My institution has a 5 week winter break, which seems really long. Outside of some professional staff training and a few days of on-call rotation, I haven’t really had much to do. In fact, since my last post, I’ve only actually talked to 4 students face-to-face, all of whom are staff members in one of the halls that was open over break. The downtime has provided me a great opportunity to do one of the things I enjoy the least.
Like Alexander, I’ve used this break to do some reflection. Now, I’m not really a fan of reflection. To me, reflection often provides that feeling of delayed awkwardness. You know, you’re just about to fall asleep and you suddenly realize the awesome comeback you should have said to that bully back in 7th grade, and then you remember what you said instead? Yeah, that’s the feeling I get when I realize what I could have said differently in a conduct conference with a student.
But even though I’m not the biggest fan, I’ve still been finding myself reflecting on the past semester. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about my interactions with students over the last few months. If you’ve been following my journey, you’ll know that until this past July, I hadn’t had day-to-day contact with students since I was an RA in 2011. So in addition to learning a new position, I’ve also been relearning how to work constantly with college students. Don’t think I’m upset; being a resource for and working with my residents and staff continues to be my driving force. But there’s times where it just gets, for lack of a better word, frustrating.
Talking to colleagues, I know it’s not uncommon to run across that student every now and then that provides more of a challenge. But looking back at last semester, I was feeling like I had a lot of those challenges. More accurately, I felt like I had multiple situations where I mentally asked myself why this student or that student didn’t seem to be “getting it”. Whether the “it” was a hall policy or procedure, or a student doing worse academically than I know they are capable of, I didn’t like the fact that I couldn’t seem to help get “it” across to them.
Last month I wrote how, when I caught myself getting short with a staff member, I stopped myself and realigned the situation in my head. So over this break, I’ve been trying to figure out what I can do to realign my thinking when it comes to approaching those “challenge” students. I’ve been recalling situations with students and replaying conversations in my head. And yeah, there’s been quite a few moments of delayed awkwardness. But there’s also been a recurring theme. Every scenario I think about, in that moment where I take an action that a student fails to respond in (what I would say is) the correct manner, I realize that the student may not have had the context to understand the action I was taking or the statement I was making.
A clear example is a student-staff member who continually has his music too loud while working the front desk. I can ask him to turn it down over and over. I can even bring up the conditions of his working agreement. But what if I took 5 minutes and had a conversation about customer service and how loud music might interfere with providing the best service for our residents. The simple action of making sure to provide context to a corrective action, and more importantly ensuring the student understands the context, will go miles to improve my interactions with students. That can include making sure if a student isn’t at place where they can read between the lines, or see the large picture, taking the time to make sure we both leave the conversation on the same page. It seems like such a simple solution now, but maybe that’s why John Dewey said “we do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience”.
It’s something I can’t wait to put into practice, assuming winter break ever ends. Netflix asking me if I’m still watching is starting to feel really judgemental.
This post is part of the Emerging SA Pro series following 4 awesome people: Alexandria, Doug, Emily, and Alexander, as they blog monthly about 1 year of their journey as either a new SA Pro or SA grad student. We are proud to help them share their stories as they break into our field.