At first, I was a little overwhelmed with all of the information being presented to us at orientation.I thought there was no way all of this will ever be useful, how am I even going to remember all of this let alone put it to practice. I quickly realized that while I was preparing to be a health educator at The Sulzbacher Shelter, I would first have to be a student again.
The structured trainings were only the beginning of my learning journey; the next part was learning to fight on the battlefield. While assisting residents of the shelter, I quickly learned that there was going to be a lot more training I had to do for myself. They didn’t have “how to be a health educator for dummies”, so I got to work doing my own research. Part of my description is assisting residents in life-skills education: how to use the computer, create a resume, find a job, and prepare for GED tests. Maybe I should brush up on those skills first before I try and help others. It was back to the books again, this time out of desperation. Our program made sure we were prepared to give factual information to our clients and helped us understand that it’s okay to admit that you don’t know everything-a humbling realization for me. I knew I would have to put aside my pride in order to provide these people with the education that they deserved.
I started learning more about job searching and resume building right alongside my clients. I made sure my math tutoring sessions were a team effort, and I asked more questions than I gave answers to. It felt a little shameful to not have known all of this information before, but I was prepared to adapt and ready to learn as much as I could. The formal trainings I received were helpful, but more importantly, they prepared me to go into this service year with more questions than answers. I’ve learned more from just talking to clients about their past and experiences than I could have ever learned in a classroom. I became a helper and a supporter rather than an authority figure, sharing information with people and being receptive to things they knew more about than I did. If there's one piece of advice I can give to the next health educator: Don’t be the teacher, be the student.
This blog post was written by NHC FL AmeriCorps member, Becca Cetta.
Becca serves at I.M. Sulzbacher as a Health Educator.