An exclusive interview with Christina Francis

Read our recent interview with Christina wherein she talked about her role from being a college student to a successful professional. Her journey so far is surely worth a read! Psychology students, you definitely don’t want to miss learning from her extensive experience.

  • Tell us about your journey, please.

In 2015, I earned my bachelor’s degree in Psychology honors from Jesus and Mary College (JMC), University of Delhi. As a student of JMC and a member of the All India Catholic University Federation (AICUF), I used to dedicate 60 hours for social outreach programs each year. This inculcated in me a sense of social responsibility and enthused me to pursue my master’s degree in Social Work with a specialization in Clinical and Community Practice from CHRIST (Deemed to be University), Bengaluru. For the love of the discipline and a career in academia later, I chose to pursue research degrees in Social Work from CHRIST.

Alongside being an MPhil scholar, I had started my professional career as a Coordinator, Mentor and Trainer with the Centre for Academic and Professional Support (CAPS) at CHRIST in 2017.

I steered the Centre for English and Writing Support, and the Media & Public Relations committee of CAPS. My responsibilities included coordinating and mentoring student volunteers of CAPS and facilitating training on academic, research and professional skills for the CHRIST community (students, research scholars, and faculty – teaching and non-teaching).

I earned my MPhil in Social Work in 2019. I loved how CAPS moulded me into a professional but knew that my efforts will be better placed in research and teaching. After CAPS, I pursued a career as a Research and Teaching Assistant with the Department of Social Work at CHRIST along with being a PhD scholar. On the work front, I was assisting my professor in his research project in the field of specific learning disabilities and his teaching assignments for Psychology and Social Work. As a part of the research project, I was fortunate to meet with a few special educators. They shared their journey and passion, which inspired me to direct my doctoral research in the same field. Now with research and teaching being my playing field, I also started contributing to publications.

In March 2020, I published my first book titled “The Counselling Diaries” which talked about the experiences of school counsellors, whom I had the pleasure of interviewing during my MPhil research. And in June 2020, my first blog article on the need for counselling was published. The first is always special. Isn’t it?

After having two successful careers in mentoring, research, and teaching, I decided to get into the role of an educator, regrettably during the time of the pandemic. I struggled a lot to land up in a workplace where I could say “Yes, this is it!” But my fortitude and zeal did not lose their strength. I pulled through every day knowing that things will before long get better. And yes, it surely did. I got appointed as a Counsellor and Academic Coordinator at SFS Academy, Bengaluru in February 2021. The journey was not always easy, but it was worth it. And this journey is not over. I still have a lot more to achieve.

  • What does your present profile look like?

I am a social worker, researcher, mentor, author, and educator. I am working as a Psychology Educator, Counsellor, and Academic Coordinator at SFS Academy, Bengaluru. I teach Psychology, provide psychological assistance to students and support the parents for effective parenting to manage the behavioural and emotional concerns of their children. I also oversee the development of the teaching and non-teaching staff and curriculum, evaluate pedagogy and work with school leaders and stakeholders to ensure compliance with educational standards.

I am also a Ph.D. scholar at the Department of Social Work, CHRIST (Deemed to be University), Bengaluru. I am pursuing my research on the topic of “Parent Mediated Home Interventions for Families with Children with Specific Learning Disabilities”. I am aiming to develop interventions to improve the relationship, personal growth, system maintenance, and change in families with children with specific learning disabilities.

  • Psychology or Social Work. What interests you more?

I was always questioned, “Why not a masters in Psychology?”; “Why choose Social Work?” And I always had one answer, “Psychology and Social Work are oriented towards a similar outcome: helping people to help themselves.” Both have their ways of working with individuals, but in many aspects they are alike. But Psychology interests me more because it helps to understand human behaviours, experiences, and mental processes. Only when one studies these aspects can they help push oneself and others forward. Psychology has always helped me to understand myself and others better. It also helps for social work practice.

  • What or who inspired you to pursue Psychology?

By the time I and my friends were in grade 12, the question, “What is next for us?” became more and more real. Most of my friends had decided what they wanted to do and were very passionate about it. But for me choosing a major took some time, because I didn’t know what I wanted to study. Around that time I got to know that one of my acquaintances had opted for Psychology at JMC. That was the very first time I was hearing about Psychology, so I investigated further. Reading about it fascinated me to pursue Psychology. Making a difference in other people’s life had always been very rewarding for me. And I believed that Psychology will be of assistance to achieve this goal.

  • Has the pandemic impacted your work profile in any manner? Positive or negative. 

Yes, negatively and positively. Working from home has destroyed my work-life balance. My 7-hour job has now become an 11-hour job. My classes, meetings, training are all scattered across the day. Setting aside time for family, academics, and social life is a daily challenge. I feel miserable that I cannot work in my professional space or meet my students or colleagues. And unforgettably, the shift from offline to online has been demanding. The only positive aspect of the pandemic was the introduction of work from home, because of which many of us have been able to stay with our family for longer periods.

  • What is better – an online or an offline class?

I remember the first day I had to teach online, I felt disappointed after the class. It was odd to look at my laptop screen and teach and I was also unsure about my student’s learnings. But the oddness became familiar as I conducted more and more classes. Online learning is the new normal. Without this, continuing the flow of education would have been impossible. Both of these modalities have their pros and cons. But, unquestionably during the pandemic time, the online modality has the upper hand. Teaching and learning are fun in a traditional classroom setting. We can easily ensure students are paying attention to the lecture. Even the retention of knowledge is greater.

  • Do you practice online counselling? 

Yes. But, I prefer in-person counselling to online counselling. The Covid 19 pandemic has affected our lives greatly. Around the globe, people are facing mental health issues, including children. Many of the parents have approached me with their child’s behavioural and emotional concerns during these difficult times. And online counselling was the only way I could support them. 

  • What are some of the challenges you have dealt with?

The Covid 19 pandemic has been the prime challenge for me. It created havoc in my professional, academic, social, and personal life. I felt lost. I had started planning for a job change just a few months before the pandemic. As mentioned earlier, landing on the right job was a task that took more than one and a half years.

My doctoral study timelines also got altered extensively. I was not able to start with the data collection phase throughout 2020. But I utilised that time optimally by contributing to publications. My social life became a mess gradually. With not being able to step out, social interactions were considerably reduced. I got used to being alone over the lockdown months, to an extent that it became difficult for me to interact with people. But the storm did not last forever. However, I am grateful for these experiences as they have taught me essential life lessons. Since then, I have always made it a point to appreciate and celebrate even the smallest of my achievements.

  • What is your greatest fear? How do you manage it?

I fear being misunderstood. It is painful. Being self-aware, engaging in self-reflection, and communicating effectively have helped me to present myself clearly to others.

  • How has being a professional influenced your personal life?

Being a professional made me realise that connecting with people is precious.

  • What piece of advice would you give to college graduates who desire to become educators/professors of Psychology or Social Work?

“Figure out what lights your fire. Then chase the match.” – Unknown

If you are head over heels for teaching, then just go for it! Teaching is a dignified line of work. It is a profession that helps you share your attitude, expertise, knowledge, practice, and skills with society. It is a two-way development, i.e., you teach your students and they teach you.

I always say, no two days will be similar in a student and teacher’s life. If you choose to be an educator or a professor, always seek opportunities to enhance learning. Motivate and challenge yourself each day to explore new knowledge and possibilities. And, inspire your students to do the same. 

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