Rolling On and Convo(stay)cation 2013

Soon, I will celebrate 8 months of full time employment post-BSW and this August will mark one year since completing my UVic social work degree. On June 12, I would have been down at UVic for spring convocation, but due to work committments and some other good reasons – my dear Dad’s 81rst birthday being one of them – I’ve decided to host my very own Convo(stay)cation 2013. My BSW graduation will take place right here in our own glorious spring weather.
All way round, it will be less stress and less financial output than carting all five of us down to Victoria (though I dearly love it there) for a few days. We don’t do city-dwelling well; we’re more the remote wilderness camping types. The clincher: 10 days of camping in the West Chilcotin costs roughly the same as two nights in a hotel and travelling to Victoria with the ferry costs. North it is for our vacation and here it is for my convocation. I have it all planned and it’s pretty simple. What’s most important to me is to get a photo of my family all together as we celebrate somewhere with a picnic, green grass, sunshine, blue sky and flowers.
Though I love going to UVic and enjoying the lovely campus grounds, we have equaly as lovely spots here to serve as the background to my special photo. As for my graduation photos (with the silly hat), I can have those done here at a loca photographer. Either way, the gown is rented. So, this spring won’t include a trip to UVic, but as my degree parchment wends its way through the mail to me, I’ll be looking forward to Convo(stay)cation 2013 in the Shuswap.
My one-day-to-be MSW, however, that’s a UVic trip for sure!

~A few months back, I jotted down a blog post I entitled “Rolling On.” The gist of it: when working full time with one’s BSW completed, time really rolls on. End.

I lost the post. I dug about for it every few weeks then finally gave up locating my sad little page of writing that probably became unceremoniously squashed somewhere in one of the bags I tote to work.

Hence the combined title of this latest post. I had to address the nature of time zooming by which is a good thing when one is needing to accumulate work experience. I’ve mentioned before that I plan to apply to the UVic MSW program. One of the requirements is two years post-BSW work experience. Exceptions to this? None (I checked).

So, I’m happy to celebrate nearing the 8 month mark of my post-BSW work experience in an environment – healthcare social work and care coordination – that I truly enjoy and appreciate every day. As one wise worker put it, “Well, this forces you to relax and just work and not do school right now and enjoy being where you are at.” Hhhhhmmm. True, but I still checked.


Wash Weekend and Convocation 2013


Since graduating and beginning work, my weekends look different.
With my weekdays filled with social work, my weekends are filled with many other things, including laundry.
Other social workers and working parents will sympathize, including my husband, who helps put the loads through. Our kids help, too. We try to keep it a family event.
Bins and baskets are toted down by our children. Baskets line up by the washing machine like train cars with bulging loads.
I used to manage laundry in between working on BSW assignments.
But now, the laundry waits for weekends.
By Sunday night, we’re almost caught up. The washer has swished it’s through the weekend.
Sunday night, we voice intentions to (in a well-organized manner) put loads through mid-week, during the evenings, to prevent the weekend laundry rush.
I suppose it’s a sign of healthy priorities when this pledge gets booted aside in favour of spending time together after a long day.
Laundry bedamned! Family and self-care come first.


BSW Grad: When and Where
Where I used to log in to U-Source several times a day when working on my degree, I now only log on once in a blue moon, it seems.
The other day, I took a few moments and checked in to dear old UVic Usource again. I caught up on UVic news and sorted through UVic email messages which included Fall Convocation info.
I completed my degree in late August and began full time work in early October. For many reasons, including work, attending fall grad in Victoria with my family was impractical. I considered many options, including a quick trip on my own to attend the ceremony, but that held little appeal. My husband (what a dear) advised me to do what my heart told me.
It was a bit of a process, but my request to defer my graduation until Spring 2013 was granted.
I want to show my family, including my three children, the UVic campus, as well as reacquaint myself with it.
Until then, I’ll be working away (at Social Work!), and I have a dress to pick out.

BSW done = degree disbelief

It’s a post-BSW new world with new opportunities thanks to my UVIC BSW degree.
Finally, after who-knows-how-many-years, I can write BSW RSW after my name for work purposes. It all feels strange because it’s so new.
This August, with the conclusion of my fourth year practicum in hospital social work, my degree was officially completed. That took getting used to.

School work over, letting it sink in: relaxing on our much anticipated summer camping trip.

Finishing my practicum was bittersweet; I relished the work and learning environment: I was surrounded by dedicated and positive healthcare professionals, and had two dynamic field supervisors who through, sharing their considerable knowledge and practice experience, made my learning experience unforgettable. Add to that humour and comraderie with colleagues and the privilege to work with patients, and I was sad to wrap up such a terrific experience.
I was, however, looking forward to some ‘summertime down time ‘with my family (see photo above): we immediately embarked on a postponed camping trip, then returned to celebrate the end of summer with a six-day stint showing at the country fair, the Interior Provincial Exhibition (IPE) in my hometown, Armstrong.
Camping in a hayfield and spending time with family and friends at the country fair was just what I needed. Still, it took three weeks for me to shake the feeling that there was a lurking learning activity or assignment due.
So, I’ve received my UVIC Letter of Completion, have applied for Fall 2012 Convocation, have completed my Registered Social Worker application, and have even applied for jobs and been to some interviews.
On a happy note, I received news that I begin a new job soon, back in the familiar environment of my practicum placement.
I’m happy to return there and know that while my degree is done, my (social) work is not!

Also bittersweet is recognizing that I’m no longer officially a UVic student. It’s a comfort to know that I’m part of the alumni, though. At some future point, I plan to apply to the MSW program (which requires two years of work experience for admission).

*A tip that may be helpful to you almost-BSW grads: the RSW application process can take several weeks. Mine took over a month. If you have work that requires registration waiting for you upon graduation, begin the RSW app process early so you don’t miss out on that first bit of satisfying ‘real work’ and the payment that comes with it! Imagine….!

In between realizing that my degree really is done, applying for jobs, then finding a job, I have dug into projects that have been side-lined for the last two years. My house has received some deep cleaning, painting here and there, and de-cluttering:

The pantry received a coat of ‘young green bean’ paint.

I made time to reconnect with things that nourish me, but were often shelved in lieu of coursework, like sewing this mini-quilt (above and below)…

My cup of the day today: a mug, featuring the IPE (country fair) logo, and deliciously strong Tetley Bold tea! I’ll take this out to the barn with me and drink it while I do chores.

Another bonus to school completion: more time to ride! My two guys, Quinn (small) and Spider (tall), on an outing to Open Riding in Armstrong, on a sunny fall day.


(Below) I left my fourth year practicum placement overflowing with new knowledge and carrying this beautiful bouquet of orange roses (which I later dried and saved) and this lovely teal card. My farewell lunch was celebrated at the Sprouted Fig, a great little place in downtown Vernon.

Game Change, Good Change

                                                                                          One of the paths to walk with a beautiful view of mountains and trees

  Medical social work zone

For all the concrete around the hospital, there is this lovely little grass path that we can walk to feel

the sun-warmed grass brush against our ankles on the way to and from work. Comforting for a country girl…


I’m walking a different path to my practicum setting, because I changed practicum settings.
A big change? Definately, and not one that was stress-free, but one that has been very positive for me.
Sometimes, despite all of our best intentions, preparation and planning, things just don’t develop the way we hope they will. The challenge in this (among many challenges!) is ultimately seeing that this can be for the best.
As a fourth year student, in the last phase of my degree, I wanted to establish new, critical AOP social work skills, deepen existing ones and explore new areas of growth and challenge (not to mention being challenged and pursuing growth in existing areas). A new venue for my own learning was in order.
My amazing UVIC practicum liaison, Cheryl Moir-van Iersel, helped me negotiate the switch when I was concerned that my learning objectives were not being met in the initial placement. Maybe my learning goals were too lofty, but I am committed to them as a student-learner: after all, for me, this learning is what my degree is all about. It’s the reason why I pay tuition and dedicate myself to my coursework. Even if it took another term, another payment of tuition, I was willing to put postpone graduation another four months to find the environment I needed.
Fate played a role, I think, when I met an amazing Interior Health social worker who, after a day together, agreed to be my field supervisor.
For the past three weeks, I’ve been: revelling in full-on learning and amazing mentorship and supervision; carrying an active caseload of about a dozen diverse clients; working within two large multi-disciplinary care teams and generally enjoying being really happy in my work and learning.
My learning objectives (near and dear to my heart) are being met, surpassed and expanded…
This, for me, is what the UVIC 4th year BSW practicum experience is all about.

My gratitude to so many people from my wonderful ‘solidarity team’ composed of family, friends, teachers, mentors, fellow UVIC BSW students and co-workers.

A special thanks to dedicated UVIC instructor and liaison Cheryl Moir-van Iersel who really put in extra effort to see me through to a sweet place for learning.

~ You are all amazing! ~

Shifting, Shifting…

I feel stubbornly dedicated to the driving theme.

Picture me driving a stick shift, and I have to keep changing gears. I don’t stay in any one gear all that long. I’m continually shifting, shifting gears and it’s a bit tiring, challenging and requires some pull-overs so I can stop, walk around and stretch. Enjoy the view.

This is my summer so far as a student.

Not only do I have two 400-level electives on the go, but I have my practicum, as well. Mix that in with my daily life. Many mature students who are also partners and parents will identify with this scenario:

(this is kind of to the tune of This Little Piggy…)
Monday and Fridays are dedicated to coursework!
Tuesday to Thursdays are dedicated to practicum work!
Everyday is dedicated to getting in loads of laundry,
And at the end of each day, one is very tired!
And the student ran yelling “Aaaaaahhh!” far away from her textbooks!

Sound familiar?

Semesters like this one are immensely fulfilling, definitely demanding, certainly challenging and without question, require self-care and at least an attempt at balance.

So, along with shifting, I keep balancing: schoolwork, practicum days, family life, summertime activities, self-care…not necessarily in that order.

One thing I keep handy is my Daytimer. I splurged and bought one. It lives with my purse and school bag. It`s where I try to sync everything and is as important as my school calendar by the computer, with all of my assignment due dates and deadlines for learning activities.

I look forward to chucking it unceremoniously, come September (when UVIC MSW application info becomes available).

Here’s my two bits about summer school, including practicum work: give yourself a map to follow, marked with your work days, course due dates and assignment deadlines. If you can, make sure your practicum placement offers some flexibility, if you need it. You may need to take a day here and there, and make it up later, to complete some coursework.

If this all sounds like a bit of a grind, well, it is, to some extent. Learning is hard work. It’s exhilarating and tiring, at the same time. And, when one is learning in so many areas – theory and practice and life – it can be a bit overwhelming.

Don’t forget it’s summer. When you’ve had your fill of shifting, pull over and admire the view. T

Then, as my tea cup says, Keep Calm and Carry On!

***Some feedback I’ll later share with an instructor I will now share with you:

I wish instructors would not intimate to students just how hard and demanding their courses will be. Rather, notes that are welcoming and actually encouraging are much more appropriate. If, after reading the `”welcome note” from one’s instructor, one then wants to drop that course, (even if one is a very dedicated student) means that the note was not really all that welcoming!


Photos (above):

~ The quilting cupboard. ~ Quinn the Jack Russell and study companion. He naps while I work.

~ Various mini-quilt projects. ~ The sewing desk.

My fourth year practicum begins next week. I feel a bit like a driver accelerating and merging into traffic. So far, the transition feels pretty smooth and natural. I’m a diligent shoulder-checker; I put a lot of effort into determining where I wanted to be for the final practicum of my BSW: somewhere positive, supportive and anti-oppressive. A place I’d feel welcome and comfortable as a student-learner.
It’s been six long months since I arranged my placement..
My practicum will span over 400 hours. Along with it, I’ll be completing my two final fourth-year electives.
I can hardly say how excited I am to be in a workplace setting and look forward to getting to know everyone and spending time with different clinicians, helping with different programs.
I have been bidding farewell to my last three weeks that were completely free of studies. This past week, I really kicked up my heels: I watched the first season of Game of Thrones (“Winter is coming!”) and rented Chocolat, half of which I leisurely viewed during the day as unwashed dishes and uncompleted housework lay scattered about me.
I delightedly plowed through piles of pleasure reading books from my own shelves and those in the terrific little Enderby branch of our Okanagan Regional Library. I re-read The Sunday Philosophy Club (love, love, Alexander McCall Smith) and enthusiastically dug into The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon (love, love Lord John Grey).
I am pointedly making no mention of housework.
I spent more time outside with my animals, taking my sweet time doing chores and enjoying the moody spring weather. I avoided (until this weekend, aarrgh….) calculating what early hour I will have to rise at to do morning chores, get ready for work, then drive into work.
I even picked up the dangling threads of a few unfinished quilting projects (see photos) and while I did not complete them, got them to the next stage, at least.
But once again, I’ve rather happily stashed my various projects for my school books.
I’ve had my rest. I’m ready for UVIC’s Summer Semester to begin!

Happy Birthday BSW?

~ Birthday ~

May 2012, when I begin my last semester, will mark the second “birthday” of my entry into the UVic BSW program.
I began back in May 2010, frantically planning my week on-campus in Victoria. Not sure what to expect, still buzzing with happiness at being accepted into the program. Helping my family plan how they would manage without me for a week (they did great). Feeling like I was beginning a long and interesting journey (I was).
The point I’m at now seemed impossibly distant.
Would I ever really be a fourth year student, in my last semester? Taking my last BSW courses? Doing my last practicum?
Back in my very first third year term, in class introductions, I wistfully envied those who introduced themselves as students wrapping up their degree. Would I ever get to that point? I knew that I would but it was just so far off.
Well, it’s time to bake a little cake and put a few candles on it. My almost-BSW-degree is two years old this May. My degree, framed and hung on the wall, will be a birth certificate of sorts.

Name: BSW
Weight: Darn heavy
Length: Spanning more than a few years
Joyful Parent: Tammy Thielman, proud, weary and ready-to-work

~ Now, the all-important question can be deliberated…What dress will I wear to convocation? ~

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