As we are gearing up for a new school year to start at the New York Center for Child Development, I, like the rest of the staff, am enjoying a mandatory week-long vacation before staff development week begins bright and early the morning after Labor Day. While I feel like I haven’t been working long enough at NYCCD to have earned a week-long vacation, I am certainly not complaining! From what my coworkers have told me, the workload really begins to pick up as the new school year begins, and I am enjoying this time to relax and spend time with my family away from the fast pace of New York. The break has also provided me with a timely opportunity to reflect on my first two months as the Parent/Community Outreach Coordinator at NYCCD, and to think about my next steps as the summer comes to an end—taking with it the feeling that I can simply enjoy settling into my new job without having to worry about what I will be doing post-fellowship. I would say this lack of true job stability is the one pitfall of a one-year fellowship—I began to think about finding a new job almost immediately after I started this one!
For now, though, I will take advantage of these last few days of summer to focus the attentions of this blog post solely on the work I do now. When I reach the inevitable “And what do you do?” segment of any post-undergrad introductory conversation, I always struggle a little to convey my work in a succinct but comprehensive manner. I think that indefinability is one of the greatest strengths of my position at NYCCD—in practice, it means that I am doing something different every day. During the days I am at the center-based location, which is where our special needs preschool is located, I am helping Debby, the teacher-supervisor, coordinate events for the students’ families. I am assisting teachers in the classroom. I am analyzing parent satisfaction surveys. I am interviewing parents and crafting their stories for our new website. I am doing essentially whatever needs to be done to ensure that the school creates an environment in which parents are as engaged and educated as the students are—an end goal which entails many different tasks. And during the days I work at the North General primary care clinic, I am helping Kirsten, the NYCCD psychologist, administer mental health screenings with the parents and children who come in for check ups with the clinic’s nurse practitioner, or who, in some cases, are referred to see us. I am following up with the parents whose children screened positive for emerging social-emotional delays and mental health concerns to ensure that they are hooked into the recommended services. I am meeting with other members of the North General team to discuss ways that our screening program can become more integrated into the clinic. Here again, then, I am essentially doing whatever needs to be done to ensure that the clinic creates an environment in which parents are as engaged and educated as possible, but doing so at North General requires an entirely different set of tasks to be tackled and completed. So, I am always interacting with new people in varied settings who do completely different kinds of work—but all ultimately promoting the optimal development of young children across New York City.
This comprehensive exposure to a number of different career opportunities in the child development field was exactly what I wanted out of my fellowship this year, and it’s proving to be extremely valuable as I learn more about my own strengths, interests, and tendencies while working alongside these professionals. I think this is a reasonable price to pay for working a little bit harder to craft a strong personal elevator pitch!