Instruction in the Field

Fall semester classes are more than half way through, but many of us concurrently immersed in course work and field placements are just beginning to come up to speed and find our own pace. These first weeks have been quite a mental and emotional stretch and that’s because it’s no small leap to move from “I don’t know what I don’t know” to “I know some of what I don’t know” and then begin taking steps to learn and apply so many new skills. There is very little familiar territory here and honestly, that’s all part of the plan. The field supervisor spends weeks endeavoring to place each of us in a setting that will provide all new learning. That probably sounds a lot easier than it is.  No two field placements are alike and yet each one provides its own unique and rich learning environment.

One aspect of the field placement that I find both challenging and reassuring is developing a relationship with my field instructor. More specifically, we are encouraged to “make ourselves vulnerable” with our field instructor in order to develop the most authentic, transparent, and beneficial mentoring relationship possible. It takes a great weight off my mind to simply acknowledge right up front that I don’t know everything, that I have a lot to learn, and that I am going to make some incredible mistakes. At the same time it goes against my natural inclination to be that open with anyone outside my immediate circle of family and friends – and doing so on a professional level adds yet another dynamic to the equation. But because I desire to maximize the learning potential of my placement in every possible way, I am willing to step out of my comfort zone.

Beyond the immediate learning this experience provides, it has also given me greater empathy and appreciation for the relationship we hope to develop with our clients. We want them to trust us, to be authentic with us and with themselves, to move past the all-too-familiar barriers they are facing into new and hopefully better territory. With that in mind I am embracing these moments of uncertainty and consciously assessing my thoughts and emotions as I move through this process of personal and professional growth. By doing so, I believe I my efforts will be rewarded with yet another dimension of use of self in working with others.

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About Marguerite Keil

Ancora Imparo! To sweet endings, new beginnings and live long learning! I have now finished my third and final year of the UNC-MSW program and it has exceeded my expectations! I completed the first two years through the Winston Salem Distance Education program that was phenomenal and have now just finished an equally great year here on campus. Certainly I leave the program with more knowledge, but more importantly, I leave with more personal insight and a clearer sense of myself. But this is not the end - only a new beginning. In a few weeks I embark on a new career - not the one I envisioned with the full-time employer I had when I first enrolled. Instead, these years of academic training and field work have blazed a new path and opened new doors of opportunity. They have brought new people and a new scope of practice into my life. I owe a good part of this to the certificate program (Substance Abuse Certificate in my case), which is why I want to encourage others to pursue some certification or licensure along with their MSW. Yes, it does mean more work, but in the end I am quite sure you will be glad you did. And the experiences you share with those pursuing the same path will make your time at Carolina that much sweeter and memorable. Blessings! ~mk
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