Have you ever thought, felt, or said: “I just don’t feel like being developmental today.” Maybe you thought about taking a day off from being intentional in your work for the day. Has it crossed your mind what might happen if you take a day off from being an intentional or developmental professional? Better yet, what could happen in the life of someone else if you take a day off from being a developmental or intentional professional? The idea of how we as student affairs professionals impact lives each day has been in my head a lot lately. The question of what might happen if I took a day off of being an intentional student affairs professional crossed my mind one day, and left me thinking “what if” for the next few days.
As student affairs professionals, we are charged as the individuals supporting, developing, and engaging students outside the classroom (and in some cases, inside and outside the classroom). Think about what might happen if a faculty member decided to just show up to class, let students do whatever they wanted, and hoped the content was learned. What if a custodian came to work and chose to only clean the first floor of a residence hall and not the other three? If the Vice President of Finance decided the upcoming budget would get started the day before it was due, how would that impact an institution? Each of us plays a critical role at our institution and in the lives of others, most importantly our students. We all make decisions each day in our roles that affect more than just our department. It can be difficult and exhausting to be intentional and developmental in our work each and every single day. Some days it would be great to have a day off from asking those tough questions, uncovering how meaning is made, or exploring what certain decisions might lead to. In those moments you want to take a day off, think about your student who may not reconsider their actions, take a leap of faith, try something outside their comfort zone, or come to you next time when things start tumbling down.
As I sat with this thought about how much of an impact each of us make at our respective institutions, I recognized a few reasons why intentionality and a developmental approach is critical each day.
- A different day might lead to meeting a different person. Although we work in a variety of functional areas, students might find a connection to any of us for their own reasons. A student you do not know might reach out to you for support, advice, or in search of an advocate. Whatever your reason for interaction with a student, we owe them our time and energy. If a student connects with you, by choice or referral, take that opportunity to learn about them and their reason for meeting. One interaction can become a long-term relationship. Each new day allows us to impact the life of someone new.
- Some students may not know what to say, how to say it, or even what they think. There can be times when pride gets in the way of sharing what is really going on. Believe it or not, there are even times when they chose not to share the information they know. Words can be difficult and students may choose to not open up and share today, tomorrow, or even next month. However, when that certain type of situation happens and they don’t know who else to turn to, you could be their person. Although the first conversation with a student may not produce what we hope, a future conversation might look completely different, and the context might allow for a new kind of conversation. When we chose to be intentional, developmental, and model the power of using our words each day, in each environment and context of conversation, students see that. Our efforts each day impact our efforts in the days to come. As Albus Dumbledore once said, “Words are, in my not so humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic.”
- Everyone has that kind of day from time to time. We all know that each day brings something different. Interestingly enough, our students experience something different each day as well. What if today was the day that your student was accepted to graduate school, just accepted a job offer, received upsetting news, or did not get a scholarship needed for next year? Our intentional and developmental work does not always require structured learning outcomes, handouts, or a program with free pizza. A conversation can be one of the most incredible things on a college campus. Conversation leads to building relationships and assisting students in discovering more about themselves (and even you). Developing a connection with each student, through a one-time or weekly conversation, offers you a chance to have a conversation and build a relationship with that student so you can be their person when they are having that kind of day.
- Being intentional today allows for an intentional tomorrow. Setting yourself up to continuously be intentional and developmental in your work helps you hold yourself accountable. Has a student ever said you’re a mind reader? Or maybe they have asked how you know what they want to say but did not know how to say it? Daily intentional and developmental work reveals itself through conversations with students. You don’t know what your student is going to discover about their self today. Similarly, you don’t know what you are going to discover about yourself or your student today. It takes work each day to do these things on top of every other task on our to-do list, but don’t stop considering how much it pays off in the lives of many.
Much of this is not new groundbreaking information. I share this as an opportunity to revisit what it means to be intentional and developmental, or to reconsider your daily approach to your work with students. These two concepts were explored in my graduate career, but are concepts I am offered to redesign and make my own each day as a professional. Defining what intentional and developmental mean to you and your own practice is the first piece of uncovering how many lives you impact each day. So, what might it look like for you to take the day off being intentional or developmental?
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