Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Talent Shows, my new side business

I think I mentioned before I had agreed per some of my clients' request to help coordinate a talent show for the entire school. As soon as I committed I began to wonder why. I had so many kids sign up, I had to hold auditions. I hated to pick and choose. Social worker me, I wanted to include everyone. But, I had a teacher and the music teacher help me pick out the participants. Once that was set, I then had kids walking into my room at various points of the day, every day, to talk about what they were doing, when they could practice, etc. I was happy to help them facilitate what they needed for the performance, but I had to get snippy when kids just started walking in my room. I already have that problem with teachers- walking in without knocking. Confidentiality is a paradigm not all teachers understand. . . .

But as we got down to the wire, I had three students (who are also three of my clients) hosting the show and they worked hard to help me organize and get things together. We had some amazing performances and some that seemed to go on forever, as happens with elementary school talent shows. I got lots of great feedback from the teachers and I think many of the students enjoyed. I think the participants particularly got a thrill from the excitement and applause. All in all, I would probably do it again. Now that I know how to organize it a little better and make sure I have plenty of allocated time for rehearsals.

The side story is in the midst of coordinating the script, who was performing when and such, was that the principal almost put an end to it when one of the students was found to have pictures of naked men on the camera she had brought in to take photos of the show. She wasn't aware they were on there, but they were there. . . scandalous and made the afternoon all the more crazy, on top of the usual afternoon blow ups.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Experiencing work related trauma

My friend and the school social worker noted in our staffing team meeting today that we have not perhaps spent enough time this year debriefing our traumas. Trauma seems like such a significant word with so much heaviness to it. Trauma is the word I attribute to the children who are severely abused in various ways, experience extreme violence, house fires and other major horrific events. But she is right, we as the professionals have repeatedly been subjected to trauma throughout this year.

In this year, I have been attacked physically more than I ever was working in residential. I've been verbally accosted by kids and parents. I have played a role in supporting initial disclosures and treatment of significant sexual and physical abuse and other trauma with many children on my case load this year. I know two families that have lost all their possessions to house fires. I know at least five (maybe more) families that have lost a close family member to gun violence in the past six months. I have been threatened by a colleague I should be collaborating with, who instead made me feel like she wanted me removed from my job. And as egotistical as it may sound, I did not in any way deserve to be removed or threatened in such a manner. I am good at what I do. You have to engage with this woman and see how she operates and communicates with others to understand the stress she caused for not only me, but many teachers and other staff.

The school has functioned this year in a constant state of crisis, only worsening as the year progresses towards the end. The cycle of each school year always makes things challenging in the late spring, last months of the semester. But with the closure of the school and lack of a cohesive team or school, it has been much worse this year. Going from one crisis to another, we have had no time to really debrief as one should when there has been a major trauma. The lack of a team as compared to what was in place at the school last year has left me often feeling very isolated, with only the support of the school social worker. I think if we didn't have at least some moments with each other to vent (they are hard to get sometimes because we are so busy), I would have had an even greater struggle. In addition to the increased professional isolation within the school, my position is one that I am left to be very autonomous. Although I like this in many ways, I do not have the supervision and clinical support that I have come to realize all social workers need, regardless of skill level.

The scariest part is I started to believe, this is just the path I have chosen. This is what I am supposed to be able to handle each day. If I can't handle all the abuse, maybe I'm not as good of a social worker as I thought I was.

I know these thoughts are incorrect. I know I deserve a reasonably healthy working environment, despite the high needs of a population I may work with. I know I deserve to work among a supportive and collaborative team. I've had it before, and I think we as individuals do our jobs better when there is collaboration and support from those around us. I just hope I can attain some sense of that next year . . .

Did I mention the nine days? Actually, it is eight with Memorial Day holiday. Sweet.

On a lighter note- a parent actually picked their child up on the family's horse today. This is an urban neighborhood, y'all. At least there are those moments to shake your head and laugh about.

I thought I left shoplifting in the past with other childhood risk taking.

I stopped by the drug store on my way to the second job tonight, mainly to pick up anti-itch cream for my third bout of poison ivy (so far this year). Our yard is plagued with all sorts of itch causing contaminants and random plants. We are working on eradicating them.

So, I get my anti-itch cream, decide to treat myself to a carbonated beverage, and walk right out the door. I realized as soon as I walked out that I had forgot to pay for my two items. I freaked out and walked back in, waiting for alarms to sound and someone to place me in handcuffs. In reality, I probably would have never gotten caught. The cashier was oblivious to most things around her. But, I managed to wait in line and add a pack of gum to my purchase.

Can we say exhaustion? Nine days of school left. . . .that is the current mantra, subtracting one each day.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Two weeks to go

I haven't posted much lately because I haven't had much to say. Just busy, tired and extremely stressed. We've got two weeks left at the school. I've agreed to do a talent show, which has put me in an unusual position given my role at the school is somewhat of an outsider (working with an outside agency). I've got all these kids that are now seeking me out for support and guidance on their performance or whatever is on their minds. "Miss Lisa, Can you be my mentor, too?" They don't get it. On top of agreeing to do this to facilitate some closure for the kids, I am dealing with daily driving one of my kids to partial (intensive daily outpatient treatment) on top of everything else that goes along with the last two weeks of the school year. Teachers and staff, including myself, are wiped out and we are just trying to maintain as best we can to make it through the end.

I'm also working out the second job thing. I've been connected with a therapy position at another agency that I can do in the evenings part time, and I will be picking up shifts at the crisis center I worked at during grad school. We'll see how this goes. I need the extra money, but I am not sure what my threshold is for working with kids and families who have been abused or are at high risk in other ways. Can't hurt to try though right?

So far, I have managed the last couple weekends to really enjoy myself and get what I want out of them. I need the time in order to survive the upcoming week. We were going to take care of some wedding stuff today, but have decided instead to work around the house, work in the yard and engage in our hobbies (me on the pottery wheel and Luke with his playstation 3). The wedding stuff can wait. There's plenty of time and I just need to get through the next two weeks.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Mother's Day Brainstorm

I am at my other school today, the one I am at only one day a week (but slated to be full time here next year). It's nice and quiet compared to my Monday-Thursday school. The therapist here yesterday does a weekly group. It appears that she probably had the boys in the group make Mother's Day cards. There's a lovely list of brainstormed ideas of what they could write. It made me smile, so I wanted to share:

You are:
a good cook
supercalafragalistic (this is how they spelled it on the board, I really have no clue how that should be spelled.)
a great mom
a wonderful mom
a special mom
an adorable mom

You take good care of me.
You listen to me.

The Facebook Dilemma

I have been thinking about rejoining Facebook. But, I continue to resist the urge to succumb to this form of communication. Once there was a time when email was considered impersonal. Now we stay in touch with each other by status updates? Part of my problem is I have a tendency to over personalize things. Missing out on certain information with friends or certain events, because I am not on Facebook. I tend to find it a little hurtful, although I know it is not personal. That is really the only reason I would rejoin- because I feel like I am missing out.

Also, part of my personal insecurities are simply the fact that my relationships have begun to change. With Luke, I have established a happy and more domestic life. We do not have money to go out very often, so we don't. I am not intentionally anti-social with others, although sometimes I fear my friends might think that I am. Paranoia. It's a sad thing.

So, due to these fears, I think maybe I should get back on Facebook. Maybe I just have to accept that this is the evolution of communication among loved ones. It's the fast track to feel connected to each other when we are far apart and/or too busy to actually call or email each other. But, I just don't want to accept that. I think if we want to sustain our relationships, we can and should make the time. I am speaking about myself here, too. I know I need to be better about communicating and keeping up with loved ones. But, I am thinking I would like to be better about writing letters and making phone calls, not letting everyone know on Facebook in a status statement that I am tired at work today, or plan to see Star Trek this weekend.

So, the internal debate continues. . .

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Let's Hear It for the East

I think I will encourage Luke to go to grad school on the east coast. They definitely seem to meet my liberal needs more than our current living environment. Let's hear it for civil rights being expanded to now the state of Maine.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

My accomplishment of the day

After working at school all day and then working (albeit, it was pretty easy) at the crisis center all evening yesterday, I managed to get up this morning and do a full 25 minute run on my own. Granted, Luke had to poke me to get out of bed a little. And for those who have lived with me they know me and mornings don't always mix. But I ran it without him, without stopping. I'm pretty proud.

Monday, May 04, 2009

I need a dessert

I am always trying to improve my cooking now that I have someone to cook for on the regular, who can't seem much to cook for himself. I think he's just spoiled, although he did once put nutmeg on chicken as a primary (and I think the only) seasoning.

I'll soon be working a second job every weeknight in the evenings, so I am planning out our weekend meals to allow for left overs and plan to pre cook meals that can be heated throughout the week. I've planned our food for the next two weeks. Within that time, we will have our one year anniversary. We have agreed we are not making a huge deal of it or spending money, but I have a homemade gift or two in mind and want to make a nice dinner.

I also need a dessert. Desserts are requested almost nightly but rarely available unless I've picked up a pint of Ben and Jerry's or a bag of ginger snaps. I need desserts in general I am willing to make, and preferably won't defeat my fitness goals, but how easy is that? I subscribe to loads of food blogs, a few dessert specific, but can't find anything I feel like making. Any suggestions out there? I needs some tasty ideas that aren't too complex. I am all about spending time on an entree or any savory dish but I lose patience with desserts. Maybe if I had better baking gear . . .

Give me any suggestions, please.

18 Days

That is how long I have left at my current school (counting only school days) before it closes permanently. I am both relieved and frightened by that day count. (We've had one other school in the district close this week for the flu epidemic, and I've joked that I wish our school would so I would have even fewer days.) I picked up a handful of new kids on my case load toward the end of this school year. Most of them are kindergartners with very difficult behaviors. I am doing my best to support the children, hopefully teach them some skills and alleviate the stress of the teachers, but I don't feel like much can be accomplished in a month to two months. Plus, in the summer it is so hard to engage the families that I work with and maintain consistent treatment. It's maintenance- that feels like that is all I can do at this point for some of my families. For the ones who are engaged and really want my services, it is different, but that is a small percentage.

I was feeling edgy all day yesterday and I think my anxiety is increasing about all the factors that will come with the closure of this school that has been open for I believe 75-100 years. It is one of the last components holding together a community that is falling apart. Like many communities on the East side and other parts of Indianapolis that used to be considered thriving, the area surrounding my school is overloaded with gun and gang violence, drugs, and an ever increasing lack of respect for people and buildings surrounding the area. It seems at least weekly there is a gun fatality in the neighborhood over the past two months. Many of the kids I work with seem to always somehow be related to each person killed. (There's a lot of intermingling between couples, I do believe. Everyone is every one's cousin.)

Any important community components such as central shopping/grocery and the fire station have all been long shut down. Even the Village Pantry, the local convenient store mecca, was shut down last year. Hence the reason really for the school closing. As much as Dr. White, the school district's superintendent does things and makes decisions that I am not happy with, I understand the economics of the school closures. Eight schools last year and six this year, mostly due to lowering enrollments and budget restraints.

But there is such a personal side to this. 300 teachers, nine of them nominated for teacher of the year, are slated to be laid off. Many teachers that could are not retiring because of the losses in their retirement savings and changes in retirement packages offered by IPS. The teachers who have only worked one to three years are the teachers most at risk to lose their jobs. For the families that live in the community, some of them went to the school that their child now attends. While there seems an ambivalence in some neighborhoods, our closure meeting with the superintendent was one of the highest attended by families and one of the most heated. There are those who remain in this neighborhood because it is a part of who they are; they do have a sense of community. And now that is all being essentially lost with the closure of the school.

So, following that tangent, there in lies some of my anxiety. I am worried about this community in general. I worry that the kids I love have no real safe place to go for leisure and positive experiences. I worry that as the school exits, the community is essentially left with nothing to hold on to.

On a personal level and in working with the kids on my caseload, I worry about the kids I know I will have a hard time keeping up with in the summer and what they will be up to without positive support. I worry about the kids I have had in treatment for more than two years, but still need ongoing support (They will be transferred to new therapists at their new schools, but we social workers know how these disruptions can interrupt the treatment progress and consistency.) I worry about how this last month will be for me, for them, for the teachers as we all essentially say goodbye to each other.

On a selfish level, I am worried about the fact that the Case Manager on my team will move to a new part of our organization and I will be managing my entire caseload on my own this summer. I worry about the transition of transferring all my current clients to their new schools in the fall while at the same time picking up a full case load at a new school location. I worry about feeling like the new guy at the new school location and having to acclimate to a new principal, new teachers and how they operate. But, that also may be an advantage for me to start fresh in a few areas with the new school, especially now that I have improved my skills in the past year when it comes to dealing with difficult administrations.

And I have it easy, really. Many of the teachers at my school have been teaching in the same classroom for 20, 30 years or more. I can't imagine the roller coaster of emotions they have gone through as they pack up essentially their lives and move to new schools, which they had to reinterview for to keep their jobs. The closure for them will be leaps and bounds beyond what I am contemplating.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

A wordle

This was an interesting Wordle pulled from my blog. I think I saw the word guilt at least twice. Funny.

  Wordle: Weddings v feminism  

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Be nice

The loveliness and simplicity of being nice.

Getting back to center

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves
of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is a
symbolic as well as actual beauty in the migration of the birds,
the ebb and flow of the tides, the folded bud ready for the spring.
There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of
nature–the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring
after the winter. The lasting pleasures of contact with the natural
world…are available to anyone who will place himself under the
influence of earth, sea and sky and their amazing life.
- Rachel Carson (1907-1964)

It has been a really tough week. In addition to the typical outbursts, suspensions, threats to kill, I had a significant hospitalization occur with one of my kids. I also was harboring guilt because the crisis point at which she was ID'd by police was when I went home sick. I'm not going to go into detail, but it was a bad situation and her life is going to continue to be challenging for quite some time. I'm only human, but damn it seems every time I take a sick day one of my kids falls apart. And feeling completely zapped of energy most of the week didn't help me much.

So, now, with the lovely quote above and my intentions for the weekend, I am trying to do my best to expunge the stresses of the week and rejuvenate. I had a relaxed and fun evening babysitting last night two of the brightest and most wonderfully raised children I know (I'm biased because she's a very close friend, but she's a damn fine mother) and watching Bolt with Luke at home. (So cute. I cried and contemplated adopting another dog. . . but no).

This morning I have gotten in my run and yoga, cleaned out the G-Reader, leaving the only most enjoyable guilty pleasures such as art, music, food and wedding blogs to peruse. I'm headed to the season opener of my neighborhood farmer's market with Nia to get a few veggies, drink more coffee, and visit a friend playing there today (who is also slated to play at our wedding). After that, the rest of the day is reserved for leisurely household chores and working on the pottery wheel. After my morning routine and CBS Sunday morning tomorrow, it will be more chores and more pottery wheel practice.

I am feeling better already.