Student learning and development is threaded through everything I do. You know how when you’re in graduate school and you’ve just started to learn about theory and then you see that theory everywhere? Parts of that never shut off for me. I don’t necessarily walk around naming and pointing out theories in action, but some of those foundational components have changed how I see the world.
When I decided to write about the competency of Student Learning and Development, I figured I’d write about it from my eyes as a professional and how I’ve grown in this competency since graduate school. I sat down to write and although that is an important evolution, I want to look at this competency from a different view: through my own learning and development as a student.
Today I’m thinking a lot about all of the mentors I’ve had through the years and how each and every day, those relationships have started to mean more. Each and every person who supported and listened to me throughout college, who validated my experiences, who challenged my thinking…
The majority of my practice is rooted in and guided by how others have supported my development. The patience that mentors gave me when I was in college makes me feel a deeper senses of patience with the students that I work with today.
My graduate school program (Western Illinois University, College Student Personnel) was theory to practice based. We learned about the foundational theories of our profession and I understand the value of them guiding our practice. Perhaps even more so though, in graduate school, I learned how to listen. I learned the value of my own story as well as being with others as they share theirs. We read “The Invitation” by Oriah Mountain Dreamer in counseling class and this line became the essence of what listening is for me.
“I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.”
My husband (also an #SApro) and I always joke, “never do student development on your family” and that is true. Having a “developmental” conversation with your mom about politics might not be the best for your relationship. But, I guess that depends on your mom. At the same time, to some extent, I don’t turn it off. When my brother asks questions about finding a job after graduation, I find myself asking him questions and listening, really listening to his answers. When a friend comes to me stuck at a crossroad, I don’t tell them which way to go. I just listen.
This quote from the competencies from ACPA/NASPA document has stuck with me throughout writing this post. One of the pieces of understanding theory means being able to:
recognize how one’s own development can bias one’s perspective.
For me, this is emphasizing this whole idea of listening. The more you are listening, the less you are talking and often, that’s what someone really needs. Being mindful of my own perspective and the bias that comes with it is always important to me and something I’m always reminding myself of. I’m not an expert, I’m not finished. I’m still learning and I can only know what I know. Another’s lived experience is theirs and theirs alone and sometimes, the best I can do to support them is listen.
That’s where reflection and knowing your own story comes in. Understanding and spending time thinking about how I got to be here and what kinds of experiences have shaped who I am has helped me in this competency as a professional. The value of all of our lived experiences is ever-so important in understanding Student Learning and Development.
Disposition to think abstractly about lived experience; to reflect on one’s identity, learning, and practice.
Keep reflecting. Keep learning and keep listening.
This post is part of our #SAcompetencies series for February. Ever wish you knew then what you know now? #SApros pay it forward to #SAgrads looking for advice on soft skills and professional competencies before they job search this spring! For more info, please see Kim Irland’s intro post. Be sure to check out the other posts in this series too!