The Art of Social Work | Topic 3

This summer I am working with elementary and middle school aged kids from around the Ann Arbor community. The kids all bring their unique differences, struggles, and strengths to the camp, forming an interesting dynamic to observe and work to control. Before I started this internship, I had some knowledge of the difficulty of the work of social workers, but after interacting with these kids, I have developed a new sense of appreciation for the dedication, persistence, and often meager compensation for the work that they do. Some, if not many, of the kids come from homes that lack structure, positive role models, or enriching learning experiences. Media, video games, and popular culture play a large impact on what the kids view as cool, important, and desirable, thus shaping their values and the way they behave towards one another. Because this is a Leadership Development Camp, there is an intense standard of structure and accountability for one’s actions. As such, many of the kids have an extremely difficult time behaving appropriately within the Camp’s structured and demanding environment. Additionally, their social environment plays another role in their behavior. Many of the kids are surrounded by their peers, whom they often work to impress, “one-up”, or assert dominance over. This dynamic between several of the kids brews chaos, and when reprimanded or disciplined by an adult, turns the kids to frustration or anger. Understanding the environment within which these kids are operating with gives us a picture of what social workers have to manage each day. I am constantly impressed by the multifaceted endurance and patience exhibited by social workers who are able to enter the same environment each day to face the same challenges, and likely, the same results. After a single day, I am physically and emotionally drained, so I am impressed and much more appreciative of the work social workers do each day.

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