As I approached my one-year work anniversary in August, I found myself reflecting on what I’ve learned and everything my team has accomplished. Our Supplemental Instruction program has been shaped into something that impacts students in a way that results not only in higher course grades, but also in “thank yous”— something rarely heard in this field. We often joke that we didn’t get into higher education for the money or appreciation. For me, seeing students progress and succeed with our academic support programs is payment enough. While supporting students this past year, I picked up a few things that could only be learned by diving right in.
Ten Things I Learned in 2016-2017:
- Running an academic support program is far more difficult than any job description leads you to believe. Prioritization, consistency, and adaptability are your friends.
- Running a program is far more rewarding than you could ever imagine. When you get a student survey back that says, “I was going to withdraw from school until I started coming to SI,” your heart burst with pride.
- Supervising students, regardless of how mature or bright they may be, is challenging. Value their unique personalities and skills, and help them improve perceived weaknesses. I repeat: value them!
- Student employees must be treated as follows, and the order should never change: 1) human, 2) student, 3) employee. Someone told me that ought to be on my mug. I think it should be on everyone’s. Of course, students are more than those three things—they are parents, caregivers, spouses, siblings, children, and friends—and it’s our job as supervisors to keep that in mind as we set forth expectations and provide support.
- Above prioritization, consistency, and adaptability, humor is your best friend.
- Sometimes, plans change. A lot of professionals in higher ed are Type A, and we live by our Outlook calendars. It is crucial to accept that plans, budgets, and students’ needs change. Never lose sight of why you’re here.
- Burnout is inevitable. Burnout results when you go a million miles per hour and lose sight of your purpose; it occurs when you dive in and forget to come up for air. Although I believe you can’t avoid burnout, you can face it and move past it as a much stronger SA pro. (See numbers 5 and 8.)
- Observe your coping mechanisms to stress. Know your stress scale. If you know you begin obsessively calendaring at a 3, recognize that you might need to step back, evaluate, and relax. (Penciling in time for laundry, sleeping, and snacks qualifies as obsessive calendaring!)
- T-shirts and pizza do not guarantee student participation in your program. Find something new.
- In addition to supporting your direct team, hop out of the bubble every now and then to see how your full-time teammates are doing. We want to remove silos, right?
I have learned a lot more than these 10 things over the past year, and I am excited to move into Fall ’17 with new ideas and new students. I challenge you to reflect on this past year and dive into 2017-2018 with the reminder that you chose this field to make an impact, and you are here because you recognize how important student success is. Are you excited about something for the year? A little nervous about? Tell me all about it in the comments! I love hearing from other SA professionals!