Students often come into a class wondering what it is their professor wants them to learn, but Dr. Helen Harris encourages students to be more personally invested in her courses.
“It’s really important, if students are going to learn, that they engage with their own passion around the topic,” Dr. Harris said. “I have a syllabus that has course objectives, but I don’t know how meaningful those really are to students. One of their first assignments in any class I teach is to write their own course objectives for this course. [I ask] ‘What do you want to take away from this course and how will you know whether, and to what extent, that has happened?’”
Kayle Dickie, a second-year MSW student in Dr. Harris’s Clinical Practice course, took the call to personal objectives seriously. She grew up singing, particularly in church, and writes songs, so she sought to connect what she was learning with her passion for music. After Dr. Harris introduced the idea, Kayle soon knew she wanted to write a song addressing the topic of suicide. Throughout the course, Kayle was greatly impacted by stories of suicide victims, so she was inspired even more to raise awareness.
The song Dr. Harris’s class inspired Kayle to write is titled “Dear You.” The song is written from three perspectives: the first verse is from the perspective of someone writing a suicide note; the second is from Kayle’s perspective where she says what she wishes she could tell people dealing with suicidal ideation; and the third is from God’s perspective, providing hope to the person in the first verse.
I hope when people listen to the songs they have hope and realize where God can bring them … there’s another side to things, and they are going to get through this.
Along with “Dear You,” Kayle will soon release a full album of songs tackling various issues of loss and grief, influenced by her own life and passion for social work entitled Songs of Deliverance.
“I find music as a really good way to highlight certain issues…I try to highlight the hard things and say the truth about them in a positive way,” Kayle said. She hopes her music will serve to inspire people who have dealt with similar struggles.
“All the songs are from a personal place in my life––some good, some bad. I hope when people listen to the songs they have hope and realize where God can bring them … there’s another side to things, and they are going to get through this.”
Kayle was greatly impacted by the course she took with Dr. Harris, but made it very clear that it was Dr. Harris’s character that really shined in the classroom.
“She’s a great teacher, but I feel like that’s not enough to say about her. She is just inspiring,” Kayle said. “She taught us all these things about social work, but she’s also taught us about ourselves and about life.”
As with many students at the GSSW, Kayle’s faith is an integral part of how she looks at the world. You can see it in the lyrics of her music and in even the briefest of conversations with her. With that in mind, she has been blessed by the GSSW’s encouragement of students to explore how faith can work alongside, and enrich, social work practice.
“Coming here and being able to figure out faith with practice has been something I have craved and wanted for a long time. I’m really glad that is a part of the program here,” Kayle said. Before coming to the GSSW, she received her BSW from a school that did not spend much time discussing faith.
“The program is just awesome to me. I think…not I think––I know that if I had to do it over again, I would pick [the Garland School of Social Work] again,” Kayle said.
Listen to "Dear You" below: