What Day Is This?? When Do Classes Start??

It was fleeting, but I, however briefly, had that wonderful mid-summer-holidays sense of completely losing track of what day of the week it is. Of course, in this case that mindless-timeless-what-day-is-this?-bliss was situated in mid-winter, between Christmas and New Year’s, a time that is delightfully devoid of much structure (in terms of school).

New Year’s looms, however, and I realize that I need to get onto ordering some fourth year texts for Second Term courses. I’m not in a rush, though…

My uncharacteristically laid-back approach to text book ordering for the upcoming term just points to my growth as a student (I’m laughing as I type that): when I first began my BSW with UVic, the textbooks would have been ordered, shipped, unpacked, unwrapped and half-read. Now, I feel I can be more relaxed (believe me, this is a good thing!). Everything’s not so new and uncertain. I’m familiar with the routine. I have confidence in the excellent service the UVic bookstore offers us distance students. My texts generally show up early. There’ll be lots of time to order, unpack, unwrap.

For now, I have a bit more holiday-time to lose myself in.

**I never did get to some of the projects I thought I’d delve into over winter break: completing some sewing projects, finishing some knitting. But I did get to deeply enjoy spending more time doing other things I enjoy just as much. Here, I’ll take this chance to speak to the notion of work/life/school balance again: each semester, and every holiday, do what works for you. When you have course demands, remember to balance these with self-care and rest. When you have holidays, enjoy!
~Lose track of time.~

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A Life Measured by Terms….

As parents will know, we measure the ages of our very young children in months because the measure of a year is not accurate enough. The same thing might be said about university. A lot can happen in a year. So much that we have to measure it in four-month increments called terms. Only then can we accurately describe what all it is we accomplish within twelve months, over four years, or more.
In talking with those-BSWs-who-have-graduated, I realize that this all eventually fades into a blur of “when I did my degree.” But for those-BSWs-who-have-not-yet-graduated (at least from our undergraduate degree), what happens and when is pretty important. Take course planning, for example, and practicum timing.
I’m excited to be looking forward to a fourth year practicum experience during the sunny Summer Session 2012 (May to August). My last one took place in chilly mid-winter, otherwise known at UVic as Second Term, from January to April. (First Term is September to December). The timing is important for another reason: the approaching Summer Session will be the last one of my BSW.

That lets me think ahead just a little to exploring MSW possibilities. Clearly, I’m not ready to leave UVic yet. Not even close.

**I’ve written before about planning and timing. I’ve also acknowledged that in the face of greater life events and/or losses, planning can (and maybe should) all go out the window. Do what works for you. Don’t be afraid to revise plans or chuck them altogether. Doodling around about when we might convocate can be fun, but especially for us adult students who have a ton of other responsibilities and commitments, don’t stress about shuffling courses around to keep a healthy work/life/family/school balance. The only difference may be an extra term or two. When it all becomes a blur down the road, that extra time won’t matter as much as it seems to right now. **

These images: At left, some weird, wonderful underwater life at the Vancouver Aquarium. At right, my favourite: my son at Spanish Banks, just after a tour with our nephew at UBC. I told Clayton to keep his jacket on over his UVIC hoodie, though (a gift from his mother of course).

CAUTION: Student Crossing

**Here are some tips for practicum-seekers. These are gathered from chatting with many BSW students as well as clinicians in all areas of social work. They don’t refer to any particular place, setting or person(s). It’s just some hard-won wisdom from your fellows to consider when you go out practicum-hunting. Good luck!!

Some practical tips for finding that perfect practicum…

1). Ditch “perfect.” Go with reality. That being said, don’t settle for entirely imperfect, either. Read on.

2). Go with your gut. If your first impression of your potential supervisor is ???fuzzy tv screen???, look elsewhere. If you don’t feel comfortable, do you really want to spend 3-400 hours with this person(s)? Exactly. It’ll be either an enormous snooze-fest or WWIII (or, shudder, a combo!). Hit the pavement again.

3). Welcome In. Is the atmosphere welcoming? If not, it won’t magically begin to be just because you’re there. It could become even worse when everyone has a student to babysit. Probably not a place you want to hang out.

4). Can you type? If the bulk of the work you will be doing is updating a manual, RUN!

5) What student?? If you are looking at working in a team environment, ask if the team is supportive of taking on a student. If only one or two people are willing, you may get resistance from others. If everyone is not on the same page, (remember, you are paying) explore other settings.

6) A real human response. We’re all worried we’ll cry and look like overly-emotional not-even-BSWs. Well, what’s a few tears? They are a real human response. Don’t be ashamed. Many of us are new to the practicum situations we encounter (that’s why we are doing practicums, right?). If you need to have a bawl, seek out support from a worker who is kind and understands the adjustments you are going through. Remember, your liaison is there for you, as are fellow students you’ll connect with via the Integrated Practice Seminar (IPS).

7). It’s all in the timing. In our practicums, we have two assessments. Position these well. One half-way, one at the end. You’ll need the feedback from your mid-point assessment to improve in your final one. If the timing is off, you may find one on the heels of the other, with only a short period of time to address learning issues. Figure out your hours, when you’ll be finished and make sure your assessments are positioned so that they benefit you and your learning. A thorough orientation and closure process are also good. Ask your supervisor about these. After all, it’s nice to know where to hang your coat and it’s nice to say “’Bye” to clients before you check out.

8) Make that a combo. Okay, so the dreaded afore mentioned combo happened, maybe with a few other factors thrown in. You’re clashing with your supervisor, or s/he has a hate on for you, or whatever…don’t suffer, friends. Would you tell a client to keep his/her head down and keep hurting? NO! You don’t need to either. Hit up your liaison for support. That’s what they are there for.

9). It’s an uphill climb: Rest. Your legs are tired, so is your brain and your heart. This is the reality vs. perfection model, remember? Like school, practicums can be a slog. It’s work, it’s learning and that’s exhausting. A great time to practice self-care.

10). Celebrate. When it’s over, it’s over. You came, you learned, you’re done. Walk away with your learning, lessons and new wisdom. You probably took some hits and negotiated bumps along the road. Give yourself a pat on the back for achieving that “P” (Pass!) and enjoy some time to let your brain return to “neutral.” Another milestone in the BSW journey! Congratulations.