Liberty Partnership Program is known in its community for providing essential support services to local middle and high schools, but it also serves as a vital learning resource for Binghamton University. Graduate students pursuing a degree within the Department of Teaching, Learning and Educational Leadership or a Master of Social Work are required to complete a certain number of hours in the field, meaning they need to observe and gain hands-on experience in real classrooms, and Liberty offers field placements in its schools to BU graduate students every semester.
Graduate students in the Department of Teaching, Learning and Educational Leadership (TLEL) are able to get hands-on experience in real classroom contexts by working with Liberty students on a one on one basis. These future educators are not only getting to practice the theory they have learned in class— they are gaining invaluable insight into the diversity of individual needs in a typical classroom. New teachers are often under an immense amount of pressure to teach to the middle and are unable to be sensitive to struggling students’ unique needs. TLEL students learn how to best identify and support a student’s individual needs when they work with Liberty students, an experience they will bring to their own classrooms after graduation. The experience TLEL students gain when working with Liberty is so valuable that it often becomes an integral part of the program. Some TLEL students become so invested in their Liberty students’ academic success that they volunteer to continue to work with Liberty beyond their required fieldwork hours.
Just like TLEL graduate students, MSW students also need to complete a field experience requirement to graduate. Because social work requires highly developed interpersonal skills, practice is essential. Working with Liberty gives MSW students the opportunity to apply what they learn in the classroom to real people and communities, and it allows the student to see how practicing professionals handle the situations they read about in class. MSW students are mentored and supervised by Liberty’s own social worker, and each MSW student’s experience is tailored to their own needs and professional goals. In addition to gaining experience supporting Liberty students one on one, MSW students learn how to write up case notes and referrals during their field experience. The MSW field experience provided within Liberty offers the opportunity to practice social work making interventions and impacts across all three meaningful areas MSW students study in their program: micro (individuals), mezzo (small communities) and macro (the greater community). The placements have been especially beneficial to students who know they want to work in schools after graduation, and some students have even decided to pursue a career in schools after their field experience with Liberty.
When you’re in a classroom on a university campus, you’re learning theory. You experiment with your professors and peers as to how you would prepare a lesson or social work interventions, but there’s nothing like walking into a classroom and putting that theory into practice. Still, the benefits of a Liberty field placement go beyond basic classroom experience. Liberty provides an opportunity to connect with seasoned professionals as mentors, which helps students cultivate good habits and good practice over time. The goal of any field placement with Liberty is to help the TLEL or MSW student become more confident, competent, ethical and professional by bridging the gap between the classroom and the workforce.