Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The working life

I have been at my new job for nearly two months now and just now am getting around to writing about it. I work at a boys residential treatment center in the mountains of Colorado. Technically, I'm a Child Care Worker as of now, but will eventually have clients to counsel, so then I will be a Milieu Counselor. I work four days a week, ten hours a day. Right now, I'm working overtime pulling a graveyard shift. We all get a couple of those a month so that someone can watch over the boys, since they need constant supervision. Most of the boys here are court appointed, either for drug/alcohol abuse or sexual offense.

It is the hardest thing I've ever done...

Within the first few weeks, I had already experienced my first fight break out. I was put in charge of watching twelve boys in a narrow kitchen for about an hour as the other staff and upper level (more responsible/reliable) boys calmed down and de-escalated the ones fighting.

Apparently I handled myself pretty well... if they say so.

A lot of the time I feel like I will never figure this job out, at other times the sense of dread subsides and it can be fun hanging out with the kids.

The first couple weeks were hard. I didn't know any of the rules, didn't know the kids and their personalities, tendencies... didn't have their respect and were constantly tested and manipulated. I still am sometimes, but it isn't as bad.

I had a review around day forty, and was told I need to discipline the boys more... to show I can manage the floor more assertively. I was screwed up the rest of the day emotionally. Call it insecurity. It was the first time in my life I wasn't above average at, except for minor league baseball... but who cares if you can't throw from first to third?...

The big thing in this field, in this setting, is the commitment. They want a year commitment. They give you three months to decide if it is a good fit for you. The boys doubt at first if someone is going to bail out on them... it really affects the boys the most, whether someone sticks around. They don't always have a lot of people in their lives who care enough to help them change. That part of the job excites me. The process is dirty, but the goal is noble. It's hard to keep that perspective each hour of each day...

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