What exactly do you do as a Social Emotional Generalist?
I assist the social workers at Goal Academy High School, an alternative school for at-risk children. I assist in responding to crisis calls, helping students with their social emotional needs, providing training, and connecting students to community resources.
Why do you feel what you do is an important part of education?
Research is showing that social emotional learning is highly needed in the school system, starting at an early age. Students are primarily focused on academics when they’re in a school setting, however, we do know that students are suffering in areas of their life, and might need a little bit more support.
They are in school Monday through Friday with adults that their parents have trusted to take care of them. I feel that we have a duty to take care of their social emotional needs as well as their educational needs. These students are experiencing homelessness, early pregnancy, issues with law enforcement, and mental illnesses at an early age, and they often are expected to cope through those things on their own. I believe that having a focus on social emotional learning in the school setting is very important, and will benefit them greatly not only in academics, but in all areas of their lives.
What is it like to establish a personal connection with these students?
It’s different for each student, I have learned to get to know each student as an individual. I try to release some of the ideas I may have about young people in this world, and really just treat them with respect and kindness.
I try to get to know what the students are interested in. If they’re telling me things about themselves,–like what sports are interested in or who they look up to— then I’ll bring those things back up in conversation so that they know that I’m listening to them. This helps them feel more supported, and it helps me build rapport. Then, when they have a big issue, they know that I’m not just someone that works at the school. I’m someone that they can trust, someone they know will work with them, and help them find a solution.
What do you love most about what you do?
What I love the most is teaching the students coping skills. It’s something that’s so simple, but it really takes a lot of practice for students to know how to self-regulate. My favorite part is co-regulation, where I teach them the skills to help manage stressful times and difficulties that are bound to happen sometime in their life.
Just sitting down with students and helping them learn positive adaptive strategies is definitely my number one favorite thing to do because I know that it is something that students can take along with them outside of academics, outside of high school, and into the real world. I believe that is what’s going to make them better at being productive members of society.
What is the best advice that you like you have ever received from someone else about your impact on education?
I think because things can get a little hectic, sometimes as adults, we don’t always know how to respond to situations. When I have to respond to a crisis situation where a student is upset, crying, or about to fight someone, I walk into those moments knowing that it’s temporary. The best advice I’ve ever heard is that all crises come to an end. So, when you’re in that position and you’re thinking, “Oh my gosh, how am I going to get out of a lockdown at the school?” or “How am I going to best support students?” You have to realize that you just need to act, and that it’s going to come to an end. It’s only temporary.
What would your advice be to like the younger generation?
I would say to make sure that you find whatever you passion is, and stick with that. A lot of times, people struggle trying to find the right career paths, and wanting to help others, but you really need to hold onto why you’re going into the career you want.
It is so easy to get lost and jaded, and forget why you even wanted that job in the first place. That’s why I believe it’s so important to have a strong self-care plan, and community support. If you’re not taking care of yourself, and if you don’t have people that you can talk to, it’s going to be really challenging for you on those rough days. Follow your passion, take care of yourself, find support, and always remember why you started in the first place!
Interview By Talisa Caldwell
I am blessed to work with high school youth, assisting them with their social emotional needs along their school journey. I connect students with community resources/referrals, develop safety plans with students and their families, set and track personal goals with students while collaborating with local caseworkers, police, probation, health providers, and family members to best serve student needs. I do the work that I do, because it’s not only my passion but my calling. Since I was a child, I grew up knowing I wanted to be a teacher, counselor or social worker and in many ways, my job allows me to do a bit of each career path. Focusing on the social emotional needs of students and teaching them adaptive coping skills is a needed area of support that all schools should have. Schools are one of the biggest supports for youth and I have chosen to work with you for the rest of my life. Often they just need to be heard and guiding in the right direction, which must included multiples routes and provide autonomy to youth. Our schools mission is to develop productive members of society and I am thrilled to help with that mission to the best of my ability.
Certified in Trauma Informed Care., B.A. Sociology and current UCCS Sociology graduate student. Previous experience includes; assistant supervisor of a domestic violence shelter, GOAL Academy High School, group home supervisor, youth residential care staff