Saturday, October 8, 2011

When you think you know it all ... Try again!

    You look at us and you don't understand us even though you were once us. We cut ourselves more than you think, we think about suicide more than you know, and labeling us angry is more convenient to you than it is an accurate assessment of who we are and why we do what we do. We have sex before we’re ready, we fight too often, we disrupt classrooms because we doubt our own intelligence, we make excuses more than we work hard, we’ll use your pity to our advantage, we abuse alcohol and drugs, and we’re falling behind at school. We put on shows of confidence and conviction, and you wonder how it is that we don’t make better decisions. We find ways to both disappoint you and inspire you, and just when you think we’ve outgrown bad habits or juvenile ways, we sneak in another mistake and make a decision that to anyone other than ourselves seems completely irrational.
    We’re a beautiful collection of ignorance and insight that confounds parents, psychologists, sociologists, and teachers alike...and what’s even more fascinating is that we confound ourselves even more than we do you. It’s not that we do any of what we do because of some master plan. It’s simply that from moment to moment, an emotion, a craving, or a need drives a particular behavior. We are the beautiful who feel ugly, the thin who feel fat, the bullies who are afraid, the intelligent who feel inadequate, the popular who feel alone, the black who feel too dark, the white who feel too pale, the defiant who feel powerless, the achievers who feel lost, the artistic who feel crazy, the promiscuous who feel unloved, the risky who feel overwhelmed, and we are the ones who smile and scream and laugh and yell...yet feel invisible. We wish these weren’t many of our truths, and we know you’d much rather read of our achievements and happiness…but we just can’t afford to have you kept in the dark anymore about how we’re hurting and what we need.
    We’re asking for more humility. We’re demanding more listening and less lecturing. We’re asking for more transparency and less pity, and we’re begging that you find thoughtful, empowering ways to hold us accountable for the damage we are causing to ourselves and to others. We ask that you try harder to make your efforts with us about us, and not your own needs to feel intelligent, wise, powerful, or in charge. We ask that you care less about avoiding looking foolish and more about role-modeling real confidence. Give us consequences if we earn them and don’t give in to our guilt provoking tactics. Your lower expectations of us are crushing our spirits and work ethic, and they’re keeping us from developing the fortitude we need to push through the inevitable hardships and challenges that come with being human. We need to feel your faith in us that we can push beyond our traumas, and we need you to partner with us more than you try to fix us. We’re asking that you help us cultivate grace, so that we no longer feel the urges to run from our feelings, or numb them with substances and activities that can diminish our futures.
    We need you to sit with us, and show us that we can learn to live with, and appreciate, all the countless emotions that give life texture. Help us look at our demons and scars, but do not allow us to spend so much time with them that we begin to use them as crutches and excuses. Make assumptions about why we do what we do to show us you are trying to see us. Tell us directly that you are making an assumption, but be sure to listen to us if we tell you that you are off target, and then get back to partnering with us to try to figure it all out.
    They say no two snowflakes are the same, and though there are and have been many “experts” who claim to have discovered “the roots of our behavior” and have made money off of “strategies, interventions, theories, and techniques” that claim to “fix us kids,” the reality of snowflakes remains the only undeniable truth. No two of us are the same, and as such, it’s going to come down to you, with your undeniably unique texture, having to find the way to partner with us, with our irrefutably distinct flavor. We know that you will make decisions and assertions that you feel are in our best interest, and some of these impositions we will learn from and embrace, while others we will reject and throw back in your face. Just know that your best chance at keeping us safe and yourselves sane is to be authentic, to admit that you don’t know anything for certain, and to try your best to not act from the fears that drive your closed minded, judgmental, reactive, and demanding ways...and when our imperfect storms settle and there’s a quiet moment, be as human, humble, and textured as you are, and show us what quiet presence and genuine care looks like by simply listening to us.
    So when, not if, we are frustrating you, confusing you, and breaking your hearts, please, above all else, don’t ever stop trying to be our heroes.
Written by:

Seth Rockman, LMSW, is a licensed social worker and has been working with at-risk youth and families for more than 16 years. He has worked in inner-city high schools, suspension centers, and intermediate schools, after-school programs, transitional residences, residential facilities, and emergency shelters. He has provided individual counseling, group counseling, crisis management, and case management services to youth ranging from age six months to 21 years old. He has supported and empowered every demographic

Friday, October 7, 2011

know why I'm here.

Wow. What a week! Its been a great week. Tons of progress, meeting new people, and challenging myself. Im in a school full time which has been a dream of mine for a long time. The staff is great. So many are so dedicated and really want to do anything to improve the life of their students. In conversation, I am able to see where the hearts of some of these teachers are. They inspire me to work harder for the kids they work so hard to teach. One thing that popped up to me today is life is so much about relationships. I pulled out one of the few quotes I have held onto from a legalistic preacher I heard summer after summer.... Rules without relationship equals reprobate. As stupid as it sounds I found that its very true. Before I ever try to work with a childs behaviors I go for the jugular, their friendship. I do silly to earn the trust of a child who has been hurt, beat up, stepped on and lied to. I go for a lot of BIG motions. Loud claps, extra extra praise and the classic touchdown arms signal. If that doesnt work... I bust out the secret handshake trick. I am running out of different styles, but it works. It all goes back to relationship. I got one of the biggest compliments from a co-worker this week who took the time to shadow me to start to better understand our job. As she was leaving she said, I get it, you are involved in every aspect of these kids life and it works. WOWZERS! So much fun too! Ive been blessed to be thrown into a school that accepted me. I hear Mr. Hoots, mr hoots, mr hoots and its makes it all worth it.

One last thing, try this. I was walking the lines looking to help the boys remember to tuck in shirts so they dont get in trouble. I hear "mr hoots! why didnt you play football this morning" before I could respond a girl who talks before she thinks (sound familiar?) says "because hes so GAAAY!" oooooo. all the kids in the immediate area.

Option 1. Call her out. Embarrass her in front of her classmates and ruin the opportunity to build a what??? relationship.

Option 2. Pawn her off on a teacher and move on with my day.

Option 3. I say. Come with me. We go to the back of the line and chat about my choices in life our my choices. I explain to her I am married, happily. I encourage her to find the a different "insult" because using the term "gay" is becoming less accepted in this world, which I am a fan of, incase you wondered. We begin to walk far behind the line and we chat about consequences that could come from calling any other adult in the building GAY. I can see she is regretting the joke already and I say. Its ok. next time you have got to make a better choice, and we knuck it up.

Later. I hear Mr Hoots. MR HOOOOTS. You da best! From that same girl who could have been trash talking me if I chose option 1 or 2. ah. relationships.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

For me

This post is for me to process a day of ups and downs. I was on the phone while sitting next to my newest kid. I was on the phone saving the past while the future was dying for my attention next to me. It's tough to let go of investments. You put so much time and effort into ones you love and you see potential in and when it doesn't works it's always a tough pill to swallow. I kinda poured the afternoon because I felt like one slipped away from by his own choices. I got stopped by a friend who said... " I want you to know what your doing for so and so is gonna save his life" whoa. Kick me in the pouty lip. Here I am... Holding onto someone who can't even save themselves when the my next project sits in front of me. A teach later stopped me and said she has a girl she's worked with who needed to talk with someone. She said she wants her to speak with me... Because I'm real. And I will meet her on the level she's on. Whoa! I'm just in awe... I'm so so blessed to go to work and have the smallest of impacts on the world around me. Stop. Give. Love.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

I can't understand

I was recently talking to a family member about some of the things we see as social workers. One of the dynamics I observe a lot of are relationships and how powerful some can be. I remember talking to a young girl who was abused by her father throughout her life. I was describing some of the charges against her father and his reaction. Much to my surprise she started crying even weeping. She said something I will never forget... "Eric no matter how bad he hurt me he will always be my dad"

It hit me like a truck. How can a bond be so strong after such injustice? How can love go so deep with out a real relationship? I continued to be amazed by the the power parents have over their children and how often that power can be abused and misused. To see a son who has been hurt and disappointed by his mom over and over continue to want to please her although she makes no attempt to help him. To see a daughter believe in every word her dad says even when it goes against what is right. To see a parent deny any wrong doing to the face of their flesh and blood even sending their children into police stations and court to further the abuse is just sad!

I'm not a parent but seeing the power of these relationships reminds me of what a huge responsibility it will be! Just remember... your kids watch your every move and trust you until you break it.

Final thought. I had a parent complain... "How can I have this kid (me) tell me how to parent when he has no kids, he's arrogant." Another parent said, "Eric have you ever seen super nanny? Your job reminds me of that because you help people learn how to be a family who have never learned" I guess my job can only be successful depending on what the family wants to gain from their experience. It sure is nice when we all work together! :)

Livin the dream.

Friday, October 15, 2010


Its kinda weird and human nature that we always look for acceptance from others.

This something I definitely see myself doing as a social worker. "Im thinking... lady, I am here to help you. I'm on your side. I support you. Dude, Im backing you up on this." Sometimes I feel like we put ourselves out there all day. We keep our phones on way past 40 hours. Our thoughts mostly revolve around the next technique we can use to get through to one of our kids. We attempt to sit quietly while people rip into us blaming us for all the things we have done to ruin their lives. And it bugs me... I dont know about you.

Now I have heard the whole, "Gotta get tougher skin" "Dont show your emotions" "Leave it at work" but honestly I dont want any of those things. I understand we get jaded in each one of our professions but I dont ever feel the pressure to give up. It's kinda weird because I am doing exactly what I always wanted to do and I dont want to waste a minute being jaded. Doesn't mean I dont get frustrated or upset with the ignorance and stupidity of people who only consider themselves especially when they have children who hang in the balance, but I still find myself putting my self out there and pleading with them to let me help, let others help, listen to family.

Moral of the blog. Don't give up, the next one might be the one who needs you.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

drawing the line

"If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life"

When it comes to clients and social work I have yet to learn where to draw the line between home life and "work". If I knew my family would be supported I would do this work for free. I have such a deep passion for people. I'd do anything for the people I work with and I believe they know that. I surrounded myself in Kankakee with clients and their families. I want them to know they can trust in someone after losing all trust in the world. I want them to know my phone is always on and they can always call. I want them to know that God made me to work with them and I plan to do it with all my heart.

I was talking to my mentor kid last night who I developed a very close relationship with. We were talking about good times we had over the years like brothers. It reminded me of the times I laid awake at night wondering if he was safe. I thought about how hurt I was for him when his mom died while he was in jail. I remembered the countless dollar bills and piles of change I gave him out of my pockets. I just remembered why I just love my job. Because of kids like this who I have been so lucky to meet and be a part of their lives that keeps me going.

Through all of this I want my beautiful significant other to know that I love her too. Granted she knew what she was getting when we married. An un-medicated ADHD social work with passions bigger than any budget. She cried with me when I was hurting for my clients. She was excited with me when we got guilty verdicts. She stuck by me when I almost went crazy after being unemployed for a month. I have the same undying love and passion for her....

A executive director once told me... "Someday you will realize you can't save the world"

Well I haven't realized it yet. and I won't! I am not dumb. I know some in the world do not want to change and if I focus on them then yes... I cannot save the world. But there are lost souls out there who need to see someone who really cares about them and I can think of 30 BSW students I graduated with a few years ago who care....

Start the movement. Give a little. Change a life.