Walnut Room this way

Walnut Room this way

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

School's Back for Summer

(Note: Sung to the tune of "School's out for summer...")
Our full summer session started back up today, in our every other Monday 8 a.m.-5 p.m. gig.  It's a long day for students and for me--they travel anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours to get here, and then back at the end of the day.  Joining our students from fall and spring are 5 new students.  Any time the group changes in composition, the group dynamics change.  One of my favorite sayings is: "It's not good or bad, right or wrong, it just is."  I love teaching family therapy and group therapy and these are "my" classes in that I developed them that first year of the program, and have taught them every summer.  They work well together, reinforcing each other in concepts and content, but it is also the aspect of group dynamics that I love teaching and observing in the classroom, and teaching students how to observe those dynamics and learn to love them as well.

I get excited at the beginning of each new class, and the opportunities it opens up for me as a teacher/learner, and for students as learner/teacher.  This group of students worked with me in Mound Bayou last fall in doing community education/vocation assessments for members of the community in relation to the re-opening of the Taborian.  During the spring, they worked on assessment and proposal development for a process of introducing behavioral health care in the community.  We will carry that project on during the summer in our Advanced Clinical Social Work Practice in Integrated Healthcare and Behavioral Healthcare course, so we will still have a hand in it.  Four of this group are in that class as well.

We'll be implementing some new learning modalities this summer in collaborative efforts to increase competencies in specific areas of child welfare practice through Child Welfare Professional Symposia, and Child Welfare Teaching/Training Rounds.  I am excited to be directing the project again this year, and also very excited that we have hired a child welfare scholar to join the faculty, who I hope will be working closely with me as we implement our revised curriculum model to better prepare child welfare workers, and to prepare social work students for the potential of child welfare practice, and collaborative practice.  We will be revisiting the Isolobantwana (Eye on the Children) model developed by Cape Town Childrens Welfare Society, South Africa, and the aspects of prevention and early intervention that were successful, and at evidence-based practice models, and our own Mississippi model of practice for child welfare.  Family and Group is the perfect context for those classes, as both are definitely related to child welfare in terms of treatment and intervention.

One of the things I enjoy about this group, besides the fact that they are smart, and funny, and engaging, is what I learn from them about child welfare, and preparing students for child welfare.  This has been a national effort for quite a few years now, and the research indicates there is still much we don't know about what is needed, and how to retain child welfare workers in what can be traumatic work.  I never saw myself involved in child welfare work until I began to work in South Africa, and their understanding that child welfare work is community work.  (Note: I did once provide therapy for parents/children who were involved in child protective services in Texas for a year). Prevention, early intervention, are related in terms of establishing a community that meets people's needs.  Child welfare made sense to me in that context.  I have continued my interest in the area, and increasing interest in educating social workers to be effective in child welfare in its many forms.  After all, child welfare does not just mean child protective services.

As we move forward this summer in learning the skills of family therapy, and group therapy, and embrace our new class members, it is always fun to watch the group become a group.  We use the class group as a lab, where we can learn from each other, experiment with methods and techniques and get feedback, and develop additional knowledge and skills.  To me, that is the fun part of instruction: co-creating the kind of experiential learning that lets us learn by doing.

Today was a good first start at setting the ground work and establishing the perimeters for our group.  I am excited to see how we move forward as a group, and combine our knowledge, skills, values, competencies, ideas, questions, and experiences to create the unique learning opportunities that enable us to further our personal and professional development.  Welcome to the additions to the group, welcome back to the "regulars" from the last semester, and as we jump into the hopper together and mix it up to see what happens, remember the professor I told you about today, "You can't just do this stuff mindlessly."  Thinking about what we are doing, feeling, experiencing, thinking, and why, is what leads up to learning and the development of new knowledge.  So, lets get to inventing!

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