A Day in the Life of a Social Worker

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The month of March is Social Work Month. So I thought it was fitting for me to give you a rundown of a typical day as a social worker. Now, I have only been in the field for a year and a half and all of that has been as a student. I haven’t gotten the full range of experiences as a social worker, but I can tell you exactly what a social work intern (aka me) does at my elementary school. It lays the foundation of beginning to understand what we do.

So here’s what I did today.

I wandered the school with a student who had stomped out of his classroom. Behavior isn’t exactly what I expected to handle when I showed up at the elementary school my first day last January, but I’ve gotten pretty dang good at handling it. Other staff members would have grabbed his armed and forced him into the office. Some might have yelled at him escalating the student to a point of no return. I just walked with him. I tried to talk to him even though I was talking to a wall of no response. I finally got him to the floor of the office and that worked well enough for me. At least he wasn’t yelling and running around the entire school.

I gave a clothing card to a family that I honestly don’t think needed it. The mom said she forgot about the one we gave her last semester which shocks me. But clothing cards are a  resource that we have for families, and she said she needed it. I willingly gave it to her regardless of how much I felt she needed it because it’s not my job to determine that.

I met with a student who said: “I have anger issues”. But she doesn’t really have anger issues. She’s just terrified she’s going to start punching walls and hurting others like her dad did. So we’re in the process of talking about how to breathe deeply and come to my office to cool down when or if she gets angry.

I played heads-up, seven-up with a group of third graders before and after they took their standardized test.

I became very, very sad when a student literally stopped functioning because he couldn’t handle staring at a math test for 75 minutes straight. He already can’t function in the classroom on a normal day… give him a standardized test and he runs the hallways with tears in his eyes.

Social work isn’t popular. I can count on one hand the number of times my answer to “What’s your major?” has been enthusiastic and positive. I get a lot of negative comments on the lack of a paycheck. I get even more comments on how it’s a hard job to have. I’ve gotten at least one that said I can’t help people so I shouldn’t even try.

But we do important work. Very important work. We connect people, fellow human beings, to the resources they need to meet their basic needs. We accept those who are different than ourselves because they deserve to have the same rights we do. We move past our biases and value-differences to serve our clients in an ethical manner. We work hard to assure that everyone is getting what they need, and it’s important. I’m so proud of everything this profession does which ranges from therapy to advocacy to playing heads-up, seven-up.

Happy Social Work Month! I urge you to do some research this month to educate yourself on what we do as social workers. Or just ask me 🙂

-mjm

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