I had the pleasure to attend the 21st Annual National School Social Work Conference March 15th, 16th and 17th in Columbus, Ohio. During the time I was at the conference, I attended three keynote presentations and five workshops. I found it very interesting to intentionally sit at different tables or with different people to network and learn how school social work is implemented in other states. I found a new sense of energy being around like-minded people who share the same love and passion to help others.
Trauma was a central focus of the conference. With the shooting in Parkland, Florida and the school walkouts and demonstrations taking place right before the conference, these issues were addressed as well as the multiple factors of trauma that affect our students in our daily practice. I found it important for the discussion to be addressed since it is impacting and has the attention of the entire nation. Key-note speaker, Amy Oestreicher, shared her personal story of trauma and different mechanisms that helped her work through her trauma. Although I did not attend her breakout session, in which she really informed different strategies to use, through the SSWAA app I had the availability to access the resources to implement these resources in my own practice.
Through trauma comes resilience. I happened to go to the session, “Resilience Can Be Taught! 10 Tools to Motivate ANY Person”, due to a speaker being unable to make the conference. I loved this session as the speaker was very enthusiastic and inspirational. Christian Moore spoke from a Strengths Based perspective and had great strategies to utilize negative emotions and circumstances to create momentum for change and utilize the resiliency needed in life. I found his approach, in this way, to bring encouragement to those who are facing difficulties and found these strategies to be useful with those I work with. During this session, I happened to sit by a fellow Indiana School Social Worker and fellow scholarship awardee, Julianne Shannon. I found it refreshing to get to know Julianne and to connect with her in this session and throughout the conference.
“Bringing the Therapeutic Yoga Mat to the School Setting; New Tools and Techniques for Those Treating Children with Trauma History”, led by Joanne Lloyd provided simple and concrete ways to help students with trauma, anxiety, depression, etc. I found this session very helpful as we practiced multiple yoga poses as well as breathing strategies. Joanne provided simple poses or strategies for different scenarios, spaces or traumas kids have encountered. The simplicity and imperativeness of breathing was addressed and practiced. I appreciated the ‘hands on’ practice in the session and the variety of poses that were presented within the session. I have utilized several of these strategies with the students I work with and appreciate the resources that were given.
A session I very much enjoyed was “Promoting Your School Social Work Program”, led by Leandro Galaz. During this session there was a lot of interaction which really allowed me to understand how social workers in different states are utilized or have to promote their program. Of course data was a huge part of this session; however, the focus was more on how the data was presented rather than collected. Leandro discussed having the data be eye catching and concise. Leandro also discussed the importance of focusing on one area to collect data first and to be available for different meetings to present data and findings. During this session, the discussion of the importance of different school social work associations be available and able to present at state administration or superintendent conferences to discuss the impacts social workers have within the school setting. During this session, we found similar frustrations, offered suggestions of what works or does not work, data collection ideas, and provided support to one another.
I am very thankful for this opportunity. I learned something in each session and found the conference very helpful. I found the resources from the speakers, exhibitors and fellow social workers to be very useful and have utilized several of these resources upon my return from the conference. I really appreciate the time given for School Social Workers to get together and learn from each other. I encourage and recommend School Social Workers to at least attend one National Conference as there is a renewed sense of energy, refreshing information, and abundance of resources available.