The Social Work Internship Debate

The debate of social work internships is a hot topic right now, and I hear a complaint about field placements come up daily. People have been constantly arguing about what works and what should be implemented. It does not seem like there is a clear consensus on the issue, and who knows if there will ever be one. I thought of sharing my perspective, especially with the Summit on Field Education coming up in October.

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Photo Credit: Beatriz Albuquerque, 2005, Chicago, Work For Free Project. Beatriz Albuquerque www.beatrizalbuquerque.com

Before I begin, I will share some information on my background. I am currently a dual-degree master’s student in social work and public administration, and get the chance to be exposed in two different programs. I have a clear focus of what I want to do, but still open to new opportunities. I am 23 years old and will be beginning my TENTH internship at the end of this month.

Yes, I have completed ten internships ALL in the public sector, and I value each of their experiences. In addition to my internship experiences, I worked at the career center at my undergraduate school for over three years and currently work at the career services office at my current school for almost a year. I would say, that I have had my fair share experiences with internships and have observed and learned what works and what does not. That being said, I want to share my thoughts on this internship debate and offer my thoughts.

First of all, I believe there should be an internship requirement for social work programs. Internships are valuable experiences and complement the information learned in the classroom. The more internships a student completes, the more opportunities they get to develop their career goals as well as expand their network. I completely agree with the required mandate for all concentrations, but I certainly do not agree with mandates that are currently in place and some of the suggestions I have heard.

Here are some of my thoughts:

Strict Requirements do not work and making them stricter will not work make them better: The strict requirements that are currently in place for social work internships are harming the current generation of students. Anyone advocating for even stricter requirements is ignorant of what is like to be a student now. We want options, and we want to individualize. Students entering colleges now have grown up believing we are unique, and we constantly brag about it. We each have our own interests and skills, and we want to find experiences that compliment them. A universal approach does not work for every client, and it certainly does not work for every social work student. Enforcing strict requirements is harming social work programs and ultimately the field.

Internships are for Exploration: As I noted before, internships are a chance for students to explore opportunities in their desired field. Since social work is such a vast field, it is important for students to have the opportunity to explore the many options. Students should be able to explore things they like before they enter into a career. I am not positive, but I certainly believe that many students drop out of social work program, because they are forced to perform work they do not want to do. If students had the option to explore areas of interest to them, then maybe they would value their experience more in the program.

Disciplining Does Not Help: This should be an easy topic to conceptualize, but schools across the country are punishing their students for wanting something different. Students are kicked out of programs for horrible field placements at the fault of the school for placing them there. Students are deemed UNFIT social workers for pointing out flaws at their agencies. The director of field education at my school has told numerous students to DROP OUT of the program simply if they do not like the rules. Isn’t that ridiculous? Since when is punishment the way to address issues in social work? Shouldn’t we supporting students through their beginning stages of being a social worker instead of setting them up for failure?

Mandatory Social Work Credentials for Supervisors Limit Options: I understand the reason for requiring a supervisor to have a social work background, but this limits so many opportunities for social workers to get great experiences. If you think about it, there are social workers that understand the values of social work WITHOUT a social work degree. If someone without a social work degree is doing the exact same work job at a similar agency than someone with a social work degree, why can’t they supervise a social work student? If colleges are in need of more placements for students, this should be a rule that seriously needs to be reconsidered. Having a social work degree, does not qualify you to be the best social work supervisor.

Concurrent Course Requirements: I am not sure if all schools require this, but my school definitely does. They require students to be taking course at the same time as their placement, primarily meaning they can’t complete their internship hours at all over the summer. This rule is ignorant of the needs and schedules of current students. I do believe an internship should begin after the student begins coursework, but this rule just makes things harder for students. Taking a full course load and completing an internship that is most likely unpaid is already a lot, and add on top of that working somewhere to pay the bills. If schools were more flexible with this rule, then maybe students will be able to complete the program with less stress and more enjoyment.

Now that I’ve discussed addressed some of the issues I see. Here are some suggestions I have for improvement:

  • Students should be required to have an internship since social work programs are professional programs, but students should have flexibility and should be individualized to their interests, skills and needs.
  • Students should have option in the internships they obtain and should practice applying and obtaining these internships in preparation for job applying process. Students can obviously receive help and support from the school during this process.
  • Students should not be punished for bad internship experiences. They are learning experiences and should be taken treated as such.
  • Supervisors should be approved by the school, but should not have to have a social work degree. Mental Health counseling, advanced psychology, public administration, public policy, business administration, and other applicable degrees can be effective supervisors and provide the student a great perspective in their internship.
  • Students should be able to be flexible with their internships, as long as they are meeting the requirements.
  • Minimum hours requirements could be implemented to ensure students perform an adequate amount of applicable field experience.
  • Internships must be approved by the field office as applicable placements, and the student and supervisor should set a learning plan to ensure all the social work objectives are met in the internships.
  • Students should not have to be placed in internships outside of their career interests unless they desire.

I hope this article is a start for discussion, not an argument. I do not mean to cause problems or trouble, but merely offer a different perspective that could be helpful in this internship debate. Please share these thoughts, and I’d like to hear other opinions.

The Struggles of Being a Macro Student and How We Can All Be Supportive

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We all know that social work is a versatile field. There are many opportunities within the field to do a variety of things on a variety of levels. We all should know that all levels of work are necessary in order to successfully implement the mission of social work. Even though all levels of social work are necessary, many schools and social workers tend to put efforts in micro level initiatives. There is certainly a need for these initiatives, but focusing the majority and almost all resources on micro efforts can be a struggle for many macro students. Without proper support and resources, macro students can have a hard time during the time in a program.

Here are some of the examples of struggles I have come across and discovered for macro students. These struggles compliment and repeat some of the issues released in the Rothman Report , which you all should read if you have not had the chance.

  • Forced Micro Experiences: Everyone knows that every social work program has some forced micro component. There are some program implementing macro components in requirements, but it is predominantly micro. This probably has to do heavily with state licensure exams content and schools accommodating to their requirements. If a student knows they want to do macro work, why are they forced into micro opportunities? Yes, there are skills that all social workers need to know, but schools can certainly accommodate to the needs of macro students. Social work is what you make of it, and you can’t make much of the opportunities if you are forced into certain ones
  • Minimal Exploration Opportunities: While you are a student, you should be exploring the career fields you would like to pursue. Since social work students have a short amount of time to obtain their degree, it is hard to explore various macro opportunities if you spend half the time in a micro setting. Trying out new experiences if how we learn and how we develop our career aspirations. Without time to explore, schools are feeding us down a certain path.
  • Lack of opportunities with Social Work Programs: There are a numerous opportunities out there macro students and in some ways more flexibility, but social work program tend to focus their efforts on micro students based on the overwhelming amount of micro students and faculty. Micro classes are offered more often and micro opportunities are encouraged.
  • Quality of opportunities: With a micro focus, many schools focus their resources on those opportunities and the macro courses suffer. This causes many macro students to go outside the program to search for quality education and opportunities or not even enter the programs. I know my decision to enter my social work program was based on the macro education, and I dismissed many schools with poor macro concentrations.
  • Trouble with post-graduation employment: Since the quality of macro educations are many times sub-par, the students leaving the programs are then sub-par and may not be able to attain the macro job opportunities they desire and have to settle for a micro job. If a student has a primarily micro background, then they won’t be qualified for macro jobs without proper experience or if they obtained the job, they perform poorly. Macro students are losing positions to other professionals because their programs are preparing them better and allowing for flexibility.
  • Risk of Being Classified as an UNFIT Social Worker: This is an interesting point, but also sad at the same time. I will repeat myself again that not all social work is focused on clinical intervention, and if we only focus on clinical treatment, societal problems will not be addressed. Micro work is not for everyone. I certainly do not want to perform therapy, and I should not feel incompetent as a social worker because of it. I have heard of incidences of macro students being kicked out of their programs because they do not want to perform therapy or asked to do micro work and their field supervisors claim they are unfit social workers. There is even a person in my school that tells students to withdraw from the program if they do not want to do therapy in their field placements which is ridiculous. I don’t have to be a good therapist to be a good social worker.
  • The Constant Questioning of Goals/Intentions: Every student gets asked “What do you want to do with your degree?” This is a reasonable question to engage in conversation and learn about the individual, but for macro students it can be a challenging subject. Many experienced social workers constantly suggest ideas and have an expectation of social workers that they force on current students. Macro social work sometimes does not cross their radar as “real” social work. Also, a micro focused curriculum and field experience forces does not help students pursue macro social work. If macro students are constantly being told what they want to do is not social work and being forced into opportunities they do not want to do, then why should they purse a social work degree?
  • The Struggle to Stay Motivated: As we all know, social change takes a long time and a lot of effort. If macro students who desire to pursue social change are surrounded by people who do not want to contribute or are too burned out from their clients, then macro students can struggle with staying motivated to want to implement change. Instead of giving support, micro social workers can limit macro students’ perceptions of social workers and diminish their motivation.

There are ways that each one of us can help continue to promote macro social work and encourage students to pursue this tract. Here are some ways EVERYONE can help:

  • Never limit your definition of social work: Social work is what people make it, and as long as it is promoting social justice and ameliorate society, then it should count as social work. Never tell someone their work does not matter nor it’s not social work because you don’t think it is.
  • Ask to Help rather than give Advice: This is an issue in many fields, especially social work. Experienced social workers and fellow peers should be asking students how they can help them, rather than giving unsolicited advice. Of course, advice that is welcomed is very useful, but don’t just assume a student wants or needs to hear your perspective on social work. It can be more harmful than helpful.
  • Start Connecting: I wrote in a previous article that all social workers need to be networking! If we keep connecting people with each other, than people can find support and resources in ways they could not have on their own.
  • Unite together: I know this may seem cheesy, but many students think doing stuff on your own is easier and shows strength, but asking for help sometimes is necessary. Getting together with fellow students or asking alumni for support could be really beneficial. If students are having problems, people should offer to help or at least provide support as much as they can. A unified front is stronger than several smaller individual ones.
  • Encourage instead of Discourage: Discouragement is definitely a struggle for many macro students, and it is important to support them in their exploration process. Remember, all levels of social workers are needed, and we need to ensure all are supported through their education process.
  • Challenge and Help Change: If you think your program does not do a good job supporting macro social work students, speak up and ask for the reasons. Sometimes it’s intentional, and sometimes it is not. If things about be better, try to offer solutions or create a task force that could help. Change doesn’t happen without a challenge first.

Fundraising: The Skill that Stands Out

Students and college graduates across the country know that finding a job, and especially finding a job you like, can be a taxing and difficult process. The problem is the competitiveness of the job markets can put stress and limitations on the opportunities students can obtain. In addition, the social welfare field has strains such as limited job opening, overwhelming responsibilities, and not enough financial resources. Social work students work hard to obtain the necessary qualifications to get that perfect job come graduation. We as students are trying to figure out what experiences and skills are going to attract potential employers and stand out over our competition. One of the most valuable skills that any student looking to go into the human services field should learn is fundraising.

fundraisingFirst, it is important to clarify what fundraising is and the benefits from it. If you think fundraising is simply raising funds, then you do not fully understand it. Many students and professionals dislike fundraising because they are not comfortable asking for money or do not think it is important. Well I do agree that our society sometimes has an unhealthy relationship with money and wealth, fundraising is not just about the money. Fundraising is developing relationships with community members to obtain the necessary support for your organization.

I absolutely love fundraising. My social work cohort does not completely understand why, but I love it. I get the opportunity to connect with various community members, build relationships, and then offer the opportunity that is mutually beneficial. There are opportunities to help businesses market their brand, foundations impact the community, individuals feel a sense of reward, and communities feel the difference they are making. Fundraising has more purposes than making revenue, thus making it a vital skill for many organizations.

Fundraising has been a low priority for many human service agencies since the majority of funding can come from government grants or insurance reimbursements. Even though the amount of money from fundraising initiatives may be a small percentage of the total organizational revenue, it is still important to put effort into it, but could be hard to financial restraints. If social workers knew how to fundraise as well as provide direct care, they become a double asset for their agency. Even if their primary job is providing services, assisting the development team with initiatives can be have a huge impact for the agency. Program staffs that know how to fundraise are valuable and highly honored by nonprofit professionals. Program staffs also have a stronger connection to the agency that fundraising staff at times, making their contributions stronger.

As students, we have the opportunity to expand beyond our roles at times and assist in fundraising efforts. While we volunteer for special events or campaigns, we also develop important skills that will benefit us in our career paths. Fundraising is a valuable skill to know and social work students interested in the nonprofit world should explore options to learn more about it. I am currently a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (Afpnet.org) and it is a great resource for professional fundraisers. I recommend looking into programs provided by the local chapter, or any other professional resources that will help develop necessary fundraising skills. Taking a course while in school or attending some training programs can be payoff as well. Learning to fundraise and learning to enjoy it will make a student stand out.

Social Workers Need to be Social Networkers!

Networking is probably the most important part of anyone’s career, and everyone, especially social workers and students, should be practicing proper networking habits. As social workers, we need to be leaders in our community and build successful relationships with various people, and it is important to connect with professionals in all sectors that can influence the social atmosphere.

imageofsuccessnetworkingcocktailpartyfundraiserNetworking can help build relationships with potential employers, potential clients, potential business partners, and potential personal relationships. Personal relationships drive the way our society operates because we are a social society made up of social human beings. People are more likely to give jobs to people they like or do business with people they know.

Social work students and younger professionals really need to be out there networking to ensure your career development is an easy transition from school and you career develops successfully. We are also the next generation of leaders, and it is good to connect with the current leaders now to understand how we can one day be in those positions.

A few tips you should know about networking:

  • Ask how their day is going before anything else. Don’t be that person that gets down to business right away. This is not a business meeting, and you will be known as that person in the community.
  • Never talk about yourself unless addressed. This is hard, but don’t make it about yourself. People sometimes think about how they can respond to some rather than actually listening. Focus on listening and asking more questions. You will get to a point where you can talk about yourself, but wait until it comes.
  • Always be respectful! Duh!
  • Be sincere. People can tell if you are just talking to them for business purposes. At least pretend to like talking to them.
  • Ask personal questions. Ask about their job, their responsibilities, and their lives. Unless, they are a spokesperson for their company, steer away from company or career specific questions.
  • Only give your contact information if they ask. Don’t just give it right away or stick your business card in their face. If they ask for your contact information, they actually want to stay in touch. Ask for their card if you plan to stay in touch.
  • If you attend the event with friends or coworkers, do not stick with them the whole night. You can meet more people and have more meaningful conversations if you do not have someone who knows you standing right next to you. They can be there for support, but also drag you down. Remember, one person is easier to approach the two or more.
  • Be prepared. Have a business card ready and be prepared to talk and engage.
  • If you plan to stay in touch, ask how. Email, phone, social media. Set up a plan.
  • Have goals for the event. Goals help you stay motivated and push you to talk to people. If you don’t have a goal, then you may just stand in the corner eating the free snacks. A simple goal is meet three people you never met before, or meet someone who can connect you with an agency who can provide you a job. Keep it simple, but have some goals in mind.
  • Never pull out your phone! It’s extremely rude, and should only be answered in emergencies. Everything else can wait.
  • Also, you should wait for them to share with you before sharing photos of your pets or families

One of my former supervisors taught me this method to approach people at a networking or social event. This has been really helpful personally with building relationships with people you may not expect right away would be helpful. The important thing about networking is no matter who you meet, there can always be a benefit of knowing a person. This method uses the acronym FORM and helps you realize potential opportunities to connect with the person in multiple areas than just business.

Family & Personal Life. Ask about the person about themselves before you ask anything else. You are talking to a person, not just an employee of a business. Talk about where they are from, their family, their education, and anything else personal first. Take note, new parents love talking about their children! Also, asking people about their family the next time you see them shows you actually care about the person. Pets are another great way to connect, as well as hometown or cultural traditions. Try to build a connection with someone rather than force it.

Sample Questions:
· Where are you originally from?
· When do you move to the area?
· What are some of your favorite things to do around here?
· Where do you go to school if you did?
· Do you have family here? If so, do you mind me asking about them?

Occupation & Business. After the personal life questions, transition to work. Some people love talking about their job, and some people do not. Our society identifies people based on their occupation. It’s important to know what career someone has, but always remember not to solely associate that person with their work.

Sample Questions:
· What do you for a living?
· Do you like your job?
· What are the best components of your job?
· How long have you been doing it?
· How did you get into that career field?
· What was the best part of your education?

Recreation & Hobbies. People do more than just work. Ask what they like to do for fun. See if they are involved in clubs or associations. People have many interests outside of working, and you could meet someone who likes similar things as you. Also, this is another area to talk about with someone and connect with them in different ways.

Sample Questions:
· What do you like to do outside of work?
· What do you do for fun?
· Do you volunteer for any organizations or causes?
· Do you know of special interest groups or organizations in the area?

Mission & Message. After speaking for some time with a person, this is where you identify what your goal is with that person. Share information about your agency or your career goals. Try to connect with them for professional development opportunities. Identify and plan a way to stay in touch. This is usually the part where us fundraisers talk about the great work our organizations does, and how the person’s support with be helpful or to be involved in the organization. This is a great time because you have demonstrated you actually care about the person more than doing your job.

Sample questions:
· Do you know anyone who could help me?
· Do you have any ideas/advice for me?
· Is there anyone here than you know that I can meet?
· Could we meet for coffee/drinks?
· I would love to stay in touch. Which way is best to contact you?

I have followed this method in the last few months, and met incredible people in the local community. It is truly amazing to hear more about a person beyond their current job, and their personal community service goals. You can figure out many opportunities that person can help you, and how you can help them! Remember social workers should be doing the best we can to ameliorate our communities. The more relationships you build, the bigger your impact can be on the community. Connecting professionals from various sectors can help unite the community in a way to really make a difference in the community. We sometimes underestimate the power of relationship building on a professional level, and it is certainly a priority of social work to advance social justice causes and change the community for good. The more people we know, the more our impact can have.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Eventbrite

Why Social Justice Education Matters

After reading about the Isla Vista killings,  it got me thinking about my role as a teacher and what we can do to combat  injustice and inequality within the schools, communities and even classrooms that we occupy. The role of a teacher is complex and multi-layered but we must ensure that teachers have the ability and curriculum to have serious discussions with students about the issues they will/have/are facing in their worlds.

social justiceSocial Justice Education is not only learning about specific topics, but it is a framework for interacting with students, establishing classroom culture, and inviting students to become active participants in their worlds to make it a better place.

If we don’t engage students in this type of learning, and only prepare them for the labour market, then we are failing to engage them with the task of making the world a more just and equitable place.

In short, social justice education matters because….

  1. It challenges and seeks to end dominant narratives/actions of patriarchy, sexism, and misogyny in and out of the classroom.
  2. It seeks to understand social and economic systems that create poverty and suffering for millions.

  3. It challenges students to understand their privilege and encourages them to become allies of those seeking justice.

  4. It seeks to deconstruct racism not just as an individual act but as an institutionalized mechanism of oppression.

  5. It actively fights against homophobia and advocates for the rights of LGBTQ people.

  6. It teaches students to learn and understand the “hard and difficult” issues of our society and that they cannot be ignored if we want to make progress.

  7. It demands that we advocate for the rights of those with disabilities to ensure they can benefit from all society has to offer.

  8. It challenges students roles as oppressor/oppressed and actively encourages them to self-reflect on their actions as citizens.

  9. It demands that we investigate colonialism and challenges us to decolonize for a more just world.

  10. It is essential if we want to end the misery of oppression in all of it’s forms throughout our classrooms, schools, communities and the larger world.

Too often, as parents and teachers, we offer simple solutions to complex issues so we don’t have to have these hard conversations with our youth. This is unacceptable if our goal is to create a safe, just, and equitable world for all people. It’s time we prepare ourselves, and the teaching profession, to take up the task of social justice education.

Ten Tips for Wrapping Up Your Internship!

Many college students are finally ending their academic years and semesters. Classes always seems so long, but at the same time, time flies! Since the semester is ending, internships are coming to a close as well. It can be a sad situation, as many students love their internships. On the other hand, it may be a nice relief for the students who did not care for their position. Regardless of interest, it is important for all students to make sure they end the internship in good standing. An internship can provide references and connections for students in their later career endeavors. A good student always makes sure that they have wrap up everything at their internship and maintain a great relationship.

career-opportunitiesHere are ten tips to help you interns finish your experiences:

1.Finish any projects/assignments. This is self-explanatory, but make sure you complete everything you were assigned. The completion of your hours is not an excuse for incomplete work. Your contribution to the agency may be really important, and you do want to be the intern who leaves incomplete work for the agency.

2.Set a final date with your supervisor. Another self-explanatory tip, but it is important. Some schools have hours requirements for credit, and some students think they can just peace out once their hours are completed. This is not true. Sit down with your supervisor and figure out an exact date that works for both of you, before you plan to leave.

3.Ask about other agency opportunities. If you are about to graduate, it would not hurt to ask about jobs with the agency, full-time, part-time, seasonal. You already have an understanding and connection to the agency, which may make the transition a lot easier. Also, internships can be long interviews! Many interns get hired after their position, so make sure you ask about sticking around to let them know you are interested!

4.Offer to train the new intern(s). For those of you at agencies where interns overlap, offer to help train the next intern. You obviously can give the new intern a great perspective and prepare them for a great internship experience. You have an insight your supervisor does not have, and you can maybe help them avoid any mistakes or ensure they do things a certain way. This always shows your supervisor that you care about the agency, and they may connect you to future opportunities.

5.Thank your supervisor and other colleagues. An internship is a great experience, and it takes work to plan and hire an intern. Make sure you thank your supervisor and anyone else you worked with before you leave. A nice thank you card is good way to show you a thankful for the opportunity they gave you.

6.Be sure to leave your contact information. You probably won’t be keeping the email address they made for you, so make sure you leave an updated email address they can contact you. Make sure it is professional obviously. Also, seniors and graduates, ensure that your email address is not your school one, because you may lose it once you graduate.

7.Connect with them on LinkedIn. If you haven’t already, add people in the agency on LinkedIn, while they remember you! You don’t want to wait a few months or years, and have them try to remember you. If you add them right away, then they can endorse your for some skills or write a recommendation for you while your performance is still fresh in their head.

8.Update your resume/LinkedIn. Before you leave, update your resume and professional profiles with everything you completed. Have your supervisor look at it, and help with the wording. You want to make sure you encompass your whole experience before you forget and move on to the next opportunity.

9.Sign up on the volunteer list. This applies mainly to my nonprofit folks. If you agency uses volunteers in any capacity, sign up to be one. Staying connected to the agency can only help you later on in life. I interned at an agency in the fall, stayed connected through the spring via volunteering, and was offered a job once I graduated. Do extra things to stay noticed and they will remember you.

10.Stay in touch. Again, staying in touch can only help you. Before you leave, ask if it is alright for you to stay in touch with them, and then ask what is the best way to contact them. This will prove that you plan to stay in touch. Remember connections could lead to many things!

Internships are the most important experiences for students to figure out their career development goals. Make sure you optimize your experience, and take advantage of the future opportunities that could come. Just because you end an internship, does not mean it cannot benefit you later down the road. Social work students should especially be doing this, since many of us spend a whole year as an intern. We receive quality experience, and our supervisors did a lot for us. Make sure you do as much for them, and put yourself in a situation for them to believe you are going to be a great social worker. Be a superstar intern, and make them remember you!

Successful Strategies to Help Students Prepare for Job Searching After Graduation

As graduation approaches, many students are contemplating about the next step.  Both graduates and undergraduates are on their way through the job process searching for various post-graduation opportunities. As many know, finding a job does not just instantly happen and finding a job you actually want can be a miracle. For us younger professionals, it may seem impossible to find a full-time position and we may feel discourage approaching the work force. Part of the reasons for this are societal factors that we cannot control, but students can decrease the stress that may arise from graduating and open multiple doors.

images (35)While we are preparing ourselves for the next step after college or graduate school, the weird thing is that many students just sit back and relax thinking everything is going to work out for them. It is very frustrating when students think that once they graduate, opportunities are going to come right to them. This is not reality. The real world is competitive but vast, and all you have to do is go out and look. You have to prove to your community and yourself that you are a professional and capable of the job you want to get.

Here are a few easy things to do that every student can do that make their professional development grow:

Challenge yourself at your internship. I am tired of hearing students saying they do nothing at their internship or it is too easy. You have the ability to do more opportunities. Evaluate your current responsibilities and speak with your supervisor about doing more things. Meet with other people in the agency and ask them for help. Helping out the agency in ways they need shows you are willing to work and contribute to the success of the agency, not just yourself. Internships are not only learning experiences, but crucial to professional development.

Network! Network! Network! The majority of jobs are found through networking! People hire people they like, and people connect people they like. The more people who like you, the more people who can help you. Meet as many people as you can at your internship. Just Go to events, meet people at programs, conduct informational interviews! Network! Many of the social workers I have met, have not been the greatest at networking. Starting to network as a current student is a great way to practice, develop professional skills, and build connections for future opportunities.

Find a Mentor! Having a mentor is probably the greatest thing you could ever do. I have a mentor right now, and he is awesome. We get to talk about our interested fields and connect with each other on a professional and personal level. Find a mentorship program to participate in, connect with alumni from your school, or reach out to people in the desired career industry. Having someone with experience who will then offer advice or advocate for you, is definitely a resource you want to have. You never know who they know or what they can do for you later on.

Join a Local Chapter of Professional Organization!  This is really surprising because many students do not realize the opportunities from joining a relevant professional organization. The main reason why you should join is: They want younger people involved! They are established professionals in your field who can give you advice, trainings, connections, and maybe even a job. I think it would be smart as a student to connect with people in your field who can connect you with a job after graduation. Reach out the a local chapter of a professional organization related to your career interests. You definitely should be involved!

Attend trainings! There are tons of trainings out there for professional development and opportunities to learn more than you can in school. There are two main benefits from attending them: you get information you can put on your resume or apply the material to a current position AND you get to meet people in your profession. It’s a win win! Go learn and network!

Volunteer for LOCAL organizations! Students sometimes get in that bubble of their college and do not branch out into the local community. Volunteer with local community members. Help out at a special event. It shows you care more than yourself. Many of you intern for nonprofit organizations, and volunteering for the fundraising department or any needed areas could put you in a great position with the agency.  A great position that could lead to a job. Plus, you meet more people and more opportunities arise! (Hint: if you didn’t get the points about meeting people, then I am telling you right now. It’s important!)

All these tips are good strategies social work students can be doing to build our career development. We students are going to be the leaders of the future, and we need to develop our professional profile. Even doing one of these tips, can give you an advantage to either get a job or obtain better opportunities. Even though a Master of Social Work degree is a professional degree, the education forgets about professional development. We need to prove right away that we are capable of performing the tasking jobs we are preparing to have.

The Pros and Cons of Placing Students in Internships

As many of you know, internship experiences are the most important part of a social work program. Since the MSW is a professional degree, having a professional experience that you can apply your coursework is necessary. Internships do more than provide free labor and something to do.

They test the student’s knowledge and help them discover their future goals. Internships are learning experiences, and students should complete as many internship opportunities as they possibly can. I am about to finish my eight internship, and I know I will be completing at least one before I graduate school. Without all these internships, I would not have known the aspects of the social welfare sector that I like and dislike, as well as where I excel.

Considering these points, it is important for schools to be able to provide successful learning experiences. In order to ensure students get these opportunities and abide by the regulations of the Council of Social Work Education, most social work schools place their students at sites. I do not want to state that this is a wrong way to complete internships, especially for graduate students, but there definitely are positives and negative components of this approach. The following points should be considered while we talk about this internship reform.

I’ll start with the positive aspects first of this approach first.

Students are guaranteed some experience.Whether or not the student believes it is applicable, the student will get experience that they will benefit them in one way or another. They may not being doing the work they want to do or end up doing, but they are learning something that will help them in some way or another.

It helps those students who are unsure of their career goals. Even though I believe that students without career goals should not enter graduate work, this way helpful for them to identify opportunities and explore fields of social work, they may not realized existed. Let’s face it. An MSW degree can be an exploratory process, especially for some of the less qualified and motivated students.

The school has better connections than the student. Obviously, the school staff knows more professionals and agencies in the local community than the student. If a student is not originally from the area or went to college in another city, they may not have the connections or know of the agencies to obtain an internship. Agencies also can reach out to the schools and inform of their ability to host students.

There is less worry about abiding by the national council’s standards. Most likely a student does not know the policies and procedures of the CSWE, and they would have to attempt to understand all of them in order to choose a placement. Luckily for students, the schools have staff that know the policies and ensure each experience qualifies.

Students learn to make the best out of situations. As social work students, this the best part of schools placing students at agencies. Social work students are unique and are working with clients who may not be able to change their situations. How are we supposed to motivate our clients to make the best out of their situations, if we cannot make the best out of our own? Our internships are ways for us to experience first-hand what it is like to be given a situation and learn to maximize the opportunity. There is definitely something to acknowledge when a student turns an internship that may not want into an experience they enjoy.

Even though there are many good things, every system has its flaws. Here are a few things that I noticed that are not beneficial:

There is no guarantee that the student will be able to explore their interests. Internships are learning experiences, and crucial for students to figure out what they want to do. If the internship experiences are chosen for them, then they cannot explore their interests. Students should be about learning as much as you can possible while in school, and should passionately follow opportunities that interest them.

Students may not be adequately prepared to obtain a job in their desired field. Most MSW programs have at least two internship experiences, depending on the program. If a student is placed in two internships they do not like or realize they would like to do something else by the time the graduate, they are going to have a difficult time finding a job they do like. For example, my school places you the first year, but you get the chance to choose your placement the second year.

The fact you can choose your second placement is their excuse when students complain that they would like to pick their placement. I honestly do not agree that answer is good enough. For example, a macro student interested in policy will most likely be placed in a clinical internship their first year, then they chose their second year placement. The next year they pick a policy internship, but realize they do not like it or would prefer to do something else like program management. Now what? The student has two internship experiences of things they do not want to do, and are not prepared to have a job they may want to have.

Graduate students should not be babied.By the time an individual reaches graduate school, they should have a specific plan of what the degree is going to do for them. If a graduate student does not have any idea of what they want to do, then they should NOT go to graduate school. They should probably go work for a couple of years, do more internships, complete a public service program or spend time figuring out what you want to do before you spend your money on something that you may end up not liking. Placing students in their internships is treating them like high school or undergraduate students. Graduate students should be more than capable to find their own internships.

Students do not develop the professional skills needed for job searching post-graduation. This is a big flaw I see in this system. Students need to learn in school while they have resources available to develop professional skills, such as resume writing, cover letters, interviews and networking. If the school does all of that for them, students will not have the necessary skills needed when they enter the job market. In some ways, this method promotes laziness since the school is going to do everything for the student. Students need to learn to do the work themselves and prepare for applying to jobs. It is not easy. Ask any graduate. Students need to learn to fail when it comes to job. Every young professional is not going to get every job they submit an application. Learning this now and obtaining support from school services will be extremely helpful when they undergo the arduous process of applying for jobs post-graduation.

Placing students becomes political.Unfortunately, I feel that almost everything is political and social work schools certainly have to deal with these issues. Agencies will expect quality students from the school, and if they do not get them, they may not accept any more interns or even graduates. Schools then have to deal with placing the good students are the sites they want to maintain good relationships with, and then the rest of the agencies get the students left over. If an agency and student both a say in the process, then less responsibility falls on the school if they experience does not work out. Also, schools may focus on the social work areas that benefit the school rather than the student. Students need a voice in these decisions, especially since it is influential factor in their lives.

Honestly, I believe each student should be treated individually. We cannot use a universal system for every student. The students who may have discovered what they want to do and have a strict career plan should be allowed to tailor their education to that field. The students who may not know what they want to do can opt to be placed and the school can take care of it. I completed eight internships and had a job before I started my MSW program. I knew what I wanted out of this program more than the students who did not do any internships before starting graduate school.

I may have been fine finding my own internship, but other students may have not been prepared. Students are professionals or are learning to become professional. If they pick an internship they do not like, then they know that for next time. Without this opportunity to explore, how can a student develop successful career goals on their own with a school holding their hand the entire process?  It seems ironic that a field focused on motivating the individual to make decisions in their life has such strict regulatory standards. Universal methods and social work do not usually go together.

Also View Segments on PBS NewsHour:

Former Interns Debate the Worth and Legality of Unpaid Internships

Will Work for Free: How Unpaid Internships Cheapen Workers of All Ages

I am Getting My MSW, but I Do Not Want to be a “Social Worker”

As I finish up my first year in graduate school, I am reflecting on the reasons I chose to enroll in a social work program. First, I want to change to world, and I want to help as many people as I can. I  know I cannot change everything, but I can motivate and empower other people to help to make a bigger impact.

My passion for social justice drove me into the Masters of Social Work (MSW) program, and I was ready to set forth and learn how to save the world. Now during my whole time at school, I get ask the same questions over and over again about why I am studying social work and the reasons behind it. Once I tell people I am getting my MSW, they certainly jump to conclusions about my career path.
be-who-you-wanna-be

  • You are not going to make any money.
  • You are going to take kids away from bad parents.
  • Oh! I know a social worker at my school. She’s great!
  • Good for you; that job is so challenging.
  • Why are you learning about fundraising if you are going to be a social worker? They are so different.
  • What population do you want to work with?
  • What therapy method do you prefer?
  • Why do you want to help poor people?
  • You need to get licensed right away.
  • You should memorize the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM)
  • Take a course on Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) for sure
  • You need to focus and take as many advanced clinical courses as possible.

Sadly, I have heard all of these statements and more related ones too many times. The frustrating part about these comments is not the fact people are trying to help or learn more about my career, but they are judging my career choice before I get a chance to explain my reasoning. The worst part about this is that people who call themselves social workers are the most judgmental. They believe in their definition of social work, and what I want to do is not it.

They in some ways diminish my motivation for social change and push more towards therapy. Even the educational requirements are steering away from social justice initiatives and focusing on therapy. Is that what social work is now? Cheap therapy? If you would like more information on the subject, there is a book called Unfaithful Angels: How Social Work has Abandoned its Mission by Harry Spect and Mark E. Courtney. The book is a great read for any social worker out there trying to evaluate their roles as a social worker in society.

As many of you know, the definition of social work is vast and expanding. You can read about the great things and various aspects of the social work profession/opportunities in other articles on this website. It is not just counseling or adhering to the needs of individuals, but much more.  This can include anything related to helping individuals including but not limited to social policy analysis, program development, community assessment, advocacy, community organizing, development, organizational management, case management, research, social change and more, not just counseling.

With this being said, it is sad that many schools and professionals are telling students every day their focus should be on therapy and clinical intervention. I do not discredit the wonderful work clinical social workers do because it is necessary. I just want the opportunity for my fellow students and I to mold our own definitions of social work based on our personal and communal factors. We should focus our education, internships, jobs based on what we like to do and what we feel is necessary. We certainly would not tell clients what to do based on our own perceived conceptions of their identity, then we should not do it for social work students.

For clarification, I do plan on being a social worker, but I am going to be MY definition of a social worker. I plan to be a nonprofit executive leading human service agencies. I am getting my MSW to understand the perspective of oppressed individuals, and how my good friend says it, put the human back in human services.

If a label is part of my identity, I will dictate what I believe the label means. In order for you to know, you need to ask me instead of judging based on your preconceived notions. Rather than tell me what to do, maybe you could offer your advice or assistance if I ask for it.  Our future is determined by our decisions, and we students need to learn that for ourselves. Honestly, you’d be surprised how much we know already, and you could learn more about us if you do not jump to conclusions. 

Suffering in Silence: Identifying the Oppressed

When I first created Social Work Helper, I was surprise at the number of emails that I started receiving. Maybe, the name gives the impression that I have the power to help the oppressed and the distressed from a social work perspective. However, what troubles me most are the emails/messages I receive from students and practitioners who feel distressed and oppressed in their own social work environments.

speak-upWhen I first started receiving them, I was fresh out of graduate school as a non-traditional, single parent student. At the time, I was experiencing my own bitterness towards graduate school and the profession. I reached out to another well established social work print publication asking for advice on what to do with these letters and messages I was receiving from students and new practitioners. Unfortunately, I received the response that I have experienced many times while working in the profession which was “none”.

I tried to be empathetic and provide a sounding board as best as I could during this period of time, but at the same time I was also looking for an escape plan from my chosen profession. Having both my bachelors and masters degree in social work, it did not provide me with many options. My options after graduate school was equating to licensure and doing therapy. However, after my first internship in grad school, I needed therapy and wanted nothing to do with social work. Having to quit a full-time job as a social worker to work for free full-time as a social worker/student intern hurt me emotionally, physically, and financially. I went back to school because I wanted a promotion, and I didn’t think it was possible with a BSW.

Through Social Work Helper, I try to tell people stories and create awareness on issues because sometime we tend to evaluate and analyze policies/issues using only the lens of our own experience or people we know. The oppressed are suffering in silence and fearing retaliation for speaking out against their oppressors. Some might say why didn’t you complain, and my answer is complain to who? I worked over a 1000 free hours within a year while earning my advance standing macro degree. A failing grade for field practicum means you don’t graduate or may have to leave the program, so I suffered in silence until I earned my freedom. Essentially, I feel like I went in debt in order to pay someone to abuse me, and I was told by my field placement instructor that students couldn’t learn unless it was painful.

A couple of days ago in response to the petition I created requesting internship reform, a student sent me an email asking that I share their story, but asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation. It’s important for me to note that I would have never shared this story without being asked to do so. Here it is as follows:

I saw your petition online and wanted to take the time to thank you most sincerely for your efforts. I wrote a comment to attach with my signature, but it was too long for the section to submit in full. I’m sending it now from my old high school email address as I do not wish to be singled out by my current university.

I will be the first person in my entire family to attend and graduate from a four year college. While my parents were scrimping and saving to afford tuition, I have worked tirelessly to attain and retain admission to my state’s most prestigious public liberal arts college. When I learned earlier this year that I would be paying several thousand dollars of my parent’s hard earned money to work an internship not of my choosing, comfort level, or skill set, I was devastated; I feel as though I’m being forced to pay to change fields. My internship is at a privately owned nursing home conglomerate where I have the barest minimum of face time with residents and have absolutely no role in contributing to the helping process; I’m an un-glorified pencil pusher. I feel stuck, and have regularly asked to complete my internship somewhere else, anywhere else; unfortunately, my requests have always been denied due to a scarcity of qualifying internship sites.

Thus, I’m left feeling out of touch and disenfranchised; my experiences are never relevant to my classes’ discussions, and I’m frustrated that I’m lining the pockets of a corporation instead of meeting the needs of clients through a non-profit agency setting. I feel angry with the School of Social Work, and have come to resent my decision to purse a life in the field of social work at all. I always knew that such a degree would entitle me to the potential for poor pay and emotional hardship, but I expected to be rewarded with a sense of self and purpose that I’ve yet to find in my senior year in the field. Instead, I feel taken advantage of, cheated, manipulated, ignored, and lied to. I’ve been told not to complain and that my feelings will only help me to better empathize with future marginalized clients. I disagree; any potential for empathy has turned to resentment and my passion to repulsion in the face of their subterfuge.

At the beginning of the year, 2/3 of my classmates (about 40 people) were preparing to take the GRE and begin scouting for graduate schools. Now, though? We have maybe 8 people still intending to pursue going straight through to get their MSWs. Most people too aren’t even looking at jobs in the helping professions for after graduation; almost everyone I’ve talked to about career plans has spoken of taking a year or two off and working minimum wage jobs at restaurants and retail stores just to get away from the stress that our internships have taught is all that we have to look forward to as professional social workers.

I hope my story can be helpful in substantiating the need for reforming social work internship requirements.

Join us tonight at 9PM EST for the #Macrosw chat which is a collaboration made up of community practice organizations and individual macro social workers. We will be discussing internship reform and the public commenting period for the Council for Social Work Education. The collaboration consists of ACOSA @acosaorg by(Rachel West @polisw), Network for Social Work Management, Deona Hooper (Founder of Social Work Helper @deonahooper), Karen Zgoda (PhD Candidate at Boston College), The University at Buffalo School of Social Work and the University of Southern California School of Social Work. Each member of the collaboration will take turns moderating the #MacroSW chats. The #MacroSW twitter chats occur on the 2nd and 4th Thursday of each month. The full archive of this chat can be viewed at https://storify.com/SWUnited/internship-reform-and-macro-practice.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Mary Kay Victims

It’s Time for Social Work Internship Reform

On March 14, 2013, the Council for Social Work Education opened the public commenting period for individuals, schools, and organizations to make recommendations to help improve the social work degree. Social Work Helper conducted a focus group via twitter with educators, practitioners, and students to help identify the most important issues to the social work community.

devilwearspradaInternship reform was the primary concern for focus group participants. Participants overwhelming believed that social work students should be able to customize their degree based on need and work experience. In my article, Suffering in Silence: Identifying the Oppressed, I go in more detail about why I believe this policy change is needed.

If students can’t be trusted to come to the best conclusion on the number of internship hours they need under counsel of their advisor, how can we entrust them as social workers to problem solve someone else’s life with no stake in the outcome?

Currently, the Council for Social Work Education has instituted a 400 hour (12 credit hours) minimum internship requirement for BSW and over 900 hours (18 credit hours) for MSW students. Most people believe it’s the NASW or individual institutions that have the power to reform the internship requirement, but the CSWE is the accrediting body who instituted this policy. Macro MSWs and BSWs are often competing in the job market against other generalist degrees in which the social work degree is not even listed as an acceptable degree.

These mandatory minimums prevent schools from innovating generalist and macro programs to be competitive against the degrees generalist students are facing in the job market, and they prevent students/consumers from tailoring a social work degree to fit their needs, projected goals, and desired career paths. Removing a mandatory minimum structure does not prevent students from continuing to take the same internship credit hours if that is their desire, but it does also allow for flexibility for those who want to specialize and/or who are already working in the field.

We understand that eliminating the 960 hour mandatory minimum internship requirement for the Clinical track MSW degree may be problematic since it’s the only master level degree that has the ability to conduct psychological assessments and/or treat mental health disorders. However, the Department of Psychology already uses the desired model for their Generalist and Clinical Psychology degree which can be viewed at  http://www.ecu.edu/cs-acad/grcat/programpsyc.cfm.

Although my petition does not specifically request changes for clinical practice, there are many fact based reasons for changes. The generalist Master of Psychology degree does not require an internship, but instead uses a thesis  and/or internship based model. Additionally, the clinical masters psychology degree requires only 10 credit hours in paid internships while the MSW requires 18 credit hours in unpaid internships. Social Workers always want to compare ourselves to Psychologist, what about in these instances.

For the generalist track MSW and for all BSW programs, we want the mandatory minimums for internships removed, so students can customized their social work degree based on need and work experience.

* For Students with Work Experience or Working Practitioners, senior seminar or Capstone projects are both acceptable standards to demonstrate knowledge. Currently, the social work degree is the only degree that requires double or quadruple internship credit hours out of all disciplines.

  • BSW Student who plan to take advantage of the Advance Standing Status and seek a Clinical MSW, they should be able to reduced internship credits and add more psychology course work. However, BSW Students with no work experience should be encouraged to continue incorporating internship hours in their plan of study.
  • BSW Students and Nonclinical MSW Students should have the opportunity to customize their degree based on need, work experience, and desired career path whether this means taking more technology, business, clinical or political sciences courses in lieu of more internship credit hours.
  • Traditional BSW Students and Non-Clinical MSW Students with demonstrated work experience should have Capstone projects as an alternative to demonstrate knowledge which is an acceptable standard across disciplines. Students should not have to pay college tuition to work for free when it creates a hardship and does not add value to the social work degree.

The purpose of the internship is to provide work experience and to prepare students for the work force, but these mandatory minimums retard student’s ability to tailor a social work degree to the individual instead of using a cookie cutter approach.

Eliminate the mandatory minimums for all BSW programs and the nonclinical/generalist MSW degree for 2015, and make it retro-active for current students. Let’s also use this as an exercise to show the power of social media. Public commenting ends May 4, 2014.

According to CSWE President Darla Coffey, “CSWE does not require programs to allow students to earn field credit through their employment – accrediting bodies are not that prescriptive. CSWE does require that they programs have policies in place in order to ensure consistency and transparently.” However, there is no enforcement to ensure students have the same opportunities available per institution. Removing the mandatory minimum internship requirements will provide students with more autonomy in choosing the best options available to them while still having counsel from their Advisors.

Before this solution is easily dismissed as a radical departure from the way things have been traditionally done, as social scientist we should be asking our schools of social work to analyze the demographics and trends of incoming students. What are the financial needs of students who enroll, have BSW enrollment declined into graduate schools, what does the make of the student enrolling look like?

If there is a skew towards traditional students versus non-traditional students, this is an indicator of a larger problem especially when recent studies report only 16 percent of students are traditional students. How is social work measuring up and what are the barriers to obtaining a social work degree.

EmailbyDarlaCoffey

School Lunches Taken Away at Utah Elementary School

Recently in Utah, a group of up to 40 students at Uintah Elementary in Salt Lake City had their school lunches taken away. They were apparently taken away from elementary school students because of negative account balances or unpaid lunch bills. Not only were their school lunches taken, they reportedly were thrown in the trash. These students got into the lunch line and when they got to the end of the line, if their account showed up uncleared, their lunch was taken. Also, they received milk or some sort of fruit to eat to substitute as their meal.

Lukes’ daughter, fifth-grader Sophia Isom, told KSL-TV that a district employee took her lunch away and said, “Go get a milk.” Sophia recalled, “I came back and asked, ‘What’s going on?’ Then she handed me an orange. She said, ‘You don’t have any money in your account, so you can’t get lunch.’”

According to the Schools Facebook Post:

On Tuesday, the calls to parents continued. When lunch time came, students who still had negative balances were told they could not have a full meal but were given a piece of fruit and a milk for lunch. The district does this so children who don’t have money for lunch can at least have some food and not go without.

Unfortunately, children are served lunch before they get to the computer for payment. The children who didn’t have enough money in their accounts had their normal food trays taken from them and were given the fruit and milk.

This situation could have and should have been handled in a different manner. We apologize.

The school claimed to have let the parents know about their account balances but there were some parents who stated they were never notified. How could this have happened? To embarrass a child this way and punish them for mistakes that should have been cleared up by the parents/school system is unacceptable. Then to take food away from hungry children just to throw it away is even more devastating. How did they know that was not that child’s first meal of the day? Parents should have made sure their child’s lunches were payed for but again, this situation should have been handled differently. It was unfortunate circumstances for those innocent children. Read update statement via Facebook

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ymSO0iy0xm4[/youtube]

Utah Students Learn About Diversity Through Hands On Research

At Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, students in the Social Work department have the opportunity to complete a research project as part of a hybrid research/statistics course.  Each semester, the research project is driven by student interest.  In the Spring of 2012, the research was focused on the diversity of student experiences and openness to diversity.

Weber State University
Weber State University

The research entitled “Wildcat nation:  Open to diversity?” used questions from the College Student Experience Questionnaire (CSEQ) along with demographic questions to analyze a student’s openness to and experience with diversity.  Through the use of social media and email, students were directed to a link to a survey to answer questions about diversity.

A sample of n=286 respondents were included in the research.  The research found that students at WSU were open to diversity and had experience with diverse interactions.   We further compared respondents on the variable of religion and whether the respondent grew up in Utah.  Because the predominant religion in Utah is LDS (Mormon), the student researchers felt this was an important variable to examine.  The variable of religion was collapsed into three categories, LDS, other, and none.  The research showed that the respondents that identified LDS as their primary religion had a lower openness score compared to those with no religion or other religion.

The same results held true for experience with diversity:  those identifying LDS as their religion had less experience with diversity than those with no or other religion.  With regards to growing up in Utah, there was no difference with regards to openness to diversity.  However, there was a statistically significant difference between those growing up in Utah on the experience with diversity scale.  People growing up in Utah were less likely to have experience with diversity than those that did not grow up in Utah.

The research found that students are open to diversity but do not have a great deal of experience with diversity.  There is a need to expand opportunities for diverse interactions on the collegiate level.  Because Utah is a state unique in its religious demographic, students prior coming to college may have more limited experiences, putting the onus of responsibility on the academic environment to expand these experiences especially since students appear to be open to these experiences.

Stand Up and Speak Out: No Bullying Allowed

In recent news, a Florida teen was cleared of a felony charge of third-degree aggravated assault stalking  from bullying that led to the suicide of a 12-year-old girl in September. Rebecca Ann Sedwick had been ‘absolutely terrorized’ by the other girls before she climbed a tower at an abandoned concrete plant and hurled herself to her death. The bullying apparently started over a ‘boyfriend issue’ at Crystal Lake Middle School.

Katelyn one of the girls accused stated, “No, I do not feel l did anything wrong.”Katelyn and a 14-year-old girl were charged last month after Polk County (Fla.) Sheriff Grady Judd saw a derogatory post on Facebook that he claims was written by one of them. The Facebook post said, “Yes ik [I know] I bullied Rebecca and she killed herself but IDGAF [I don’t give a f—].”

Bullying is becoming a huge problem in today’s society.

  • Over half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyber bullying.
  • More than 1 in 3 young people have experienced cyber threats online
  • 1 in 7 students in grades K-12 is either a bully or a victim of bullying.
  • 56 percent of students have personally witnessed some type of bullying at school.
  • Over two-thirds of students believe that schools respond poorly to bullying, with a high percentage of students believing that adult help is infrequent and ineffective.

What can we do?

No_BullyingTeaching kids and teens that bullying is not cool is one of the first steps we can make in educating our youth. As adults, we should model the behavior we want our children to exhibit as well as encouraging them to report if they see bullying happening. By encouraging them to speak up, it recognizes that not saying anything is just as bad as participating.

Bullies are often victims of abuse themselves or are lashing out because of  low self-esteem and other personal issues in order to make themselves feel better. Bullies can also be the”popular” kids or teens that are liked by many of their peers and teachers. No matter who it is it should not be tolerated. Joking with your friends is one thing, but teasing someone to the point where they’re afraid to attend school, ride the bus etc is unacceptable.

Teachers should also take bullying serious and intervene when possible. Managing their classrooms, investigating and knowing their students, recognizing relationships between their students, creating rules that allow victims to confide in and trust them are all major steps in confronting this epidemic.

As hard as it may be, I think encouraging victims to speak up for themselves and tell someone they trust about the bullying is necessary to begin addressing the root of the problem. One of the most important things a person should demonstrate is respect for themselves and others. Identifying ways to increase self-esteem is the first line of defense against bullying which results into lower self worth and inferiority.

Early years are an important time for parents, teachers and other forces in the child’s life to enlighten them on how to relate with their peers. If we start there, I think we can make a difference.

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