A few weeks ago I was driving home from staff training for our orientation leaders and I noticed that there was a grasshopper on my windshield. A large grasshopper. Clinging to the glass. for. dear. life. As I drove to my house, this intrepid insect stayed with me – even as I exceeded 50 mph.
As I pulled into my driveway and shut off the ignition, I watched as the grasshopper leapt off my car into my wife’s flowers and went about his business – five miles from where he had started. Now, five miles for me is no big deal – I could walk it if I had to. But this grasshopper, while large, was still only two inches long and now was over 317,000 inches from where he had started. He was, essentially, in a brand new environment, and was there because he hung on as I made my way to my house. He appeared happy, jumping through the lilies and daisies, but he was in a brand new place, vaguely aware of where he was, with little knowledge of how to get back to where he started… much less where to go from there.
Jump back to new student orientation.
Last week we welcomed over 5,200 students to campus for orientation (our first-year class will be closer to 6,400 when all is said and done). While our student leaders were exceptionally trained by my colleagues, I get the sense that many of the new students in their groups ended up being along for the ride, despite the best efforts of the leaders to teach students to fend for themselves. The university where I work is a large, land grant institution that enrolls students from all 50 states and over 120 countries. Many of our students are far more than 5 miles from home, and, as such, it is easy to get here and simply be along for the ride.
So it got me thinking. How often do I work with students or colleagues and bring them along for a ride versus letting them get to the same destination on their own?
I get asked a lot of questions, and most of the time I answer them outright… essentially driving someone to their answer. But could I have helped that student or colleague get to that answer on their own? Guide them, rather than drive them? Probably. The end result being that if I can teach them to find the answers on their own I can be the consultant/guidance they need, not necessary the driver/provider that they currently see me as.
My goal this year is to help people get themselves to where they’re going, rather than just get them there with a simple answer.
It’s going to be an adjustment – for me because I’m used to providing answers, and for them because they’re used to me just giving them the answer. But lest they become like my grasshopper passenger and end up a long way from where they started with no map in hand, it’s an adjustment I have to make.
What adjustments do you have to make to ensure that folks just aren’t along for your ride?
Matt Pistilli coordinates evaluation and adminstration for Student Access, Transition and Success Programs at Purdue University.