After three years as a high school social worker, I felt professionally stagnant and was not meshing well with the work culture there. So I decided to quit my job.
In late January, I started searching for a new opportunity. By March, I was offered a position in a charter school in Minneapolis that seemed like the next great thing for me. The job sounded amazing, and the leadership team in my interview seemed top-notch! This particular school social worker job would have allowed me to teach students daily, provide social work services, participate and lead already established racial affinity groups, and be mentored to become a leader in their school. I was so ready to take the job. But there was a catch–new hires would start working July 30th. Ouch! As a Mexican man who values family over everything, and who personally endured not having my father around much during my childhood, I knew losing almost a month of summer with my family was too high a price to pay, even if it offered a lot professionally. Thus, I declined the offer with regrets and prayed for God’s will to be done.
For the next few months, I decided not to look for another job, and tried to think of the challenges in my job more positively. But as the months went by, my professional discontent didn’t subside; it grew and deepened.
Then God intervened.
In May, a friend, former classmate, and fellow school social worker messaged me on Facebook. She asked me if I was interested in joining her school district and, as you can imagine, I responded affirmatively.
First came an informational interview with a supervisor of social workers. I learned a lot about the district and how it supports, coaches, and mentors new staff and social workers. I learned about opportunities for growth and leadership. I also learned about some of its challenges and more. Overall, I very much liked what I heard.
Second came my interview at my potential work site. I appreciated when they asked me some very tough questions, beyond the standard “tell me about your weaknesses and strengths” types. It definitely made a good impression on me. However, what impressed me most about the interviewing and leadership team was the fact that they didn’t seem uncomfortable listening to my truth (e.g., naming white supremacy culture and our collective complicity with institutional racism), and truthfully answering some of my own challenging questions. I felt visible, heard, and validated throughout my entire interview process.
Then the school’s principal called me two hours after my interview, and offered me the position. I accepted enthusiastically!
All in all, I’ll be one of two social workers serving 350 students and their families (65% Latinx, 22% African American/Black, 9% White, 3% Native American and 1% Asian). It is not certain yet, but the tentative plan is for me to work with early childhood and K-2 students and families; the other social worker would work with grades 3-5. Or we might end up swapping last minute but, I’m excited, regardless! The thought of my professional life paralleling my personal life is quite appealing to me (as Sebastian is now a toddler, I’m learning a lot about development in his age range). And if that wasn’t enough good news, the school has a developmental dual language program (Spanish/English) and is less than two miles from my house! Not only will I be utilizing my bilingual skill-set on a daily basis, but this school might actually be my son’s school in the near future!
Finally, part of what made this job a feasible change has been the fact that I’m also getting a significant salary increase and strong benefits. I’m grateful to work in an unionized environment where I can review my benefits clearly, and see how they will care for me and my family.
As you can see, my year has been a roller-coaster ride, professionally speaking. I had to put into practice the things I’ve taught former clients such as remembering my agency in every environment, and that I can make changes in my life, even if change is difficult and scary. I am also very grateful for all my friends and colleagues who helped me find these new opportunities along with my former colleagues who were so encouraging during my departure. Lastly, know that I am always glad to pay it forward, so if you are interested in learning more details about what I did, and ways I approached my search, please feel free to contact me. Because in the end, I firmly believe that we all do better, when we all do better!