Alright, so I know I was a slacker last week and didn’t write for this blog, but in case you didn’t know, I’m now also writing for a professional blog. Feel free to check out my awesomeness over there at studentaffairsfirstyears.com. My posts go live every Friday so check me out!
Anyway, I’ve also been super busy with preparing for and working around the arrival of my student staff. As many of you know, I work as a Graduate Hall Coordinator in University Student Housing at Texas Tech University. I work on a team of three–one other GHC and a Residence Life Coordinator (they’re full time with their master’s degree while the two GHCs are working on their degrees)–and we have a staff of 22 Community Advisors (more commonly known as RAs elsewhere). We’ve been in training since mid-July and literally had 2 days in the office to prepare for the arrival of our student staff. Even those 2 days weren’t used to the fullest because we had staff moving in!
ANYWAY now that you all know what I do, you can imagine that trying to prepare to train 22 students to be ready to combat crises, handle difficult students (both their peers and the students that will live on their floors), and open a building is a challenge. Now imagine training them for all of that in 10 days. Yeah…we’ve been a little busy.
Today was our social justice day, and I would be lying if I didn’t say that I was a bit apprehensive. Talking about difference makes people uncomfortable anywhere (Diversity Day at Syracuse made people antsy), but talks about difference in conservative West Texas are a whole different ball game. Going into this afternoon I was intrigued to see where it would go, but I remained reserved about how far my students would allow themselves to be pushed.
To say that I was impressed with the 22 students on my staff would be the ultimate understatement. We’ve only been fully together since Friday morning, and while there were some ice breakers sone and some pre-existing relationships, it didn’t feel like everyone was really meshing. Today’s activity involved layers of an onion and how they relate to who we are as people from our more superficial exterior layers to who we are at our core. In the middle we talked about things we were proud of and traumatic moments in our lives.
I figured talking about traumatic moments would get emotional, but oh my god…I had no idea a room of 22 people could have experienced so much, especially considering that the average age around the room is about 22 years old. We had people who had lost siblings, friends, and significant others, struggled with broken homes and strained relationships, had experienced heart-wrenching accidents, or were trying to understand how diseases and disorders impacted themselves and those closest to them. My heart felt so heavy but so full at the same time…heavy because I don’t want anyone to have to have traumatic experiences (though I know this isn’t realistic), but full because I’m so happy that everyone was comfortable sharing with people who are essentially strangers.
My staff has been asking for a blog shout out (telling me it was going to be a goal added to their official goals list for the year) since training began, but I’m sure some of them didn’t think it would come in this form. To my staff members who read this, I promise I’ll give you first name last name shout outs at a later date, but I did not want to expose your experiences like that. Instead, I hope you read this and know how proud I am of your willingness to be open. I know it’s training and it’s easy to be lovey dovey–we are going to hit bumps this year (and I’m going to be pissed if y’all are late in the morning)–but I hope we can keep this level of openness and sharing. To my peers who read this, take the risk to open up with your students. I know not everyone works in a field so rooted in feelings and personal relationships, but relationships matter. Maybe you don’t sit down with your whole staff and talk about feelings, but try to reach out and have those one on ones with people. I promise you, sharing with them will encourage them to share with you, and you will ultimately have a better working and personal relationship.