After The Internship
“We must stop regarding unpleasant or unexpected things as interruptions of real life. The truth is that interruptions are real life.” C.S. Lewis
We find ourselves in unknown and unprecedented territory: in our nation overall, in our profession of school social work, and in our supervision of our school social work interns. School life came to a screeching halt several weeks ago and it feels like an eternity has passed. Supervisors have spent the past few months transforming into remote school social workers as the year closes and surveying the new playing field of digital special education.
After mind-numbing amounts of emails and changing district policies, school social workers are feeling the burn. Not to mention, worrying about our students who are going through severe crises like a guardian contracting COVID-19 or dealing with the way the virus is exacerbating the challenges of poverty. Being a school social worker during this pandemic can feel torturous when you’re unable to be a physical presence for students who have relied on that rapport. There are so many worthy concerns to fill our minds. In the mix of all the triage, supervisors are still trying to figure out how to support the next generation of school social workers and many of our interns are feeling worried about their preparedness.
Remember your first building? The first real crisis you were called to all by yourself? First DCFS call? This generation of school social workers are entering their first building with a very meaningful two months removed from their experience and it can make those “firsts” a little more stressful. So what can we do to support our interns who had to fly the coop early? I offer some ideas for my fellow SSW supervisors, and some recommendations for the SSW Class of 2020, and would welcome your further ideas here and on our social media platform SSWNetwork.
Top 5 Tips & Tricks:
- For many of us, the internship is officially over. Many interns/supervisors have been asked to complete the practicum evaluation. Typically supervisors make themselves available for consultation well after the internship is over but in this case, we should go out of our way for consultation. Create a learning checklist and review your interns’ confidence in those areas reviewed.
- Acknowledge the challenge. Supervisors naturally feel a responsibility to help build the confidence of their intern; due to the independent nature of the position. But, in this instance of the uncertainty around COVID-19, it’s important to validate our interns’ concerns and additional challenges.
- Review interns’ reports. This step can wait until remote learning comes to a close and we enter the summer months but a review of the evaluations, session planning and data collection could prove helpful. Use that review time to talk about best practice versus completing the task.
- Seek and/or create resources! One of the coolest parts about our profession and internship process is the reliance on fieldwork. School social work supervisors have so much to offer! Your wisdom, insight, and know-how can be useful for your interns and others. The reason I love SSWN and our sister site SSWNetwork is because of the visible impact we can have on our own profession! Jump in, we need you.
- Schedule a check-in for March 2021. Your interns have watched you operate all year and they have noticed the different “seasons” of the year. They have noticed that certain times of the year have more domain meetings, transitioned students, and re-evaluations. Typically in months March, April, and May we have more annuals and transition meetings (5th, 8th, and 12th grade). As interns approach March 2021, they will have less experience to recall and a scheduled check-in could go a long way!
Top 5 Recommendations to the MSW class of 2020:
- You can do this! Internships and the process for school social work learning have improved over the years. Universities have improved their practice and supervisors have more resources than ever to help facilitate your learning. Every year I have witnessed continual growth in this process and you will benefit from those efforts! Trust your training.
- Reach out! Networks like SSWN and your state organization can be meaningful consultation tools as you venture out into your first building.
- In your first year, spend the extra time to get it done right the first time. Every task that you really invest in helps provide grounding for future tasks that have a similar nature. Example: Creating a sound and flexible data collection strategy can help you build the next framework for a similar case.
- Try to enjoy yourself! Get excited to build new relationships with teachers, parents, and ESPECIALLY students! These relationships will carry you in the tough times!
- Expect mistakes and give yourself grace. The same grit that we aim to teach our students can be modeled by our own attempts to try to master something new. This journey can be difficult and cause some stressful emotions, but some of those emotions are exactly what our students go through! You can use this experience to broaden the depths of your empathic powers!
Our profession progresses when supervisors and interns continue to improve together and that doesn’t have to stop during this “interruption” if we see it as a real-life opportunity to grow.
Join us next month for another Super Vision column that will continues to explore different facets of how to support school social work interns and new practitioners like this SSW Class of 2020. The column will include supervision activities that help improve intern learning and supervision practices. Feedback and suggestions are welcome on our https://schoolsocialworkers.mn.co/ SSWNetwork social media platform. SSWNetwork is always free to join, and there’s over 4,500 of us there already!