Backchat: Diary, a social work teacher writes…

I am tutoring for social work students today, a new role for me. I have had difficult meetings for two students on placement, both borderline at interim, so extra meetings were scheduled to offer support and check the action plans were working. It’s hard for students on their first “proper” placement suddenly having to get to grips with portfolio construction (worth a National Occupational Standard in itself!) as well as actually doing social work. Thankfully, one is now well on course to pass. I wanted to give a big hug but have to watch my professional boundaries, so made do with lots of verbal praise. This type of turnaround makes it all worthwhile.

For the next two days I’ll be running a programme devised for newly qualified social workers that I developed to fill the gap in support for this group of practitioners. It offers space to reflect on skills, values, knowledge and law in relation to the reality of practice. Specific guidance on assessment writing and recording is included and peer support is a huge element. The group was small but engaged. Lots of validation needed as usual. We just don’t get or give enough positive encouragement once we get caught up in the mayhem of case-loads and procedures. It’s so important to take the time to do this – after all, one of our values is building on strengths.

Programme’s second day. One missing he’ll have to suffer a one-to-one with me to catch up next week. As well as skills, PQ and re-registration, we looked at assertive communication and “tips for survival” – crucial. The social workers worked hard, feedback was positive, job done.

I am tutoring again. There are lots of tired faces in the morning workshop, students near the end of placement and just handed in an assignment. Group tutorial went well with sharing of experiences and reflection on practice, lots of peer support, also good troubleshooting. I really do love this type of teaching, although it’s hard work and has given me lots of sleepless nights. As I become more confident in my new role I’m hoping I’ll be able to switch off a bit more.

I am interviewing possible candidates for the social work degree. I’ve never done interviewing before and am very nervous but my interview partner is fabulous, very calm and supportive with lots of experience. A member of a service-user group sat in too, adding perspective. There are some really strong applicants applying for the course. I went home with my mind in a buzz, lots to reflect on and lots of learning for me today. It never stops does it, this learning lark?

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