“READY TO FLY”
“Every Expert Started Out as a Beginner.” The poster hung in the training room where new employees learned how to become public assistance caseworkers. After four weeks of training, Calli was eager to start helping people. She was a quick study, there was no doubt about that, but Jeannette had trained eager workers before. She cautioned her newest trainee to slow down and make sure she knew how the rules applied to each individual situation before she made a decision on a case.
“I think I’ve got it,” she asserted. “I’m ready to fly.”
“Okay, but first we’ll review what you’ve been studying, and then I’ll have you do a real interview with Ronda sitting with you. She is an experienced caseworker and a good helper for ‘newbies’.”
“Great! I’m really excited. Guess I’m just ready to get beyond training, Jeannette.”
Jeannette smiled. She’d seen this attitude before. It was true—training got tedious sometimes, but there was so much to learn; and there were no shortcuts. Federal and state laws could be confusing, and determining who was eligible for benefits and at what level didn’t have a “one-size-fits-all” formula. Jeannette knew that a dose of reality would serve Calli well as she prepared to release her from training into the “real world.”
The next Tuesday, with review completed, Jeannette greeted Calli. “Good morning, Calli. Are you ready?”
Calli was glad to have this opportunity, so she was quick to follow Jeannette to Ronda’s office. “Remember, take your time and listen carefully,” Jeannette advised. “Ronda will help you if you get stuck; otherwise, you are to handle this as though you are on your own. Good luck.” With last minute advice given, Jeannette returned to her own office.
“At last—I finally get to do the job I was hired to do!” she said to Ronda. “Training takes longer than I expected, but I really appreciate all Jeannette did to get me ready for this day.” Ronda just smiled. It was time for Calli to call her client back to the office.
“Mrs. Collins, my name is Calli, and I’m going to do what I can to help you today.” And so the interview began. An hour and a half later, Calli looked frazzled. Her client had asked yet another question.
“Um, I’m not sure, Mrs. Collins. I’ll have to check with my supervisor and get back to you with an answer. Do you have any other information to share with me?” The client was getting impatient.
“Young lady, I have to pick up my son at kindergarten. Are we finished yet?”
“Well, I think so.” She looked at Ronda for confirmation, tears beginning to fill her eyes. Ronda stepped in to rescue her.
“Mrs. Collins, we do need verification of your household expenses in order to use them in your food stamp budget. Based on those expenses and your income we will determine how much you will receive. If you get that information back to us within the next ten days, we’ll be able to have your food stamps ready for you by the 13th. Do you have any other questions?”
“No, I don’t think so. I’m just glad someone here knows what they’re talking about. May I leave now?”
“Sure. Calli will take you to the lobby.”
When Calli returned she slumped into her chair and let the tears come. “I was terrible,” she whispered. “I thought I knew what I needed to do.”
“Calli,” Ronda said softly. “We’ve all been through this. Real life cases are different from training cases. Jeannette always tells us that we live in a perfect world while we’re in training. You’re going to be fine. I promise.”
“Well, I don’t feel fine right now.”
“I’ll tell you what. Why don’t you let me take the next client and you watch me. Take notes and we can talk afterwards, okay?”
“That would be great—are you sure it will be okay?”
“I’m sure. It won’t be long before you can do this very well on your own.”
“Thanks, Ronda. Guess I wasn’t as ready as I thought I was.”
Ronda smiled. “Let’s review this case before I bring the client back.”
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