I couldn’t have been in my graduate assistantship more than 24 hours when I first heard about these “expectations” that they had for me as a Graduate Hall Director. I had to chuckle, given that the only recollection of expectations I had experienced prior to that point were courtesy of Mad TV’s “Lowered Expectations” sketches. Don’t get me wrong… I had been given expectations prior to that in my roles on campus and in the classroom, I just hadn’t recalled covering them with such zest. We discussed the expectations of us (in our roles), expectations we had of each other (as a team), expectations of our supervisor, and expectations of the experience (of which I had no idea what I was getting myself in to). I had yet to see how expectations played out in supervising students, but I was sold. I turned around two weeks later and did the same with my Resident Advisers – and every group of students that I have worked with since.
Expectations have served me well. Over the years I’ve been able to avoid a lot of difficult conversations – except for one. I remember sitting in a staff meeting during that year as a Graduate Hall Director as we had reached the tipping point of spring semester. We worked together, we lived together, and for the most part we enjoyed spending time together. Things were starting to break down within our team and I was getting to the point where I didn’t know what to do. Then the moment came where (either in pure frustration or pre-contemplative enlightenment) I asked my staff “What do you want from me?” Trust me when I say that I make it sound more glorious than it was. Imagine more of the frustration and less of the enlightenment.
As I sat there listening to their thoughts, comments and feedback I was struck by how reasonable it all sounded (despite my stubbornness). I could even relate it back to my own experiences in college where I didn’t understand what was happening in the community around me. I had become so caught up in my own job and responsibilities that I didn’t take the time to think about how I was asking them to do theirs. Through that conversation we revisited the expectations that we set at the beginning of the school year and the results have become the foundation of the “Supervisor Agreement” that I still use with my students to this day.
Now, at the beginning of any supervisory relationship with student employees I go beyond sharing my expectations of them to sharing the expectations I have of myself. My agreement with them says that “I will strive to:”
- Set clear expectations at the beginning of the supervisory relationship;
Communicate the values, goals and objectives of [our office];
Following a conversation with the student about what else they would like from me as a supervisor it’s signed like a contract. I think that we often forget that we’re not the only ones with expectations in a supervisory relationship (with students and professionals). In my experience, these conversations have gone a long way in establishing an environment that encourages open communication, mutual respect and trust – way beyond anyone’s expectations.
Do you share your expectations for yourself with your students? What do you think are the most important expectations that we can hold ourselves to when we are supervising students?