Welcome to The New Social Worker's Blog

The New Social Worker is the quarterly magazine for social work students and recent graduates, focusing on social work careers for those new to the profession. This blog is a companion to the free online magazine at http://www.socialworker.com.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Mother of all Research Projects


We have a huge project due on Friday morning. It's a Single Subject Design paper, poster, brief, and presentation for Research II class. Most of my classmates are working on it now and we communicate our "pain" via Facebook and e-mail. It's the last BIG project of the semester, and if we just break it down into pieces we will all be fine -- and get it done.

I am somewhat blocked. Like many in my cohort, I am meeting with my professor to make sure I am on track and headed in the right direction. Today I plan to get the paper finished as far as I can take it. After meeting with the prof tomorrow, I hope to finish up the remainder of it.

Once this project is out of the way, I can concentrate on my last final exam which will be on Saturday morning.

At this time next week, it will all be over. Let me know how you are doing with your finals. I'd love to commiserate, er I mean, communicate, with you!

~Ms. T. J.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"Goosebumps" While Waiting

TODAY WAS MY LAST DAY OF FIELD PRACTICUM for this semester. For the better part of the day, it was fairly uneventful. I tidied up the office since I won't return until January, and I called a medical collateral contact. My field instructor gave me my final evaluation, and that was about it.

At about 4:45, I walked down the hall to say good-bye to an employee who has been so helpful and supportive for the last 15 weeks of my practicum. Something (someone) caught my eye as I was standing in her doorway. I turned to see two young children sitting outside a nearby cubicle. One of the kids had her head buried in a book, and the smaller of the two kept glancing in my direction. I asked the worker who they were and what they were doing. When she shrugged her shoulders indicating that she didn't know, I said, "I think I'll say hello."

As it turned out, the two children had arrived at the agency for a visitation with their parents who were supposed to have been there at 3:30 p.m. It was almost 5 p.m. The elder sibling kept her head in her book -- one of a series of "Goosebumps" readers for young people.

"What are you doing?" I inquired, with a smile.

"Waiting for our parents," said the youngest child, who seemed eager to engage.

"Where are they?" I asked.

She shrugged and said something about her Mom being at home and her Dad at the shelter. The older child, whose eyes never left the page, said, "You don't know that." The youngest child proceeded to explain that Dad was in a men's-only facility, so she was pretty sure it was a shelter. They were 7 and 11 -- going on 25 and 27.

My heart was breaking. Here it was, a couple of days before Thanksgiving, and this would be the last chance they might see their parents before the holiday.

"I wish I had some Checkers so you could have played a game while you were waiting," I offered. "I'll have to bring a game to the office...," my words trailed off.

I decided to stay late and keep them company while they waited for a worker to drive them back to the foster home that they shared with several other children. I listened, and learned that the younger sister felt like one of the kids who they lived with wasn't very nice. I praised them for the good behavior they exhibited while they waited an hour and a half for parents who never came.

"How disappointing it must feel," I'd said to the younger girl when she told me the story, and, "I am sorry they didn't come."

The older child never looked up from her "Goosebumps" storybook.

When I left the building, I no longer felt as buoyed by the promise of a month of vacation. I felt sad. And, I felt passionate about returning to the child welfare agency when vacation is over. There is so much work to be done and so many children we need to serve.

~Ms. T. J.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Birthday Present

ONE OF MY GOALS IN LIFE was to get my Master's degree by the time I was 50 years old. Well, today is my 50th birthday. I will march in our graduation ceremonies in May.

I was 48 when when I started this journey, and I want to say to anyone who is considering going back to school to get a Bachelor's, Master's or Doctorate: Do it! It's never too late to begin again.

Why didn't I do it sooner? I wasn't ready. I had other priorities in life, and there wasn't room for school. Getting a degree is a huge commitment that takes time and energy. Most of all, you have to want to do it. The desire to attempt, and then achieve it, must be greater than anything else. Because you won't have much time for anything -- or anyone -- else.

I am grateful for my husband. He has pulled more than his share of the weight during this time. He's worked more hours and several jobs. He's supported me while I put school first, and I know that's not been easy.

As I ring in this half-century of life, I am amazed and grateful and surprised and thrilled. I don't feel 50 and most people say I don't look it. But I embrace it because I know that I can do anything, at any age, if I put my mind to it.

~Ms. T. J.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Finishing Fall Field Practicum

IT'S ALMOST OVER. It's gone pretty quickly, I have to say. What have I learned? So much. I've been on investigations. In homes, at schools, with children, with parents, in nice homes, in not-so-nice neighborhoods. I've felt fired up. And privileged. And nervous. And confident.

I think the coolest days were when I was partnered with a case manager whom I really respected. Her style was real. She cared about her clients. She knew her limitations. She didn't give herself enough credit for her strengths. She was humble.

I was a team player. I did what was asked of me without exception. Well, there was that one day when I knew I was being taken advantage of by a worker who was so far behind that it was ridiculous. So I opted out. I wasn't supposed to be doing that anyway. So I went back to my responsibilities. I stood up for myself. That was a good thing.

I look forward to a break. And, I'm happy to report -- I look forward to returning for the second half of field practicum in January 2010. I wondered if I'd like it. I prayed I would -- since I have the Title IV-E grant and all. Since I will be working there after I graduate. At least until I pay the grant back with my time. Who knows? I may stay longer.

For today, though, I think I'll take it one day at a time. This day is pretty awesome, after all.

~Ms. T. J.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Winding down

I'M SURE MOST OF YOU are winding down for the fall semester. That's not to say we don't have a lot of work to do before it's all over. But there's something about nearing the end of a semester that brings relief -- no matter how fleeting.

It's hard to believe that after this one, I will only have one more semester to go before graduation. And then again, it can't come too soon! I have to admit that I will miss it when it's over. I won't miss the unforgiving deadlines, or the class lectures that I thought would never end (you know what I am talking about!)

What will I miss? Laughing with my cohort, packing my book bag, sitting among smart people (for the most part), and working really hard on something and being rewarded for it with a great mark.

I guess I should come back to the moment and do the next right thing. It's not over yet!

So, what will you miss when it's all over but for the shouting (and tossing of your graduation cap)?

~Ms. T. J.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Unbelievable; I've got the flu!

THIS CAN'T BE HAPPENING. Not right now. Not when I've been given the gift of a day off (Veteran's Day) to work on my school projects. I just returned from the pharmacy where I picked up a prescription for Tamiflu, and I have taken the first pill.

I will try to work on my research paper until I can't hold my head up and then I will get in the bed.

I hope you are all well and keeping up with your assignments.

Hang in there; we are almost to the end of the semester.

~Ms. T. J.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Four Weeks to Go: Egads!

IT'S HARD TO BELIEVE the semester will be over in just four weeks. Let's take a look at what I'll need to finish in that time:

* A "Major Research Paper" and presentation
* A Case Study
* A Group Project: Program Evaluation
* A Single Subject Design Paper and Project
* Two final exams

No problem, right? EGADS.

By going to the CSWE conference, I forfeited a homework weekend. Do I regret it? Heck no. I enjoyed the conference, even though I volunteered more than I did anything else. I left on Sunday morning (to work on aforementioned list) and I found out (too late) that the lion's share of the student-oriented workshops were held on Sunday and Monday.

I am not complaining.

I was able to network with presenters and other students, meet The New Social Worker editor Linda Grobman (yay!), and see the Riverwalk, The Alamo, the Tower of the Americas, and the historic King William area. I also enjoyed delicious Tex Mex, Mariachi bands, and wandered the very walkable streets of San Antonio.

So, how will I do all the work? One step at a time. I will do what has been asked of me -- nothing more, nothing less. Well, okay, maybe a little bit more...

~Ms. T. J.

Monday, November 2, 2009

See You in San Antonio?

THIS WILL BE A SHORT WEEK in terms of school and my internship. Since the entire faculty is attending the CSWE conference, in San Antonio, TX, they called off classes for the week. And, since I am also attending, I will be missing a day of my field practicum.

I am looking forward to traveling to another state, The Lone Star State, meeting new friends, and seeing at least one old classmate, who is now a Texan.

The New Social Worker magazine will have a booth at the conference, and editor Linda Grobman will be there each day. On Saturday, Karen Zgoda will be at the booth at 9:15 a.m. and I'll be there at 1 p.m. Please stop by Booth 215 and say "hello." We would love to meet you and hear your stories.

~Ms. T. J.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


THE HYPE ABOUT THE FILM "PRECIOUS" is really getting me stoked. We have an annual film festival sponsored by one of the colleges in the city that I live in, and there will be a viewing this week. One of our professors told us in class on Saturday that the department of social work on campus is trying to arrange for a special screening for the students. That would be so exciting! I have posted a link to a trailer for the film on YouTube. If you'd like to check it out, click here.

A segment on today's "Sunday Morning" featured an interview with the character who plays "Precious." Gabourey 'Gabby' Sidibe said that while she is not her character, she knows "Precious." Sidibe also said she never dreamed she would be in films, mostly because "it doesn't happen to girls who look like me."

What was so remarkable about the "almost famous" actor is that she has incredible self-esteem. She said people have often disrespected her because of her obesity and she yet has been able to find a way to believe in herself, her talents and beauty because she gets that she is the only person who can do that. She said that no one can make her diminish herself. I was impressed by her strength and self-awareness.

This movie is based on the novel "Push" by Sapphire and also stars Mariah Carey, Lenny Kravitz, Mo Nique, and Paula Patton, to name a few. Oprah Winfrey and Taylor Perry have signed on as executive producers which will likely push the film into commercial success. And that's a good thing because it is a wonderful representation of our world. Beyond that, though, it just looks like it will be a great film.

~Ms. T. J.

Help for Academic Fatigue

I FOUND A GREAT SITE while searching for remedies for grad school fatigue. Actually, if you type the words "grad school stress" in your search engine (Google, Bing, etc.), you'll find an array of articles. One I found to be particularly useful was written by Nick Repak, a director of Grad Resources in Plano, TX, titled, "Emotional Fatigue: Coping with Academic Pressure."

The author discussed the problem of emotional fatigue (EF), the environment of grad students and the contributing factors to EF, the traits that set up an emotional cycle of perfectionism, signs and symptoms of EF, the effects of EF, and finally the solutions.

I was relieved to see that I've already begun the process of dealing with my emotional fatigue by journaling (blogging), cultivating relationships (I spent the afternoon with a new, and dear, friend who is in the same social work program), seeking outside help, and exercising.

This article helped me to normalize my experiences which made me feel better almost instantly. If you'd like to check it out, click here.

~Ms. T. J.