5 Things Every School Social Worker Needs to Know

5 Important Facts for School Social Workers

  • You Must Remain Invested and Creative
  • You'll Have to Make Independent Decisions
  • Building Relationships Can be Challenging
  • Understanding Your Environment is Key
  • You Won't Be Able to Solve Everything

School social work is an industry that focuses on school-aged children and their families, and this list will highlight five things every school social worker needs to know before jumping into the profession.

1. You Must Remain Invested and Creative

School social workers often deal with children who are struggling for various reasons, so you may need to be creative when trying to motivate and encourage them to succeed. It's likely that teachers and parents have already unsuccessfully tried multiple methods to help the child thrive, so you may need to come up with some out-of-the-box solutions. If you aren't invested in advocating for the children's best interests, then you won't be successful in this field. A social worker who isn't invested in the well-being of the kids will do more harm than good.

2. You'll Have to Make Independent Decisions

As a school social worker, you will need to be confident enough to make executive decisions. Many smaller school districts only have one social worker in charge of all the school's students, and school social workers frequently report to supervisors who have less industry experience in social work. Due to these factors, you are likely to be the most qualified individual in the school to make decisions regarding your field of work. Some school social workers report feeling separated and isolated from their colleagues, and you'll need to be prepared to frequently make independent decisions without much direction.

3. Building Relationships Can be Challenging

Most social workers are highly empathetic, and this trait often draws them to this line of work. Building individual relationships with students is one of the most intriguing aspects of this job, but it can also be one of the most challenging. Sometimes building trust with a student is easy, and the two of you may share common interests, goals or past experiences. Other times, however, you are likely to encounter students who are distrustful, distant and even hostile to your attempts at building rapport. The first encounter you have with a student like this can be extremely discouraging and disheartening if you go into this profession expecting to build trusting and loving relationships with every child you encounter.

4. Understanding Your Environment is Key

It's crucial for school social workers to understand the environment they are working in. Collaboration with teachers, principals and other school administrators is important, but you will need to rely on your own perspective as a social worker because other employees of the school won't have the social work background that you do. Sometimes school professionals will marginalize your assessments because they have different perspectives, so you will need to be authoritative in giving your suggestions.

5. You Won't Be Able to Solve Everything

One of the hardest lessons that school social workers must learn is that they won't be able to fix everything. It can become discouraging and frustrating attempting to be a student's best advocate when they are facing situations far outside of your control. Neglectful parents, anti-social peers or previous trauma can greatly reduce a child's ability to thrive. Despite your best efforts, some children will continue to have issues that you just can't solve. It's important to accept that some things are simply out of your control as a school social worker.

Related Resource: Top 10 Affordable Online Masters in Social Work 2018

School social workers have an extremely challenging job. Above all else, they need to remain authentic, invested and empathetic to each unique child's circumstances. While this list certainly doesn't cover everything, these five things every school social worker needs to know will help prepare you for success in the industry.