Stepping into the world of Social Work

Monthly Archives: October 2011

What I did right

Now I’m in the thick of my first semester, I know others are gearing up to the application process for next year, so I thought I’d give some thought to what I did “right” in my application process last winter.

On a personal level, I think an important factor is that I chose the right direction. A few years ago I applied to a school psychology program, but was not admitted. After spending more than a month with this curriculum, it’s a much better fit for me than school psych would have been. Perhaps the program that rejected me also saw that.

While I didn’t start the application process until after Christmas, I did put full energy into it at that point. I made the deadlines at all three schools I wanted to apply for.

I worked very hard on my writing samples/statements of purpose/essays and am still proud of the work I did on them.

Applying to 3 schools was a good decision – not too many, and not too few. I knew one of them was a long shot and not the best match for me anyway, one was an excellent match but expensive, another was the least expensive (and really close) but perhaps not perfectly matched to my needs. I was accepted by two and chose the more expensive option but good personal match in the end. I did have a couple of other Cal States available if something had gone wrong in the other application processes.

All in all, I’m still very pleased with my decision and where I have ended up.

More later on what I would do differently…

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For Spanish, press 2… and that’s just fine by me

Spanish speaking percent per state. Blue is 50...

Image via Wikipedia

Every once in a while, I hear someone complaining about the increasing frequency of Spanish language options on telephone customer service, business signs in retailers, and other similar accommodations companies and government agencies have made to Spanish speaking customers or residents. Usually it’s followed by a rude demand that the target audience for that accommodation “learn English or leave.”

I do have some cost-cutting ideas when it comes to taxpayer funded materials, but as someone who has been a second-language learner in a foreign country (in my case, Germany) I’d like to add some helpful thoughts to the dialogue.

First: there are many legal residents in this country who are not yet citizens, and thus are still learning English. Though they are not yet entitled to all the rights and privileges of citizenship, they may still legitimately encounter and utilize government agencies. The only way to ensure they are properly treated is to provide them services in a manner they can understand.

Imagine you are transferred to Paris for 2 years by your employer, completely legally and correctly registered with all the proper visas, etc. You are trying to learn French but as an adult it isn’t coming easily. If you needed the assistance of some French government agency, would you not expect they would locate a translator for you?

Further, if the company is a profit making company, it is almost certainly a financial decision whether to provide services in other languages. In other words, they do it if and only if there are enough customers who need it. For those who support a market driven economy, this is exactly what you want.

In our Paris scenario, let’s say you’re having trouble with your French cell phone. You are very likely to be able to get assistance in English, as the company would have a strong profit motive to provide it.

Alternatively, you may simply assume that English is such a commonly taught second language that even if you can’t press a particular number on the phone, you should be able to get what you need. A Spanish speaking immigrant or visitor to the US Southwest or major cities can expect similar odds.

Further, Many private businesses and agencies also recognize that their services are very complex and even those who have good English skills might be better served in their first language. Examples of this would be professional services (medical, counseling, legal), as well as financial/banking. In my opinion, it would amount to professional misconduct to attempt to offer such services without consideration for the person’s ability to fully understand.

You’re hurt, in an ER in Paris. Is it a crime for you to ask for an English speaking doctor, nurse, or a translator?

You might try to argue by pointing out the difference between our hypothetical 2 year temporary transfer to Paris and the possibly permanent immigration of the Spanish speaking individuals we see in the US. I have to ask – what does it matter? My length of stay in a country does not diminish my need for medical care. What does matter is that I need that service, and my skills in French or lack of them should not be the issue.


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I have a professional identity!

I had noticed in my class syllabi and some of the textbooks that one of my objectives (or the school’s objectives for me) is to develop a professional identity. This means to “identify as a professional social worker and conduct oneself accordingly.” The many facets of this concept would include core values, the history of the profession, conduct, advocacy, and many other positive values.

I told myself that this would be something that developed over the next few years, particularly during my internship and field placements. Obviously, as I thought at the time, I can’t have a professional identity until I’ve actually engaged in some professional activities!

But over the last few weeks, I have learned I was wrong. I have developed somewhat of a professional identity, mostly through work.

As I mentioned in a previous post in June, I have some disagreements with my current manager, sometimes mild, sometimes serious. It has been an interesting challenge for me, as a relatively new employee, to bite my tongue when necessary. He made a comment yesterday that he felt it would be hard for me to be “retrained” due to the amount of experience I had elsewhere.

While I didn’t say anything, I realized after thinking about it overnight that he isn’t going to retrain me because the problem isn’t that I’ve been improperly trained.┬áThe issue is that I’ve developed a professional identity: an internal set of values, a significant amount of theoretical and practical training in my area, and a personal style incorporating the above with my own personality/temperament.

I accept that at my level of current employment I don’t get to call the shots. That’s part of the trade-off for having a position with limited responsibility that allows me to concentrate on school. But I’d really like to see a little more respect paid to my skills and experience rather than his apparent assumption that 5-10 years of my life were wasted and he somehow needs to “retrain” me.

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Assignments and validation!

I have been so busy with writing papers and readings for class that I’ve not spent a lot of time posting about it. I guess that’s for the best!

I’ve completed two papers so far and received one back.

The first, the longer one, was a description of the community we visited for our immersion in August – Venice, California. The paper required that we gather various information about Venice as a community and describe its strengths and challenges. I have to say that paper was a real challenge and by the due date I was simply happy to have something to turn in! The biggest challenge was providing all of the information in a format that could be cited rather than stating facts I simply knew.

I am very happy to say I got a good grade on the paper, which really helped me feel better. I needed a grade about now, particularly a good one, to help me remember I belong here in graduate school. My wonderful, supportive hubby says he has been sure of it all along, but I’ll need occasional help with that concept.

The other paper was an analysis/critique of an article (I had a choice among 3 or 4 articles from the early syllabus readings). It was far less challenging, being a shorter paper and a more narrow focus. I chose an article that discussed the living conditions of children born to unmarried Mexican immigrants. I’m expecting to get that paper back on Wednesday.

We also received our next assignment, due in a few weeks, for another long policy paper. This one will require me to look closely into one of a number of policies (I think I’ll choose the Americans with Disabilities Act). As I was telling dear Hubby, I think I might enjoy that one!

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