When I think of journaling, certain images come to mind: sitting down with a cup of coffee, writing about my day, describing my hopes and dreams, or mulling over what I’m excited or anxious about. The act of journaling typically is viewed as writing about one’s deep dark secrets instead of as an exercise in self-reflection. Journaling can be, however, an incredibly powerful tool to utilize as a student affairs professional whether you are brand new or a seasoned veteran.
Journaling can be useful as a way to intentionally reflect on your work with students. During the past six months, I’ve kept a journal of my student interactions. This goes beyond my log of student meetings and what we talked about. When I journal about my experience with students, I reflect on the appointment, focusing specifically on the role that I played in the appointment. I consider the reason the student originally scheduled the appointment with me. What were they seeking to accomplish through our meeting? Who did most of the talking – me or the student? Did I challenge the student to find answers to her questions or did I simply provide the answers and quickly end the appointment? Did I ask meaningful questions about the student’s overall educational experience, learning more about her academic development and career plans, involvement in student organizations, or ways to develop as a leader?
This self-reflection was hard to do at first. I realized that I often helped answer the question the student came in to discuss, but that was all. I assumed that the student had other resources to talk about these topics with and didn’t the challenge the student to think beyond their present issue. I realized quickly that many students don’t have anyone to talk with about these things – or don’t know who to ask. Once I started pushing myself to better connect with students and have a more in depth conversation, I found that students began to think about their collegiate experience as more than just what classes to take each semester.
In addition to reflecting on our work with students, journaling can also be useful to track professional development. This can be done by tracking your day to day work to assess the what you are completing and whether you are making progress on the long term goals you set for yourself. As a student affairs professional, it is easy to get stuck in the weeds as we take on emails, meeting with students, attending campus meetings, and dealing with the unexpected. It can be difficult to take a step back and assess the meaningful work that you’ve done and the process it took to achieve that. Through journaling, you have a relatively stress-free way to reflect on your work and intentionally consider ways to continually improve upon yourself professionally.
> BONUS <
Podcast With Valerie Heruska on SA Professionals Role in Development Efforts