Thursday, October 15, 2015

Open Books Open Minds

This was my third experience with Open Books Open Minds.  When I was a freshman back in fall of 2009 I was required to read Extremely Loud and Incredible Close by Jonathan Safran Foer.  I don't remember much about it but like I do for most of my reading I bought the audio file for it and I do remember it was odd.  

Since then it has been made into a movie:

So fast forward to my Junior year in the social work program.  During our research course with Professor Weismann - which I hated at the time but am now so grateful that I took we had to read the 2012 OBOM book: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.  Great read!!!
Again lets fast forward to tonight.  The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz.  After reading the plot summary the stories made more sense.  
  • I was able to connect the retelling of difficult life events to todays class when we either wrote or discussed the people who were most influential in constructing who we are.  I loved that I could related to at least one piece in every story.  
  • In Nancy's story about her families engagement ring - it made me laugh since I have more recently been pestering Matthew for one. 
  • I wanted to get up and either give a hug to or find a box of tissues for the woman who lost her dad when he fell overboard.  
  • And I related to the guy who because his parent's parent.  
  • But the two that really spoke to me the most were Thanksgiving in December.  Mostly because this is a tradition that my family does at well.  Not so much because I am of the same culture that she is but because my family is from all over the world.  So whenever we are all together no matter what time of year it is we celebrate a Thanksgiving dinner with all the fixings - it is super difficult to find a full turkey in Germany in July just for future reference.  
  • The other story that really meant a lot was I Am Ill.  This woman didn't even know me but it was as if she was describing my entire situation by saying how I don't look sick but I am.  It truly hit home and made me feel good that there are other people who know a bit of how I feel.  

Things I noticed so Delta?:
  • I liked hearing how the discourse and verbiage was different with every speaker.  It made it much more unique and for me I was able to connect with that person and their story because they wrote "without a filter".
  • I wish that the  speakers worked on their eye contact.  For me especially eye contact is super important and there wasn't any one speaker who kept me engaged which with working with youth is again super important.  
  • Along with eye contact I wish the speakers were more confident.  It's fine and dandy for me to say that but especially with a piece they work they should be proud of their work and it should show.
  • They should have practiced more - maybe it was because they were nervous but the more I practice the more I know my material front and back so that I can make eye contact and am 100% confident in it and me.
  • I was upset by some of the people who were there listening.  I understand kids being kids, but it drives me absolutely insane when I look over and see someone sitting with their eyes closed while someone is presenting.  How hard is it to pay attention? 

I am glad that the OBOM still continues and would love to be able to create some sort of program like this at my future job.  

I can relate it to The Construction of Adolescence because again, it was people telling what or who influenced them into who they are today.  

The Construction of Adolescence

I felt like I understood this piece more after our discussion!!  I had a lot of people who helped shape who I am today - I had a lot of coauthors.  It was interesting that the first person I think of who has shaped me the most is definitely the most important person in my life: my mom.

She is my rock, my teacher, my best friend.  She has taught me everything there is to know - and so much more.  But we have always had different outlooks on life - especially mine.

"The construction of one's life, from this perspective, occurs through and gets held together by the evolving stories we tell ourselves and the ways in which these stories become internal guideposts for ongoing decision making, everyday behavior, and self-understanding."

During class today I began to think that maybe my mom isn't my biggest influence in guiding my story.  Maybe my coauthor isn't a real person at all. I have always been very open and forthcoming when it comes to my medical past.  I send emails to my professors explaining everything before each semester begins and I have no problem telling my story.  My tumors and medical anomalies have become a part of who I am - to me they are my identity, which is fine.  But it drives my mother crazy. There was a period of about a year when I wasn't allowed to talk about Timmy because she was afraid that I talked about that experience too much.  But it is such a large part of my life - Timmy is my coauthor.  

When I was first diagnosed I think I  was very blunt to almost everyone - "hi my name is Noelle and I have a large brain tumor named Timmy..."  And I was still developing my identity around it - it's as if I went though the five stages of grief.

I was SAD & DEPRESSED - I would cry all the time.  But mostly I was sad for what I was missing and the thought of what I could miss out on in life.

I was ANGRY - to be truthful I was furious!  I hated everyone else because they didn't grow tumors but I did.  Why the hell was I special tumor girl.

I was in DENIAL - hell sometimes I still am.  

I BARGAINED - I would talk to God everytime I had an MRI - "if everything is ok I will be the best student you've ever seen."  "I'll do all the dishes for the rest of my life if I don't have to have another surgery."  

But to get to the point I ACCEPTED.  I had a brain tumor.  I grow tumors.  And over the years I've changed my way of thinking because I've seen how this illness can either eat you alive or you fight it. Rather than wallowing in self pity, I embrace my past.  I grow tumors - it's my superpower.  Unlike most people I didn't need someone else to help me become self-aware.  I didn't need Danielle Peterson.  It is because I have watched so many other people crumble that I created my own affirmation.  

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Color Blind & Color Brave

The conversation of race is surprisingly large in my family.  Meet my dad and little brother:


Shaffie Pillay (my mom's husband and a guy I consider a father) has been in my life since I was little.  It really wasn't until they began dating that I noticed a difference in people's skin.  I grew up in primarily in East Greenwich RI where it is a predominately white upper class population.  Even though my best friend is Haitian, I really didn't notice even though she did.  Was I color blind maybe?  But I think it was more of I just didn't notice a difference in anyone.  To me everyone was the same.  

Over the years that Shaffie and my mom have been together though I have seen that people do treat him differently because of his skin color.  We have been refused service in restaurants because he was in our party, he has been pulled over at night and given tickets by the police for no reason, and he has been pulled out of line at airports almost every time we fly for no real reason.  It makes me sad that people are color blind - that they do not understand a persons worth because of their appearance.  

Ideology & Inventory Quiz

I have never been a big believer in horoscopes and stuff like that, although I have always thought it was interesting I never put a lot of time into it because there is no facts behind them.  So this is the second or third time I have taken this Ideology and Inventory quiz and I am skeptical each time I begin.  Even though I have taken it a few times in the past this is the first time I have taken it since I have graduated with my BSW so I wanted to see if my scores would change... I wish I had kept my scores from the previous times I had taken the quiz but alas.

This time I scored a 12 for each of the three categories: Risk, Resiliency and Prevention, Positive Youth Development, and Critical Youth Development.  After tallying my score I was surprised that I had an equal score for all three but at the same time it made sense especially after I reread my horoscopes.  

When I scored a 12 for Risk, Resiliency and Prevention I was nervous at first because my first instinct when I read the word RISK is bad.  I don't really know what I thought but I was thinking maybe I was a risk to working with youth, or maybe lord only know.  And after working in the Alternative Learning Program for as long as I did I learned a lot about at risk youth.  I had to know my background and know the kids I want to work with it makes sense that I want to "coach [them] in how to make good choices for themselves".  So I feel better about that score.

He does a great job in educating how to work with at risk youth.

Now the Positive Youth Development and Critical Youth Development are more of what I see in my career field.  Especially when the Positive Youth Development's orientation states: "a focus on fostering strengths and positive growth (also helps prevent negative outcomes)..."  I have wanted to work in a children's hospital since I was sixteen... and hopefully Hasbro Children's Hospital.  I think that this statement truly represents someone who works with children with illness as they need to be positive and look for strengths with patients.  

Monday, October 12, 2015

Youth Work

Youth Work:

So I have been working with youth, pretty much my entire life.  So this article was fun for me to reflect on.  Youth Work is defined in the article as “[enabling] young people to develop holistically, working with them to facilitate their personal, social and educational development, to enable them to develop their voice, influence and place in society and to reach their full potential.”

1.    Youth Work is an Educational Practice:
The way I see this: we are always learning.  And it is obvious that youth workers should forever be educating youth but in return we should also be learning new things from our personal and educational work with youth.  My mom is a principal at Chester W Barrows and has worked in schools her entire life.  When she first became principal she had a first grader who was an undiagnosed ADHD student with trouble at home, problems communicating with other students and he was unable to control his anger or frustration.  At the time I was taking FNED and I was also interning at Metcalf Elementary School with my 500+ hours so Dr. Brell said whatever hours I did at my moms school would supersede the requirements.  Thus my mom asked me to work with her student every Tuesday.  We worked on making friends, how to stay calm, being respectful, etc.  “Youth workers purposefully intervene in young people’s lives, creating opportunities, activities, and conversations that aim to enable young people to think, feel, and act differently towards their world.”  Long story short, he is now in third grade and although his life is not perfect and he still has issues now and then, I was able to intervene in his live through our many many conversations and lunch detentions and he is still changing mine.

2.    Youth Work is a Social Practice:
While working in any elementary school I find it fascinating how much more confident some youth are.  Thanks to Timmy causing a multitude of learning disabilities, growing up and socializing normally was difficult for me.  I was not a kid that was confident in school or out so I found it difficult to interact with my peers.  Thus when I see kids now who are so confident to do just about anything, things as simple as talking with their classmates, it really inspires me.

3.    Youth Workers actively challenge inequality and work towards social justice:
I think that everyone should be striving for social justice.  Empowering others has been a large factor in who I am today.  After my initial time at Hasbro I dedicated my time and resources to helping those who oppressed by any type of disability.  Mental, physical, or emotional.  I have helped those who are recently diagnosed with understand their illnesses.  We would also work together when they had exited the hospital in order to properly equip them for everyday life.  I would help them advocate if they needed special parking, disability services through school, access through a different door because of a ramp. 

4.    Where, young people choose to be involved:
I hope that it is apparent that I love working with youth.  The article states, “it is the quality of engagement and extent to which young people can shape encounters that are more important.”  While the intern at Metcalf Elementary School I ran week and daily social skills groups with my students.  For some of the students like the ALP (Alternative Learning Program) it was mandatory and part of their everyday curriculum but for others it was a voluntary group.  I found that both those who HAD to be there and those who WANTED to be there would contribute to group. (Depending on the day)  But I never told someone that they could not meet with us because another student just added to our interactions. 

5.    Youth Workers seek to strengthen the voice and influence of young people:
My supervisor was the best at making sure all his students got heard.  Watching him work with the ALP students helped me become a better person and a better youth worker because I am now able to speak with students and get them to advocate for themselves and for others.

6.    Youth Work is a Welfare Practice:
When I first read this I was not happy with the verbiage.  Going through the social work program and getting my BSW welfare was not always seen as a good thing.  However after reading the passage I agree, “Youth workers often, though not always, work with young people experiencing greater needs or in areas of higher ‘deprivation’.”  Although I believe this statement could also work as “youth workers often work with young people experiencing need.”  - I don’t feel it necessary to categorize and label these specific youth. 

7.    Youth Work works with young people “holistically”:

I have had so many diagnoses over the years.  Brain tumor, breast tumor, DVA, eye tumor, hydrocephalous, short-term memory loss, paralysis, seizures, asthma, cysts.  It’s because they were looking for more brain tumors that they didn’t find the DVA sooner.  After a while it is difficult for myself and my doctors to see all of me rather than just one ailment at a time.  Over the years I have become my diagnoses and I have lived with them for so long that I can work with it and I am so okay with them.  But I never want to make a kid feel like I am looking at just one piece of them and not everything. 

I found this video that is also a great resource to helping teach what we do as youth workers: