Sept. 20, 1996
I started my practicum today and experienced a mixture of emotions. I felt nervous because I am not really sure what I will be doing and what is expected of me. I also felt quite excited because I am finally working in the field.
I did a lot of observing today and I found it most difficult to tune out the teacher and observe the students. I also found it difficult to try and watch everything at once. I have been noticing that I do a lot of assuming while I observe the kids. I think that I might be doing this because I want there to be some hidden meaning behind the observed behaviour.
So far, the learnings from school that I am able to apply to my placement are observation skills and attentive listening. I am also building relationships.
Sept. 25, 1996
My heart was drawn to a girl named Jennifer today. I am not quite sure what it is about this girl, but we seem to have “clicked” quite nicely. She says “hi” whenever she sees me and always wants to talk to me.
I had a lot of fun today and am really excited about this placement. I am finding that it is easier to observe the classes now and I make fewer assumptions and jot down more facts and direct observations. I attempt to draw conclusions later when I compare my notes with the others in my group. The only problem that I have now is that I am finding it awkward to walk around the class. I think that it makes the kids nervous and they behave differently because of my presence.
The most interesting observation that I have found so far concerns the group work that I watch. I find it interesting that the kids work in little dictatorships with the strongest or most vocal students having their ideas heard and the others just sit quietly. The kids don’t seem to compromise much.
Oct. 24, 1996
Well, it’s been a while since I last joumalled and I think that a lot has changed. I was starting to feel more and more confused at my placement. I just didn’t think that I was doing Child and Youth Care work. It seemed more like I was doing a lot of coordination and planning. I talked to my instructor and we agreed that the placement is CYC-oriented and we came up with a few ideas on how to make my placement fit better for myself.
I realized today why I was so drawn to Jennifer. My instructor talks a lot about the energetic self and I think that my “self” was drawn and was responding to Jennifer’s “self” calling out for help. I can see that, even though Jennifer claims to be strong and unable to feel, she does in fact feel.
I am still unsure as to what Child and Youth Care means to me, but after experiencing this pull to another one’s self I realize the importance of building relationships. Relationships being important for my “self” and for others.
Oct. 25, 1996
It was a low energy day for me today. I am sick, and have lost my voice, so I guess that is probably what sapped my strength.
I watched a track meet today. I find it interesting to see the difference between classroom behaviour and outside behaviour. I wish that the kids didn’t act so differently when they were in groups as opposed to talking to you individually.
I saw Jennifer today and said “hi.” She and I both seem to be excited about being “buddies.” I think that we will get along well and I hope that she can trust me and feel comfortable around me. I can sort of tell that she is comfortable around me though.
Oct. 30, 1996
Today was a very disorganized and therefore upsetting day. I like to have a plan and to have things follow that plan. I do not like random acts. I also do not like being told to relax etc. when things go awry, but that is another matter entirely.
I am a little frustrated with my group of fellow Child and Youth Care students. We aren’t working as a group anymore and I feel a little bit deserted and alone. Everyone seems to have their own way of doing things and nobody seems to care what the others are doing. I think that the separation was bound to happen because we are all doing different things, but it didn’t have to be so abrupt.
Oct. 31, 1996
I met Jennifer’s mom today. Jennifer was late for the meeting, but that is OK. Angela seems to think that she has a good relationship with her daughter, but I am not quite sure that Jennifer feels the same. On the other hand, Jennifer seems comfortable around her mom and not at all resentful or anything, which is what I was kind of expecting. It is quite uplifting to hear that Jennifer “brags” about being my “buddy.”
I think that things will work out quite well with Jennifer. All I want is for her to be able to trust me and to be able to talk to me about anything that she wants to. She wants to take tae kwon do so this will be a chance for her to learn some anger management techniques and I hope to be able to show her some other ways of expressing herself.
Nov. 01, 1996
Today was a good day as far as my work with children goes. It was not so good a day as far as my team members goes. I feel disappointed and let down by my team member and her constant sickness. I wonder if the kids feel deserted as well. I know that I should try to be sensitive and that if I want anything done then I had better do it myself because I cannot rely on my team members. I also feel alone because I am not getting any support from my team members. Each person seems to think that they have their group and that is the only thing that they have to work with.
I am finding it easier and easier to make observations now. I have also noticed that I take each observation with a grain of salt until I have a chance to check it out with someone else. I am also finding that if you give respect then you get respect. All that I have to do is get to know the kids that I work with. After a relationship is built it can go any one of a thousand directions. You don’t really have to try very hard; if you want something to happen, it will happen on its own in a well developed and respectful relationship.
Week of Nov. 6-8, 1996
This week was a good one as far as being organized and flowing well. I have come to realize that life working with children is far less stressful if I just accept that the child is who the child is and that they are at where they are at. I have found this to be a relief because all I have to do is be there for the kids that I work with. I do not have to perform any fabulous miracle or in any way attempt to change the child; all that I have to do is accept that child for who he/she is and where he/she is at.
Jennifer is getting more and more interesting to hang around with. Jennifer mentioned that she does not get very much food, and also does not like boys. She is only thirteen and does not seem to be bothered by the fact that she does not like boys, but her friends seem to think that they have to get her to change her mind. She is very strong-willed and I think that her friends will soon realize that that is just where she is at this moment in time.
I am finding that I think of Jennifer as someone who is closer to my age and level of understanding. I am finding that I want to gossip to her about what is going on with the others in her class. I have to keep reminding myself that I am supposed to be there for her and not the other way around, but it is still interesting though.
Nov. 13, 1996
I am starting to notice power differentials and how often they are employed in a school setting. I have noticed that a lot of people – teachers, aides, secretaries, etc. – seem to think that the way to get respect from children is to prove that you have more power than they do. I find this to be a bit ridiculous because I think that it is obvious that the child is not in a position with any power whatsoever.
I think that the way to get respect is to give respect. I see that a lot of teachers have a problem with treating kids as equals because maybe it somehow threatens their position and control. We discussed power trips in our seminar group and came up with a few possible explanations. One possibility is that the person pulling rank feels insecure or scared. I can remember times when I pulled rank and I remember feeling threatened in some way and feeling that if I did not regain control then I would lose control. I have come to realize that I do not like not being in control and not knowing what is going on.
I think that people need to learn that kids are people too and they deserve respect just as much as adults do. After all, I know some kids that I would rather have as bosses than a lot of the adults that I have as bosses. I also think that treating kids of all ages with respect and dignity will model to the kids and teach them how to treat each other and everyone else with respect and dignity. With everyone being taught how to respect one another, there will no longer be any petty power trips that don’t really get anything accomplished anyway.
Nov. 14, 1996
I still feel quite awkward and unsure of what to say to Jennifer. I find myself wondering whether or not I will ever be comfortable with the counselling skills that I have learned. I still look for the “right thing to say” and often miss my chance to say anything because I thought about it too much. I do O.K. with Jennifer as far as being her friend, but I still catch myself doing silly things – asking why, and asking questions that assume that she did in fact do whatever it was that she was accused of. I have to work on being able to draw the line between a working relationship and a friendship relationship, not necessarily with Jennifer because she is my “buddy,” not my client.
I had a horrible incident with my supervisor today at school. I needed to ask him one simple question that would have taken two seconds. He got off the phone, told me that he didn’t have two seconds, and literally pushed me out of the way. I have never felt so unimportant, disrespected, and lowly as I did when he brushed me off like that.
I am still struggling with my placement. I keep thinking that it is not Child and Youth Care work. I am not really even building relationships with the kids. I talked to my team mate and she thinks that I am in fact building relationships because I do not want to leave the school because I do not want to let the kids down. I have decided to stick it out at my placement and spend some time trying to decide what Child and Youth Care means to me.
I believe that Child and Youth Care work involves building relationships with children and the systems in which they are involved. I also think that Child and Youth Care work involves the use of counselling skills. I also think that knowing yourself is a key part of being in the helping profession and I am afraid that I cannot get through the layers that are protecting my sense of “self.”
Nov. 15-20, 1996
Friday was the best day so far in my placement. I talked to the boys that are peer tutors and asked them how it was going for them so far. They surprised me by being so open and honest. I felt very exhilarated by their responses. I then realized that I really am doing Child and Youth Care work with these kids.
We discussed in our seminar what Child and Youth Care is and what makes it different from the other helping professions. After much discussion and pondering we came/I came to the conclusion that Child and Youth Care is the only profession that brings the child into the picture. We are the ones who try to find out how the child is feeling in his/her situation. We are the ones who let the other professionals know what the child thinks and wants and how he/she sees his/her place in the situation, not to mention how he/she sees the situation itself.
I had two more kids want to quit on me and become peer leaders. I was very upset by the request and at first thought it was something about me that they did not like. I thought about the whole situation after and realized why I got so upset. I realized that my frustration comes from my own beliefs about being there for others and finishing what you start.
Nov. 21, 1996
Jennifer and I baked cookies today. We had a lot of fun and it felt really invigorating to hear her laugh and giggle. I also met her dad today and got to see how Jennifer is with her sisters and her parents. It was an interesting meeting, and I am beginning to think that Jennifer is a lot like her dad with a quick temper. I am basing this assumption on some of the stories that he told while I was visiting.
Nov. 22, 1996
Today was a bad day for me as far as my placement was concerned. I keep getting kids who no longer want to come because it is either boring or too much like work. I was feeling really frustrated and unappreciated.
I am getting comfortable in a school setting, but I feel ignorant of the proper guidelines and procedures. I think that I will have to get familiar with the school’s policies and then try to find a way to have them not interfere with my own belief system.
Nov. 28, 1996
I meet with the boys tomorrow and am very much looking forward to what they have to say. I would like to talk to them about what my purpose at the school is because most of them don’t seem to really know. A lot of the kids think that I am a teacher’s aide, or there to help them with their school work, or to learn how to work with kids. Part of it is right.
Jennifer and I worked on her school assignment today. I just let her type on my computer and I helped her to do her title page. It was kind of boring for me, but it was still a good learning experience. I am really glad that we are getting along as well as we are and I also glad that she trusts me. I wonder what will happen once the “buddy” program ends?
Nov. 29, 1996
I am noticing that as each day passes I find something else that does not fit for me in my practica. I am becoming increasingly unhappy with my placement, and yet at the same time certain things will happen and then I feel better about the whole thing.
One of the things that happened was my meeting with the boys and Jennifer. They are such an insightful bunch. We talked today about my purpose for being at the school. Most of them thought that I was some kind of teacher, but I headed that off. This is a good thing, because none of them seemed to like teachers, but that is another story. I also had one of the boys, Michael, who has been away for some time, tell me not to be so hard on myself. He pegged me so accurately and insightfully that I couldn’t help but agree with him.
I have to admit that I take too much too personally. I know that I blame myself when things go wrong and that I let the actions of others hurt me. I consider it to be a personal failure when the kids complain that they are bored. On the other hand, I am not working directly with the younger kids so I do not really know what they like and what they do not like.
I think that I am being a hypocrite. I tell the kids that I am there to help them to express their wishes and needs, and then I turn around and tell them that they cannot switch places if they are unhappy with the program. I would like to have someone else run the program and then be able to keep in contact with the kids to know where they are at, whether or not they are happy with their placement, and to be there for them if they want to talk about anything.
April 10, 1997
I was approached yesterday by the school counsellor, and asked to write down my concerns about Jennifer so that they could be raised when she meets with the high school counsellors next week.
I was really excited when I was being asked. I felt proud of myself, I felt important because someone wanted me to write this letter and be a part of the decision-making process. I was so excited that I went home and wrote the letter right away. I brought the letter with me to my class that night so that I could go over it with Kathryn Goldsmith. After talking about it I was not so excited.
I realized that whatever I wrote was going to be read by Jennifer’s mom and maybe even by Jennifer. I realized that the letter was probably going to be added to Jennifer’s file; it was something that was going to stay with her. Suddenly I was feeling scared and not so sure of myself.
I am grateful for the experience of writing this letter. It was like writing a mini-assessment report. I never realized that it could be so difficult. I had to censure what I said and make sure that my judgments were held in check.
I have a better idea now about what assessment reports are all about and how important they really are. I never thought that I could advocate for children and then write a letter that I would not want the child to hear about, never mind read.
This feature: Liptak, S. (1997). Practica experiences. Journal of Child and Youth Care, 11, 3. pp. 96-102.