A Day in the Life of a School Drama Therapist Pre – Covid – A Walk Down Yesteryear
Feb 11, 2022
Author: Judy Nkechukwu
8:30am: Start of the school day. I greet the Receptionist and share a familiar ritual joke; when she sees me she knows that a whole week has passed already which feels like yesterday for her. This Receptionist is not just a representation of ‘reception’, but in addition and, most importantly, her warm and welcoming smile was the first face I saw when I started the job and is a constant reminder that, for many children, her smile can warm up the coldness in the air that institutions, unwillingly, can give out on arrival.
I walk through the corridor, smiling and nodding as I passed individuals along the way (this seems to be the code in this secondary school – warm, but brief because it’s far too busy for ‘chit chat’ – I quickly learned that). I unlock my office. When the door opens, I smell the lavender air block lodged on the window sill. This instantly reminds me of the threshold into ‘therapy’, ‘play’ and ‘love’. I roll up the blinds, unlock the filing cabinet and reacquaint myself with the timetable for today’s appointments. I revisit the Summary of Session from each client to refresh myself with the developing work to be carried out today.
9:10am: Buzzer goes. Immediately – like clockwork – the sound of chattering and excited children and the sound of their feet hurrying to their first lesson. With my door ajar, I spotted a Year 9 student who had missed 2 appointments and was hovering around my door. I acknowledged him with my eyes and said ‘Hi’. He waved back, so I walked towards the door. He walked towards me. I reassured him that it was ‘ok’ if he did not want to continue and that there are other options in the school, such as Mentoring or through an anger management incentive in PE using Boxing. He smiled, thanked me; then we parted. I would need to email the Head of Year at some point in the day to inform her that this case was now closed, noting the recommendations I suggested to him.
Throughout the day, students are aware of their appointment times with me, so when they knock the door at the start of their allocated session; I greet them by their name, using eye contact and with a warm smile – as demonstrated by the receptionist on my very first day. They are familiar with their chair with the ‘Love The Bear’ cushion….and do not need to be invited to sit down, as they tend to make themselves pretty comfortable when they enter.
Today’s techniques with clients consisted of checking in, Talking Therapy, Mindfulness, Guided Imagery and Breathing exercise, E-P-R (Embodiment, Projection, Role-Play) and exploring Aspects of Self using transitional objects. 5 appointment slots are available to students today. 4 were seen today.
1pm: Lunchtime. Lunch was pretty yummy, from last night’s dinner, if I say so myself. I went into the staff room to heat up my container in the microwave. It’s a great way to get me up off my seat and into the staff room to, briefly, interact with staff. I say, ‘briefly’ because there are times where boundaries can slip in the ‘dreaded’ staff room; either teachers are asking inappropriate questions about students I am seeing or they decide to openly share sensitive information about the student, without considering privacy. These are the examples of why my visit to the staffroom is a good and healthy action, in order to be a part of the school community, but needs strategic and swift manoeuvring in order to make it out of there whilst remaining within ethical boundaries and maintaining politeness.
1:20pm: Only 2 more clients to see before the end of the school day. One turns up – the other doesn’t. My Wifi connection has gone down – again, so I am unable email the relevant Year representative. Thought…. If I threw this laptop out of the window – would anyone actually notice? Second thought – is my former thought a projection from the Year 8 boy I have just seen who was referred to manage his anger bouts? Hmmmm…..
3:30pm: Already! Hooorah! Will get some silent time to complete the admin, process notes, data inputting and responding to emails (once I can access Wifi, of course).
4pm: Left the school and found a local park 2 minutes’ walk away to perch in a quiet spot to eat a packet of crisps and simply ‘be’ with some trees. This is a threshold I use to leave physically and mentally leave one place of work and prepare to see a client at a children’s home.
5pm: Children’s Home. Working on Greek Myths. Currently working on ‘fabricating the truth’; so using the story of Zeus and his wife, Hera, as a projective technique to give voice to the unconscious. The client connects with the themes of this story because she is very good at creating stories in her own life, which has caused a lot of destruction within the family structure and is, most recently, playing out with professionals working with her, i.e. social worker, advocate, school staff, children’s home manager. She enjoys creative writing, which was captured during her assessment at the start of Dramatherapy
6:30pm: Each fortnight I have supervision with one of my supervisors (I have 3 – life of a freelancer eh?), not far from where I live. Spent the hour talking about my caseload in school, as well as managing my role within the structural make-up within the school, which can be challenging, at times.
7:30pm: I’m FREEEEEEE!!!!!
It’s Friday night and I check my messages in the car before I start the engine. Friends are meeting up for drinks in Regents Street for drinks and a bite to eat. Erm…..I think I will pass…I am definitely CREAM-CRACKERED and the last thing I want to do tonight is….speak. I wonder if anyone reading this can relate to this?
Take Care. Take Play. Take Time.
Judy Nkechukwu (formerly Judy Harrison)
Freelance Registered Dramatherapist and Registered Clinical Supervisor
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