I recently read a book called “ Resilience” from the Emotional Intelligence series, recommended to me by a friend. I loved it, and it’s only natural that after I finished chapter 4 of the book, I started reflecting on my experience. This conjured up some interesting flashbacks to my final social work placement; particularly my experience of my practice educator.
Part of my social work degree was to complete two separate placements. A placement is where you get the opportunity to put the knowledge and skills you have gained on the course into practice. Therefore working with people in the community. Being a student at placement is both terrifying and exciting at the same time. You have the support of your practice educator and fellow colleagues. But, it is also very frustrating since most people don’t take you seriously when they hear “student social worker”. So I decided to refer to myself as a “social worker in training”. It did not make much of difference if I am being honest, since the title was often lost in the explanation. Anyway, for me the worst part about placement was not the work but my practice educator. Not only was she unsupportive, she was also very critical of every little thing that I did.
Correct me if I’m wrong but in my mind, there is a difference between constructive criticism and intentionally picking on a person’s shortcomings. As an individual, I believe in self improvement and constructive feedback is one of the best ways to do so. However, I personally found that my practice educator was incapable of doing so unless otherwise asked. The only time that she attempted positive criticism, it was wrapped in a coat of arrogance and served with a hint of judgment. She always had this look that would make you feel 2 feet small for asking a question.
I do also recognise that maybe at times I wasn’t the best audience. This was mostly because I disliked my practice educator and anything she said, went through one ear and out the other. I don’t believe it when people say; it doesn’t matter if you like the person or not, you can learn from them. Yes maybe you can learn from them, but it takes a great deal of self discipline. And this is something I had to actively remind myself of every single day until the end of placement. There were days when I dreaded going into placement because I knew she was watching my every move! And if I made a mistake, I would hear about it in supervision.
Concluding words: Placement was not all bad and I enjoyed working with my service users. Although, I would have loved my placement more if my practice educator could have been less condescending and more supportive of my learning.