Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Things Got Complicated

So not two weeks ago did I have my potential plan all laid out. But these last two weeks have been a whirlwind of events that are shifting everything and things have gotten complicated really quickly.

I had an interview today. I wasn't looking for it, I didn't apply for it (well I did), it just kind of happened.

Basically, I was told to apply for this job (in KS) and I kind of waved it off. Then I was asked again and then a third time, so I finally applied, got called for an interview and had the interview today.

Because many people read this and I don't know anymore who still does or doesn't, I can't put too much here. Like my pro/con list if I were offered. I may not even be offered it. But there are some major pros and really major cons.

But I need to hash it out with someone.

Here's the other complication. There's a boy who is kind of persuading me to stay in this area.
And that's a new thing. That very, very, very few people know about. Two people, to be exact.

So if you talk to my family, it'd be great if you let me be the one to tell them about anything and not you..I've never really not told my family things since like middle school, it's been a long time since I've gotten this...anxious about telling them things. And it's not for bad reasons that I'm keeping it. It's just...

They have been banking on me being back in AZ for a long time. My dad writes me letters every week telling me he's counting down the days. My mom leaves voicemails. And I love them. And I miss them and I really miss AZ. And I know I will be breaking their hearts if I even am considering staying here. And my brother, I love him, but he's got too much going on with his own life for me to try to ask him for advice.

So I'm kind of postponing it until I have a better idea. But maybe they would prefer it if I talked to them now about it? I don't know. I told my mom this would happen--that if they kept only talking about AZ and me being there, it would likely affect my ability to discuss things with them..

Way too many decisions. I liked it better when I had the freedom to do anything I wanted and could go anywhere. Didn't feel tied down. Here's a fun song that I always think of with "tie me down".

I just want to grow and not get stuck.
I want to figure things out with this boy.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Life Plans

Since I don't like talking about life plans, the future, what I'll be doing next, or anything related at all, it makes nearing graduation superrrr difficult since that is all anyone wants to talk about.

I'll go ahead and put here what's to come, though.

My last day of Practicum is April 25.
My last day of class is May 8.
My hooding ceremony is May 16.
My "walk down the hill" (KU tradition) is May 18.
My little brother's graduation 1200 miles away is May 19.

So here's the basic plan.
My mom is flying out sometime the week of my graduation. Then she'll fly home May 17. My best friend is either flying or driving out sometime that week also. She and I will make the 1200 mile drive to make it to my brother's graduation.

Before I drive to AZ, I'll either be selling or donating my car.
I'm going to pack up all of my things/sell/donate all of my things....which isn't much, really.
Even though I have my house here until July 31 (that's when the lease ends) and I have to pay for it, as of now, I'm not going back to KS. So May 18 is my last day in KS.

So hopefully that clears some things up.

The next big question is my job.
So here's the deal. I will be licensed in KS (LMSW) here shortly. I just have to graduate. And even though there are times I don't think I will, I realize I currently have 100% in all of my courses, so it's pretty safe to say I'll be good.
I can transfer the license to AZ and have dual licensure.
Many people are trying to apply for jobs now and want one lined up right away and some are already starting their careers.

I am not. Here's why:
1. I have to have my time to reflect and think. If I just jump in, I'll never do it.
2. This is the first time in my life where I have the most freedom I have ever had in my entire life. I can literally go anywhere and do almost anything. Yes I have family and friends, but I'm not tied down to any of them. And they know that. I'm only going to AZ for my brother's graduation. And I have to stay because one of my really good friend's is getting married and she would probably actually kill me if I didn't go to her wedding. I could go back to KS, but why make the trip/pay the money if I don't have a super legitimate reason? There have been arguments made, but none are convincing enough.

Back to the whole true freedom thing. My best friend keeps reminding me that I have a professional degree. Every single time I get worried about jobs, she is like, "Ashley. Stop. You have your graduate degree. That holds more weight than you realize, I think." And then she advises me to just slow down. Take some time. Chill out. Enjoy my time with my family. Reconnect with people in AZ. Since I've been in grad school, I've only been home..twice, the longest time a little less than 2 weeks. And while I was in college, I went home on the major breaks, and that was it.

I have more money saved than the average student. I'm not like rolling in the dough by any means, but I've worked hard during college and I'm a good saver and steward with my money. So that eases some of my strain and reduces the immediate pressure of getting a job right away.

Also, I started working when I was 16. With the exception of my freshman year of college, I have never not worked. And even then, I only didn't work during those two academic semesters. But I have worked every winter/summer and spring break in some capacity. So I'm exhausted. And it has taken my best friend several conversations to finally convince me that it is okay to breathe and take a few weeks off. Although, I obviously still feel like I need to justify myself, otherwise I wouldn't have written this paragraph...I clearly still have some growing I need to do..

Friday, April 11, 2014

A Response to the Response to the Response

Have you seen this? http://fox4kc.com/2014/04/09/teacher-responds-brilliantly-to-students-profane-letter/ (Click anywhere, it's all a link). It's the "Teacher responds brilliantly to student's profane letter"

I kept seeing the blurb pop up all over FB for a long time, so I finally looked at it. And it made me mad.

I didn't even read it. I probably should..Okay, I just read it. Still a little mad, but less at the teacher now and more at the response it's generating.

I wouldn't be so upset if this didn't happen to me, but because of my experience, I'm not so wild about the media response.

I currently  do school social work--I work with elementary and middle school students who have SW on their IEP (meaning I work with special education students).

I had one particular student in middle school who wrote an e-mail to the assistant principal. The email was about a particular class, specifically about the teacher of that class. It was full of grammatical and spelling errors, it had run on sentences, there were random capital letters and words that were capitalized, it was rude towards the teacher. It was way worse than this letter the student wrote to the english teacher.

The AP forwarded it to the SPED teacher, who gave it to me. At first I responded in the way that people are responding to this letter. In a word, judgmental and blaming the student.

I thought more about it, and realized that was the totally wrong response, but I wasn't sure what the right response was. I just knew that wasn't it. I talked it over with my field instructor and she said, good for her. Good for that student.

After mulling over that, I realized yes!! Yes, good for that student. I told the SPED teacher--This is awesome. One of the student's goals was to self-advocate. One of the goals is to share their thoughts. One of their goals is speak up when they don't like something or disagree with it. One of the goals was to take action.

And that student did all of those things. Were they done in the most appropriate way? Maybe not, but as of now, that's all this student knows. It meant I had more work to do with them, but we had done a lot. So in my eyes--in the social work eyes--and I explained it to the SPED teacher and they agreed--that student did awesome and met their goals. We were making profound progress with that student.

I talked to the student. And told them how proud I was of them. The SPED teacher and I didn't blame them or shame them. I so appreciated the SPED teacher because she trusted my judgment on the situation. I talked to the teacher of the whom the e-mail was written about and that teacher also agreed with me--that we should be proud of that student for meeting their goals and she also trusted my judgment and abilities.

We had a meeting with the teacher of whom the e-mail was about, the assistant principal, the SPED teacher, me, and the student. I coached the student and prepped them prior to the meeting. The student asked us if we could talk for them and I said no. You can do this. You've shown you can. I believe in you. I am right there with you, I'm your advocate, I can help explain things, but you're doing the talking. This is your fight. I'm not fighting it for you, but I am standing alongside you.

And that student did. And then afterwards I did a little bit of CBT with them and processed the meeting. And you know what? The teacher that the e-mail the student wrote about and the student get along well now. They better understand each other. I am willing to bet that this English teacher and student who wrote the letter don't get along--hate each other, most likely. This student, who actually included nice things about the teacher, probably no longer feels that way. I can almost guarantee it, in fact. And if they do get along, it is ONLY because they worked through the shaming, blaming, and guilt that fueled from it. I truly believe that.

I don't know the student's story who wrote that letter to the English teacher. I don't know if they have issues or goals or have a learning disability or anything. And I'm not trying to make excuses for that student, or for my student for that matter.

But I don't think shaming--and that's what this is, this is shaming that student who wrote that letter to the English teacher--I don't think shaming is a brilliant or appropriate response. I think doing what the teacher did whom my student wrote about it was the right thing. That teacher listened and engaged in conversation. Never once did she blame the student or make the student feel guilty. Never once did the teacher yell at the student or embarrass them.

So when I see this all over the media, I get mad.
The actual teacher's response, is more or less...whatever..I'm kind of indifferent to it, honestly. But the response to the teacher's response is what's getting to me.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Blessed With A Burden

When I work with the "at risk" students...the ones who have been given up on in the past, the ones who have had over 70 office referrals (no lie), the ones who aren't given the new books, the ones who haven't ever been outside of a 20 mile radius from their home, the ones who don't have a lot of positive peer role models, the ones who are "wild" and "break rules/laws" all the time, the ones destined for jail/juvie, the ones that can't be trusted, the ones who are failing.

I feel like I'm doing something. I love these students. When I'm with them, when I work on earning their respect, when I start to see things from their point of view, when I get to prepare for my time with them, when I get to listen to them, when I get to teach them, I get overjoyed. Over the moon.

Over spring break I got to go to Alabama and see five schools in the Montgomery public school district that were heart breaking. There were more security guards than custodial staff. The last time they bought new books was over 10 years ago. A lot of the teachers had already given up on them. No one knew how to "deal with them". There were metal detectors to get into the school, there were random lock downs just because, there were broken windows, there was little hope. Real schools, in America, public schools. 96% Black/African American. 98% on free/reduced lunch. Just trying to shuffle them through.

I've been thinking a lot about my life, my decisions for the future, what I want to do..you know, the usual thoughts when graduation is looming.

And I still don't have a definitive answer. But I know two things that I didn't know.
1. I don't have to pick a career and stay in the exact same area my entire life. My degree provides me with flexibility. That doesn't mean I'm indecisive or stupid.

2. I used to want something else. My perspective has shifted, my heart has shifted, my desires have changed. I didn't want to be near the line. I wanted to be in the arena, in the circle of social work/counseling/mental health. But I wanted to work with the...ones who weren't "at risk". And that may very well still be true. But I really like working with those who don't have much of anything, as well as the ones who feel like they don't have anything. Slowly, I wanted to start to toe the line and bridge the gap between middle class and working class. And then I ended up building it for myself and crossing it.

Maybe I'll hate it. Maybe it'll just a little bit of time that I'm doing this, and that's fine. My family is probably going to wonder why. My parents will probably say, "We knew it all along". Some people might think I'm wasting my talents. Others may think it just proves I don't have talent.

Because status is heightened when you make money. And if you don't make money,  you're not important. That's what I've learned growing up in middle class America. And social workers don't make a whole lot of money. Especially the ones who work with "at risk" anything.

I kind of hate social work because it's ruining my life plans. You know, the ones of having the high status job, with the hunky husband, adorable kids, raking in the dough, and being good at everything, and inspiring people.

On a related note, this is one of my favorite songs. And Demi Lovato is great. I'd endorse her. 
I guess if I can only have one right now. It'd be inspiring people. That's my decision, I realized this week. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Burn Out

My teacher sent out a burn out quiz--basically seeing where you are on the burn out scale. It had 5 sections, the first being you're fine, second, you're on the road... third, be careful, fourth, you're at burnout, and fifth, you're going to like die, change something.

Okay, so the fifth was where I scored.

That was last week. Then, I got through the week. And I've had a few days "off". And now, I'm getting overwhelmed again. And I am not productive when I am overwhelmed. Instead, I ruminate over thoughts, I make lots of unhelpful lists, I start a lot of things and don't finish them, I get irritable, I retreat..

All I really want to do--what I crave and desire--is to just be by myself. Preferably for like two solid months, but that's not going to happen. I am such an introvert, especially when stressed.

But then again, my track record for getting through rough times has been 100% thus far, so that's pretty good.

Also, just a few more weeks.

Then. I'll be 23. With a master's degree. With a license. (Oh yeah, I took and passed my licensure exam this past weekend. I didn't really tell anyone.)

And I didn't take any short cuts.
I started college with 0 credits. And graduated in 4 years with 2 separate majors and 1 minor--no overlapping classes for any of them.
I started graduate school with 0 credits. And went through half of it with a severe brain injury.

And am now a qualified mental health professional. I have letters after my name.

But these aren't things I've ever really been proud of.. I have never really felt like it's a big deal, this is just how it is. This was easy for me. Not to say I didn't struggle--look at the beginning of the post. I definitely get burned out, I definitely struggle, I definitely have moments of auugafjaijfaoifjeoifeioruopqurpoqij  and just want to give up. And I'm not done, I still have a few more weeks until graduation (May 16!). But I've never actually, truly, legitimately doubted my ability to do any of those things. I just..do them.

When people tell me they're proud of me, I just kind of look at them, say thanks, because that's the polite thing to do, and then move on.

And that's what I've been thinking about a lot. Because I've recently realized I haven't really challenged myself. Maybe this is partially hindsight bias, and I look back and think "I knew I was going to accomplish this, pass that test, get into that school, etc" since those are all true. But when I don't truly know what the outcome will be and I actually care, I don't do it. I don't try. I can't even think of one instance right now where I've done that. That'll be my homework--think of things I've done to challenge myself in my life.

The great thing is that the things I am good at look good to the world, and they seem sort of hard, so it always looks like I'm pushing myself.
And again. They were hard. I'm not saying my journey and choices have been easy. I'm just saying I always knew I could do them.