Human Services When We Named Our Project Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1684 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 0  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Criminal Justice

Human Services

When we named our project "From Darkness to Light" my teammates and I focused squarely on our subject matter: the inability of the American criminal justice system to help offenders transition from a life as an inmate to a life in the community. We, as researchers, were filled with enthusiasm and a sense of purpose. The human services program inspired us because we all felt it was our life's calling to help others become stronger, more productive and creative individuals. Yet the title of our project ended up pertaining as much to our own lives as to the lives we hoped to improve. Ana, Teresa, and I shed a lot of our own misunderstandings and misconceptions while we worked together. Our misconceptions included those that pertained to the group study process as well as to the subject of criminal justice itself.

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First, we believed that we, as budding social workers, would bring light to the darkness and despair of the American penal system. While our passion proved to be the foundation of our project and the reason for its success, I also believe that our sense of confidence also showed how willing we all were to fulfill our professional goals. Since I was a student in grade school I developed a keen sense of my place in the world. A money-driven career path was clearly not for me. The ways I behaved in social situations demonstrated a need, even more than a desire, to help other people. My sense of self-esteem emerged in light of my prior academic successes. When my team embarked on the "From Darkness to Light" project I had no doubt that the experience would bolster our ability to be effective social workers.

Term Paper on Human Services When We Named Our Project Assignment

I believe that our group could not have been better matched in terms of our levels of confidence in our individual abilities and our abilities to make a difference in the world. As soon as we started organizing the project it became apparent that our energy levels were similar. None of us was prone to wild fluctuations in energy that would lead to cycles of overwork and burn out. Rather, we all maintained a steady level of interest in the project. Similarly, none of us had a problem with absenteeism. We avoided conflicts largely because we remained on the same page throughout the duration of the group study.

One of the reasons why we were able to work together well was because of our similar personalities. However, equally as important to our success was the project guidelines themselves. We needed to be structured and organized. Following the guidelines of our academic advisers allowed us to come up with schedules and deadlines. Had we worked within a looser structure we may not have bee so successful individually, let alone as a group. I will remember the value of structure within the group learning process and also apply structural guidelines to my self-directed social service projects as a professional.

Moreover, any one of us could have easily become discouraged during the course of our studies and team project. The American criminal justice system is daunting to study on an intellectual level and viewing it from the inside of a prison drives home how tough it must be to be on either side of the justice equation. We could never have learned as much as we did from reading academic journals as from doing field work. Yet field work was hard. We had to get our feet and hands dirty, so to speak, meeting people who had been jaded from years of social work and others who had been disenchanted with the ability of social service institutions to be of any use. One day my teammate had tears in her eyes and I could tell she felt like giving up. It seemed like she was crying to herself, "What's the use? Suffering is a part of life? Why should we suffer too?" I knew what she was going through and I understood because I was starting to wonder the answers to those questions myself. But her tears triggered a response in me. Instead of making me feel more discouraged and hopeless I suddenly felt stronger. Sparked and rejuvenated in spirit I told her that it was precisely her tears that would make the world a better place. People like us are the ones who devote every ounce of their energy to their work, without turning back. Moreover, we don't base our success on tangible results. Not only do we know that salary does not determine our level of success. We also know that the fruits of our labor might not be visible for a generation or even more. The father we help today may not overcome his shortcomings but his son might.

I knew that I wanted to help those less fortunate than I but I had no idea how easy I could picture myself in others' shoes and suffer emotionally in tandem with those I was trying to assist. The interviews with the prison inmates proved to be more enlightening than I expected, and I expected a lot from this project. When we interviewed our subjects it became apparent how much we all share in common as human beings. Often our differences stem from bad luck or from small choices that turn into huge mistakes. Maybe the most important thing to emerge from this group project is my enhanced sense of empathy for other people, a quality that will propel me to succeed in the social service sector. No other characteristic could possibly prepare someone to be of service than empathy. Without empathy we would be like robots: inefficient but inhuman. Empathy allows us to cry and laugh with others so that we can understand why people make the choices they do. When we can see what thought processes underlie a person's decision-making, we are better able to offer alternatives in a non-judgmental manner.

Throughout the course of our team project I felt connected to my teammates emotionally, because I started to realize that we each had our own personal lives that we would be sacrificing to work hard on our project. We each had a tendency to believe that our personal problems were more important than our teammates' problems for some reason. After just a few weeks of working together I started to feel as concerned for Ana and Teresa's issues as my own. Seemingly a small step, that cognitive shift likely allowed us to continue working together with no interpersonal conflicts. As a result we were able to accomplish our stated and implicit goals easier than if we had remained more self-centered.

The subject matter of "From Darkness to Light" was emotionally draining naturally, but also the process of research and writing was occasionally tiring. The issues that might have caused interpersonal conflict in our group turned out to be a boon to our ability to collaborate. For example, one teammate had a family emergency on the day we were slated to turn in a draft of our report. We were counting on this team member to write this section of the report. When she phoned to say that she could not make it to the meeting the initial response was panic. We could not possibly make up for the lost time; we did not have access to the materials that she did. I found myself blaming her and worrying that our grades would suffer as a result. Yet the other teammate and I started brainstorming together. First she reminded me that we were not doing this for competitive reasons. Although assessments mattered, we were no longer trying to make top marks on the SATs or otherwise hoping to impress someone. The only people we needed to impress were the people we… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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