being a school social worker is that you get to work with students from all different grade levels within the same school, so you can follow and track your students throughout the years. The greatest reward is when you see successes either large or small with students with whom you have formed a close relationships. Its great to see how much power a stable, positive relationship can have in a child’s life.

What trends or changes do you foresee in the next 5-10 years?
There are always new education state initiatives coming out. Schools have to constantly adapt to and figure out ways to integrate these laws and plans into their buildings. The two biggest initiatives this year are RTI (Response to Intervention) and PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports). As a social worker, my role changes depending upon these education laws and initiatives. I have become more like an administrator within my building as I work closely with principals designing ways to help the teachers implement these programs within their classrooms. 

How could a person find out more about your field?

Talk to educators within your old school district or area to see how they view the role of social workers within their school. Each state has an association of social school workers. In Illinois it is IASSW- if you google your state’s association it will have a lot of information about school social work.

When you were growing up, did you have any interests that you have built into your work?
My mom was a school social worker so I also found what she did interesting.

What was your first job like after college?

It was as a school social worker for a school district in a low socioeconomic small community. Great staff, great kids, great experience, bad pay!


Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 09/02 at 10:49 AM

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