Do one-on-ones with students feel stale? Run-of-the-mill? Boring? I felt the same way during my first year of graduate school until I decided to switch things up a bit. Here are some strategies I used to re-imagine one-on-ones with students so that I could take their development to the next level.
Incorporate a “fun-on-one”
One of the simplest ways to re-energize your meetings is to take them outside of your office. A not-so-new concept is the “fun-on-one” which can mean something different for each student. Maybe this means getting coffee off-campus. Maybe it’s going rock climbing. Or shooting some hoops. Or learning how to knit. Whatever activity is happening, it’s meant to flip the traditional one-on-one meeting upside down and turn it inside out. Meet the student where they are. Do something that they want to do. Let them lead the way.
When it comes to development, this gives the ownership to the student while still allowing for a productive bonding experience between supervisor and student. Not only will it take the pressure off of you, the supervisor, it will give you an opportunity to learn about them, the student. That experience can’t be replaced!
Give them homework
While they’re probably up to their knees in coursework and other responsibilities, give them a small task that will provoke thought and get their creativity flowing. This can take many forms. Some ideas that I’ve done in the past:
– Bring to your next one-on-one three quotes that have shaped you as a person. These can be song lyrics, lines from speeches, poems, something that a family member always says that guides you, or something completely different. Talk about why these quotes matter to you. (I bring three of my own, too.)
– Have each student bring with them five things that everyone else needs to know about them in order to work well with them.
This can look very different depending on the student. It usually garners a wide array of responses and allows you to get to know students a little deeper. It’s a subtle reminder that everyone has a story. If we work to understand them, we’ll be able to serve our students better.
One-on-ones could be basic and surface level. If that works for you, that’s great. I happen to need a little bit more substance throughout my days/weeks.
In order to show the students that I’m invested in them, I commit myself to a level of transparency that allows each of them to see and trust me. This doesn’t mean giving away my deepest and darkest secrets. It does mean being willing to talk about my passions, what keeps me going, my views or opinions, or what I’m struggling with professionally. How can I expect a student to open up to me if I’m not willing to do the same with them?
Everyone is coming from a different place. If I can create a space where everyone gets to be themselves and that’s something that is celebrated, I believe I’m on the right track.
Give them a reason to be there
One-on-ones can either be just another meeting in a week of time commitments or meaningful and impactful. There can be surface level dialogue or there can be in-depth and thought-provoking conversations that leave both individuals better off than before. It’s up to you as the supervisor to set the tone and make these meetings mean something for them.
I often find myself entering reflection mode where I allow each student to talk about their experiences thus far as the year progresses. Some students are really enjoying their experience and are getting quite a bit out of the work that they’re doing. Others are struggling to understand their purpose. There are many who are in the middle on this spectrum. Having these reflective moments allow for clarity in decision-making and problem-solving. It’s a look to the past to see what they’ve learned and it’s a look to the future to see how each can be better every single day. This creates a certain sense of authorship for the students and their journeys. Giving meaning on a Tuesday morning or Friday afternoon can sometimes turn into life-changing moments. You won’t know until it happens to you.
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Podcast With Dave Kerpen on Authenticity/ Branding on Social Media