TEACH FIRST: Francis Kearns
How to get there?
No straightforward or ‘typical’ path. Can join after graduation, or later.
- This speaker took the road less travelled: started out studying history, then worked as a Trainee studio engineer.
What it’s like?
- They let you pick your sector (primary/secondary school), and on that basis allocate you to a school.
- A rewarding experience; you meet great people & build up relations with the kids at the school. The grateful response from parents & the eureka moments for kids who were previously struggling, are amazing highs.
- A challenging context; usually a failing school placed under extra scrutiny. The work can be stressful & genuine patience is needed when dealing with kids.
- A time of personal discovery; you discover things like your resiliency or ability to handle a lot more than you think.
- When learning to be a teacher, you are observed quite a lot & given feedback on what you do well & don’t. You learn to interpret feedback constructively and to take it in your stride.
- A mix of professional & personal skills: good time management & prioritisation.
- Leadership Development Officer: offer support.
THINK AHEAD: James Wakefield and Ivan Wise
What is Think Ahead?
a social work organisation, under the umbrella group ‘The Challenge’.
- working with people completely without support.
Is it for me?
- If you care about more than a lucrative salary or making deals – the essence of social work is about making an impact, and engaging with finding your job on a human, emotional level.
- This is a job that directly impacts other people for the better, and supports their needs. That makes it especially satisfying.
- You deal with something, and someone, different every day. Each case you receive is unique, and allows you to meet very diverse, interesting people. Basically, you never stop learning!
- Social work bears huge importance in today’s society. Increasing inequalities, the mental health gap, austerity and suicide rates: these all point to the mental distress that exists throughout society.
A Day in the Life…
- A recent case study dealt with a Kurdish man who had ongoing issues getting access to his kids. When in court, he didn’t have a solicitor or interpreter, so he never got a truly fair trial. This became the main precipitating factor for his mental health issues. The social worker helped him work through these issues, taking the time to talk to him, securing therapy sessions and organizing volunteer legal aid for his appeal.
- Another related to building a mother up for a school-parent meeting, for which she did not feel ready or confident. The social worker provided the motivation and emotional support that she needed to feel in control of the situation. At the meeting, she was able to air her grievances to the school, and was finally heard.
FRONTLINE: Layla Doyle
For Layla, the trigger was her early involvement in social justice protests at the LSE; she understood the place of social work in creating a just society.
- As a well regarded and respectable organization, Frontline was a very worthy entry point into social work.
- What is the nature of its work?
- Aims for direct, visible change: micro-change over macro, typically. Focusing on on-the-ground impacts.
- A very eclectic profession: cases might look at mental health, domestic violence, or substance misuse. You might work in a charity, in a private organisation, with children, or with adults.
- These cases come from external agencies e.g. schools or police or ambulance. Frontline is then in charge of coming up with a clear plan of action from all these diverse strands.
What’s it like working there?
- New employees experience an assessed & supported year in social work; given some protection e.g. a limited caseload.
- The barriers of stress and time commitment do still apply.
- There is room for giving your preference, but you don’t get a definitive say on where you are placed.
- Self-reflection & self-awareness skills.
- The will to have hard conversations with people.
- The ability to think carefully about how you talk, about how others perceive you, and about the power you evince.
- The desire to be challenged: as a social worker, you are being allowed into people’s lives, and working with society’s most vulnerable.