The Student Affairs New Professional

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Tryin' to Get Paid-Post 6

Post 6 from Tryin' to Get Paid

Mood: Stuffed...absolutely stuffed
My F.A. Premier League standings: Arsenal 4th Place (12 games played, 22 points)

Well, it has been an extremely hectic two weeks since I last blogged, and for that I sincerely apoligize. Students were trying to finish their student organization budgets, and since I'm their advisor, I had to review every single request and give suggestions. Some ranged from miniscule changes ("You might want to change the font so student government might actually read your request") to major switches ("I don't think they're gonna go for a $2000 request to feed half of campus with Famous Dave's fact, half of the students here are vegetarians!"). Then, after budgets were done, there were a variety of projects that needed to get completed. So, I haven't been the best blogger out there, but now that I've gotten some free time I can reflect on the semester thus far.

First off, I'm thankful for having a wonderful job. Now, I'm not just saying that because I'm gainfully employed and earn a paycheck, but I have a job with the ability and privledge to work with young growing minds and guide them in their difficult decisions they have to make. It's still an absolute wonder to work with these students and make their college experiences much better. It's a joy to come into work every day, and I'm blessed to have it.

Second, I'm thankful for the colleagues I work with. My unit is very small, and we have to "wear a lot of hats", but they challenge me in a positive way to think of different solutions and situations. My supervisor is extremely helpful, and he has been a great guide for me.

Third, I'm thankful for the students. Yeah, they sometimes make absurd demands (rename the campus lecture hall after Spike Lee or something) and protest world events I never knew about ("Solidarity for the teachers in Oaxaca!"), but they're a joy to work with. And, these kids will go on, graduate, and work for the greater good, going into areas of the world neglected by common thought and provide others with opportunity. Plus, they've gotten me into trying new things (curry goat for dinner) and experience new forms of entertainment (F.A. Premier League soccer...Arsenal's my team...Theirry Henry's my new favorite player).

Finally, I'm really thankful for...down time. Yeah, when I'm not at work, I don't have homework anymore. And that's when my digital cable comes into play. And boy, is it a blessing to have. I can watch obscure channels and record my favorites on my DVR. It's a great release to come home from a long day at work and relax. That means, if I come home and feel like I've worked hard, then I've done my job, and that I'm still in love with what I do. I don't dread going to work every morning, and I don't wait for the clock to reach 5:00 to head home. I still love what I do, and I still firmly believe it's what I want to spend the rest of my life doing.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Learning to Fly - Post 9

Quote of the Day:
"An optimist is a person who starts a new diet on Thanksgiving Day." - Irv Kupcinet

Thanksgiving is one of these American things that I just don't understand. I mean, we all know the whole Pilgrims-Native Americans thing didn't work out all that well ("not all that well" is definitely an understatement but you know what I mean...). And why would we want to celebrate a holiday that basically consists of food and football when you can watch football any other day of your life (at least the residents in my building seem to be doing it ALL THE TIME) and half of this country's population is either overweight or on a diet because of trying to achieve some unhealthy body image that's portrayed in today's media. [Whoa English professor would roll his eyes in desperation about these long run-on sentences.]

With my family being so far away and my college friend now also being far away, I've decided to spend Thanksgiving relaxing and doing absolutely nothing. I don't want to intrude on another's family's Thanksgiving, especially not for a holiday that means absolutely nothing to me. But people's reactions are quite entertaining when they ask about my Thanksgiving plans and I tell them that I'll be eating ice cream and watching Grey's anatomy. Hey, I made it through 17 years of my life without ever celebrating Thanksgiving...not doing anything this year won't kill me.
Maybe it's just the combination of being a vegetarian and not liking football...

Anyway, I closed the building today. Let me tell feels SO GOOD to have the building to myself. The quiet is absolutely amazing! :)

But let me catch you up on what's been going on in my "professional life" lately (not like I have another life...).

I've had some not-fun conversations with student staff members this past week. Of course last week was also evaluations week, so it was a little awkward doing evaluations and addressing current staff concerns. I decided to separate the two of them...having the conversation about current concerns in the beginning and later on going into the semester evaluation. After all, it wouldn't be fair to rip someone apart in an evaluation if they've been doing alright all semester but have just slacked of these past few weeks.
I definitely wasn't looking forward to those conversations though. I have to say, overall, they went pretty well. I think some of them got it. Some of them though definitely didn't and I'm not sure what else to do. I definitely struggle with addressing staff performance concerns...if someone tells me a good sob story about how stressed they've been lately or if I see them looking exhausted I have a hard time holding them accountable. I know, it's their job and they need to fulfill their minimum requirements. Especially when their stress is usually due to other outside commitments and not their academics. But I'm just having a really hard time with that.
Oh well, something for me to work on, I guess.

I've definitely been going through RHA withdrawal after coming back from the conference. As annoying those late-night meetings were at times (even I am not excited about working until midnight on a regular basis), I definitely enjoyed them and miss spending time with the delegates now. We're planning on having a little reunion soon. And there's been lots of Facebook conversations and pictures.

I've also spent some time this week reflecting on this first semester. (Yes, it's been less stressful lately, so I actually had time for this.) Sometimes it feels like I've been working for ResLife forever. And if you count my undergraduate and graudate experience, I am, after all, in my sixth year in Residence Life. But then again, it's my very first year as a full-time professional and there's clearly a lot more for me to learn out there.
I'm trying very hard to be intentional with what I use some of that grad school knowledge as I'm developing new processes and models (such as my newest programming model for my RAs that I'm really really excited about...I showed it to them and they were just like "okay," but hey, I know it's going to be GREAT and very very EXCITING."
Now that I'm not as stressed anymore and not working 20 hours a day, I really want to spend some more time sitting down and evaluating what I've been doing so far. I know I can be an even better ResLife professional...I just need to think about what's been going well and what I've been struggling with. I also had all these big plans on reading professional literature and keeping up with new research and I really haven't done a good job with that. I started off this semester with reading the Chronicle of Higher Education during breakfast every I haven't read it in like three months. But maybe I'll be able to go back to that routine...

Well, it's getting late and even though I have nowhere to be tomorrow, it may be a good idea to start thinking about going to bed...

For those of you celebrating Thanksgiving with family or friends, I hope you have fun! :)

Monday, November 13, 2006

Learning To Fly - Post 8

Quote of the Day:
"I cannot cry because I know that's weakness in your eyes.
I am forced to fake a smile, a laugh every day of my life."

- Kelly Clarkson

"I cannot cry because I know that's weakness in your eyes"...that's definitely something I would say and do. There are very few people who have seen me cry before because I do NOT cry in public. But lately, I've just been too stressed and exhausted and then I get over-sensitive and start crying for no reason. Usually I still manage to wait until I'm alone in a room, but sometimes it just doesn't work.

So this weekend, I went to a regional student leadership conference. I met one of my friends from undergrad there (she is an advisor for the RHA of another institution in the region) and we shared a room. We didn't get much time to hang out together - both of us being with our delegations for most of the time - but we did get a few precious moments at night and throughout the day-and-a-half. And then, when we were about to say goodbye, I just started crying. I don't even really know why. It was just too much for me...
I hadn't seen my friend in over a year and I don't know when I'll see her again. I've been feeling a little lonely lately - not so sure if I always fit in with my colleagues, and my family's not coming to visit Christmas so I'm not sure what I'll be doing for that - and I've had some stupid arguments with another friend. And as much as I love working for ResLife, it takes over your life and it's really really hard to have a life outside of work.

But besides that little emotional breakdown, I had a lot of fun at the conference. My delegation was just absolutely amazing and we had the best time! :)

But then I came back and...
let's just say, it wasn't the "welcome back," i was hoping for.

We had a Fall Training Conference for RAs this weekend and my staff was all supposed to attend. But before I even returned to campus, I already got a message from another staff member, who I had asked to keep an eye on my staff, that only two of them stayed until the end and several left after the Opening/Welcome...not even going to the first program session. Needless to say, I was NOT happy.
As I returned to campus, I checked my mailbox as several things had been due that day...and what do I find - not much of a surprise to be honest - many of them hadn't handed in all these things yet.
The most challenging part is that I love my staff...I really think they are great students and great leaders - but they just don't always take care of all the administrative tasks or they have a severe dislike for training. I really didn't expect them to not go to the training though, as that was seriously disrespectful toward me as their supervisor and the department. I'm not really mad...I'm just VERY VERY UPSET and DISAPPOINTED.

I guess one of the things I really need to work on is not taking things too personally. But it's really hard sometimes. I know I have very high expectations of my staff...but I've also tried to be very flexible and understanding. And then this...

Well, I'm afraid we will have to do things a little differently from now on.

Oh and if that wasn't enough...someone superglued my office door shut. I'm not really sure what that was supposed to be about. It happened Saturday night. Now, here at my institution, we turn the lights down when quiet hours start and the switches for those lights are in my office. So of course, the Housekeeping staff couldn't get into the lock on Sunday morning to turn the lights back on and the building was dark all day.
If the person, who did it, was trying to "get me" or "annoy me," they definitely had bad timing. I didn't come back from the conference until late last night...and by the time I made it into the office this morning, the Housekeeping staff had already called the locksmith and broken open the door. So a new doorknob and lock had to be put into the door.

So I spent most of the day trying to deal with some of these issues while catching up on e-mails and doing staff evaluations (can you imagine doing fair evals when you're seriously upset with your staff...not an easy task!). I snuck into my apartment during a few breaks in between meetings and work, just to lie down for a bit, cry a few tears in private and try to get some of my energy back. The whole time I was wishing I could be back at the conference. I already miss the students that were on our delegation.

But I've rambled on for long enough and there's some staff evals that need to get done before tonight.

Tomorrow is a new day...let's just hope it'll be a better one!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Tryin' to Get Paid-Post 5

Post 5 from Tryin' to Get Paid

My Mood: It's a cold Friday...good excuse to get a coffee
My Music: Rather, it's NPR this day...I feel like getting educated

Well, I don't know about you, but I'm so glad the election is over. I did my civic duty and voted (sadly, I didn't win local county water commissioner doesn't help when I'm the only one who voted for me), but I'm glad all the damn negative ads are off the air and radio. If I heard another "so-and-so is too liberal for our state" and "so-and-so is far right for what we need", I would have openly screamed and drove to Canada just to skip the election. But, I'm glad things calmed down on campus. Students were TOO excited about the election; and since an overwhelming majority of students on campus are Democrats, they wanted as many votes as possible. In fact, the morning before the election, I was walking into work and encountered a crowd of folks standing around holding signs. As I stopped and said "what the hell?", a kid grabbed my arm and shoved me in front of...the Democratic candidate for Governor (who was the Attorney General at the time). It was kind of cool to meet him, and he seemed like a nice guy (the ads made him seem like a blood thirsty kitten-hating demon). It's sad he didn't win, because he was open about lowering tuition across state colleges and pushing for higher Pell Grant awards.

Election night was funny across campus...because you could hear the screams of "yes!!!" when a Democrat was projected the winner. If you were a Republican on my campus, you probably spent the night holed up in your room, either sobbing into a pillow or didn't say anything to anybody. I watched some returns in our student lounge, and people were estatic that our local county attorney whipped her Republican opponent for US Senate. Let's just say, the day after the elections, you could tell there was a "hang-over" on campus. A lot of folks walked with a lighter step and had smiles on their face. It was as if their tuition bill was lowered, or they could graduate without doing any actual work. Ah, the joys of working on a very political campus...

Friday, November 03, 2006

Learning to Fly - Post 7

Quote of the Day:
"...yet, sadly, accidental rudeness occurs alarmingly often. Best to say nothing at all, my dear man."
- Albus Dumbledore

I'm sorry that I haven't written in a while. Things have been crazy busy lately (aren't they always?).

And tonight, my residents have just lost's only 11:30 PM and we've had 4 documentations already: 1 noise violation, 2 underage drinking, and 1 smoking pot...the resident, who was smoking pot, even got ARRESTED because he wasn't compliant. WHAT A NIGHT!!!

But this wasn't what I wanted to talk about tonight. I'm struggling with finding a balance between being flexible and holding staff accountable. If they have a really good excuse or I see that they're struggling or stressed out or sick, I feel bad and I don't want to hold them accountable for not fulfilling all their job responsibilities. But then again, this is a job and I need them to do it well.

My grad for example...she's a music performance major, so this job is really "just a job" for her. She also has a VERY time-consuming major and is currently in a show. So basically, she doesn't have time to get everything done. She's been sick a lot this semester and lately, she's looked really stressed out and has really been struggling to get everything done. She's been missing classes, was so tired that she didn't do well on a midterm, and has had her voice coaches "talk" to her about her performance and commitment. She is a student first, so I've been trying to be supportive and encourage her to focus on her education. But at the same time, she hasn't really been doing her job either. I'm not sure if she works 20 hours a be honest, I highly doubt that. She is barely in the building. She's done the minimum of what she needs to do but she hasn't really done anything else. I have tons of tasks that I could need help with, but how can I ask her when she's so stressed out?

We talk so much in our field about balance, but what's more important: balance or fulfilling your job responsibilities? And her not being here has affected the community, from the residents to the RAs to me. I've been dragging these past two weeks because I just haven't gotten enough sleep. When every meeting with a central staff member starts with the question whether or not I'm okay because I look like crap...that's a sign for me that I need to change something. And I moved into my new apartment three weeks ago now (I think it was three may have been more...I don't remember) and I still haven't unpacked completely.

But at least, this week I'm getting AWAY from campus: first a regional conference, then an RHA regional conference. Lots of fun! Let's just hope my building will still be standing when I return from all these conference.