Your third grader comes home and tells you, “this lady came and saw me today. Jimmy and I went to her office to play.” Immediately you think, “who is this woman and why is she playing with my child and Jimmy?” You call the school and are told that “Mrs. Salter is the school social worker and she met with your son and Jimmy who are having some issues getting along together.” You question why and are told. You immediately begin to think about what a social worker means to you. Is my child in trouble? Is my family in trouble? Am I not raising my child the right way? Is someone going to come knocking at my door? What will happen to my child? Though these thoughts are valid, the role of the school social worker has dramatically changed over the last few years.
Our role as a social worker is “to do whatever puts a smile on every child’s face” said Nick Tarantino, social worker at Ellsworth Avenue Elementary School. “We help children become successful through talking and playing games with them, learning social skills and developing a toolbox of ideas to help a child pay attention such as stress balls and exercises. We help child develop their play skills with other children and learn how to be calm and proactive when they are frustrated.” Social workers help students overcome individual difficulties such as learning to make friends and solve interpersonal issues. Your child might e fortunate to meet with the social worker in group meetings to learn about what might be the concerns of children. Lunch bunch is a common term you may hear. During lunch bunch social workers talk to the children about what is going on in their lives and perhaps what are their plans of the future. The social worker develops positive relationships with all children in our schools.
Our modern world is complicated for children and adults to navigate; therefore, the school social worker can help lead your family through the maze. If you are new to the area social workers can direct you to fuel and energy assistance, help you get signed up for health insurance or food stamps, and locate food banks. They know the best resources in the area for families and if they don’t they will seek them out for you. You can contact the school secretary to make an appointment to meet with the social worker. When schools have a parent’s morning coffee with the principal the social worker is usually present.
So fear not the social worker!! He or she is there to help your family to whatever degree you need them to help you. Your child’s school has other support staff as well: the school psychologist, speech-language therapist, ESL teachers, math and language arts specialists, and the school nurse. Don’t forget the important role the cafeteria and custodial staff play in your child’s life as well!
Anne E. Mead, M. Ed., is the administrator for the Early Childhood Education and Extended Learning Programs of the Danbury Public Schools. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact her at 203-830-6508 or firstname.lastname@example.org.