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Student Perspectives: Social Workers in Classrooms (SWIC)

Photo (left to right): Jonathan Coleman, Galina Melamed, Maggie Bishop and Erika O’Bannon

This fall, four first-year students with previous careers in education decided to share their experience and passion for K-12 education with their fellow students. Social Workers in Classrooms (SWIC) is a new student organization led by Maggie Bishop (MSW '15), Jonathan Coleman (MSW '15), Galina Melamed (MSW '15) and Erika O'Bannon (MSW '15). Created to provide experiential knowledge for future school social workers, the program matches MSW and undergraduate social welfare students with teachers in high-need schools around the East Bay.

Students spend a minimum of one hour a week as an assistant in the teacher's classroom. They also attend monthly trainings to reflect on their classroom experiences and better understand the ins and outs of public education. Berkeley Social Welfare Field Consultants Robert Ayasse and Christina Feliciana are excited about SWIC and have provided tremendous guidance and support for the program. Since school internship placements typically do not offer explicit training on educational practices and classroom structures, SWIC is the opportunity to learn these. MSW-level students interested in the Pupil Personnel Services Credential (PPSC), a necessary qualification to be hired as district school social worker, have the opportunity to begin learning about the educational system in the Bay Area before beginning a second-year school-based placement.

SWIC is off to a great start. This spring 11 students are matched with nine teachers, and many more have expressed interest in the program. Next fall the organization plans to hit the ground running, placing first- and second-year students as well as undergraduate students by mid-October. This will give volunteers over 30 hours of classroom experience over the course of the year. SWIC plans on attracting new first-year MSW students with classroom experience to help run the organization and further propel it into the future.

Our student group is proud to play a key role in orienting social welfare students towards the perspective of educators for a number of reasons. School social workers must be able to feel empathy for and connect with even the most overworked of educators, and to work with all members of the campus community. Additionally, public education is an incredibly complex institution; SWIC supports budding school social workers in beginning to navigate these complexities. SWIC envisions a future in which all school workers are trained to better understand and support students and educators in educational settings.

SWIC Leadership

Maggie Bishop: Founder and Organizational Chair

Erika O’Bannan: Educator Outreach Chair

Galina Melamed and Jonathan Coleman: Volunteer Training and Support Co-Chairs