Social Worker Appreciation Month: Q&A with Yasmin Johnson
Throughout the month of March, Metro Nashville Public Schools is honoring the work school social workers do in service to students every day. Social workers connect what happens in the home, in the community and in schools – and they strive to provide social and emotional support in a way that promotes students’ overall success, both in life and in the classroom.
Yasmin Johnson, a 17-year veteran of the MNPS social work department, shared her day-to-day experience and why she chose this work in this interview:
On a day in her shoes:
As I walk into the doors of my high school, I am greeted by students who are hurriedly trying to get to class on time. The air is filled with chatter from boisterous teenagers from different cultures, races, ethnicities and backgrounds.
“Don’t forget to call me down today, I need to talk to you! Are you going to your other schools today?”
[These are] common statements and questions I hear on a daily basis as I am trying to make it to my office so I can put my bags down. Mission accomplished; time to clock in.
Before I return to my office, I may run into a student who is meeting with an administrator and I am asked to sit in, a school counselor or teacher may stop me to consult or refer a student and, oftentimes, a teacher or staff member just needs a trusted, listening ear to vent about life’s ups and downs. Finally, I return to my office to start counseling students, make parent phone calls, or perhaps go on a home visit, among other things.
Walking into the doors of my elementary school can be much the same, the only difference being the children give great big hugs, warm smiles, and sweet little waves – whether I know them or not. I walk the halls to pick up my students for our sessions, all while enjoying the beautiful work teachers have proudly posted onto the walls from their hard-working students.
Lastly, there are days when I have unexpected responsibilities such as responding to an individual student in crisis, or even to an entire school as part of a Crisis Response Team. My job is definitely unpredictable because our student’s lives are just that: unpredictable. The beauty of my role as a school social worker is to be the consistency that so many of our students lack in their personal lives.
On what inspired her to become a school social worker:
I was inspired to become a social worker when I took a psychology class in the 11th grade. I was fascinated with learning about human behavior and the mind. I went on to research what a psychologist does and that is when I learned about the field of social work. Once I read about it that sealed the deal. I knew being a social worker is what I was meant to be. I attended Tennessee State University, where I earned a bachelor’s degree in social work, then went on to obtain a master’s degree at the University of Tennessee. Eight years later, I was blessed to be offered a job as a school social worker in MNPS.
On the most uplifting part of her job:
I feel like the most uplifting part of my job is I get to help students and their families improve their lives emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. The opportunity for me to be a part of counseling students in working through their difficulties and see them come out on the other end having vastly improved their social functioning and well-being is an honor and a blessing. I get paid to make a difference in children’s and families’ lives. What can be better than that?
On what she wants her students to know:
I would like my students to know that working with them is just as meaningful to me as it is to them. I have learned so much from each and every student, whether they were a five-year-old kindergartner or an 18-year-old high school senior. I have been blessed to share in their lives and honored that I was chosen to be their school social worker.