The Student Affairs New Professional

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!


  • The LAST thing you need to do is cry.

    Next, you need to step up the accountability piece. I have it written into my RAs' contracts that ALL training is MANDATORY, and if they "skip" any part of it, that is grounds for automatic termination.

    On RA evals, you've really got to home in on the fact that the paperwork and the reports you ask them to turn in affect the type of evaluation they get in the long run.

    For example, if my RAs don't turn in proper Floor Meeting Paperwork (includes [a] the flyer they used to promote it; [b] the outline, which I provide; [c] An attendance sheet with resident signatures who were there; [d] Billing log sheet with all unexcused absences listed by student name and [e] personal excuse notes written by students with a valid reason for not attending) then I cannot adequately and fairly evaluate them on "Meets Deadlines" and "Holds regular, monthly floor meetings".

    And if I can't evaluate something fairly and adequately with the paperwork to back it up, THEN THATPIECE OF THE RA'S EVAL SCORES A ZERO.

    RAs can be chronic procrastinators and most of them struggle with time management. The art of making the RA position (or any other position in Res Life) work for you is knowing how to manage yourself and manage time.

    By Blogger Mistah L, at 1:43 PM  

  • This is a response to "Learning to Fly, Post #8.

    Sistah (or Brutha, whatever the case is), I FEEL YOUR PAIN.

    I'm an unusual case in Res Life. I've worked my way up on one Bachelor's degree from RA to RD to ADRL. I've worked at all HBCUs in the ghetto, so I'm probably a bit more gangsta than the usual Res Lifer.

    First of all, STOP CRYING. It's not a sign of weakness to cry, and we all do it from time to time, but your RAs are the ones who are being irresponsible, not you. They're not crying, so why should you?


    First: Deal with the RAs that skipped the Training conference and/or split after the Opening Remarks. I don't know what your RA contract stipulates, but in mine, attendance at ALL RA staff meetings, Training Workshops, and conferences is MANDATORY. Not showing up or leaving early without prior clearance from me is Grounds for IMMEDIATE TERMINATION.

    Second, I'm not sure of what disciplinary mechanisms you have in place at your college/university for such things (RAs skipping training), but my position is, AT BARE MINIMUM, your RAs who skipped or left early need to be put on IMMEDIATE RA PROBATION, and if there was a charge ($$) per person to attending this RA conference, then those RAs who skipped/left early need to reimburse your office of Res Life the same amount it cost for them to go.

    Third, as an additional consequence for them, (call it a "probation condition") why don't you pick two to four Res Life Topics relavent to being an RA have those RAs who skipped/left the conference early design presentations of those topics? If they think RA conferences are worthless and boring, then maybe THEY SHOULD DESIGN THE CONTENT FOR THE NEXT ONE. INSIST THEY UTILIZE TECHNOLOGY AND DEMAND THAT THEY USE POWER POINT.

    THEN ON THE DAY/NIGHT THEY PRESENT, get with two of your better RAs. When the Skippers are up there presenting, you and your two better RAs get up and leave after opening remarks. Tell the "skippers" later on, that you didn't really see the "need" to be there, then ask them how they felt when they saw you cut out.

    Fourth, it's only been six years since I was a new, young, and inexperienced Resident Director. It's hard in the beginning because you want to be cool and on good terms with the staff.

    Concerning evaluations, no matter how constructive your criticism is, RAs will ALWAYS complain. I've had RAs start crying and stomp out in recriminations and tears. Well, they had it coming because they weren't performing well. And the RAs KNOW they're doing poorly but they're selfish and out for all they can get. They'll say they "didn't know" they were supposed to do something a certain way, but my RA contract and my semesterly RA Administrative Calender are bottom-line specific, so when any of mine say they don't know, they're copping out. Saying you "Didn't Know" is the Biggest Human Cop-Out Known to Man. Residents say it when they violate vis hours and they come to meet with you for the Conduct Discussion. (After they've received a Copy of the Res Hall Handbook which they didn't read). In the beginning, it's tempting to let a student off with a warning. NOTTTTTTTTTTT!!!! Suspend the vis privilige for a month from the jump and be consistent.

    Fifth, concerning timeliness of reports: That's where the RA Admin. Calender comes in--and it also needs to be a coindition of the RA contract. Must meet deadlines. With this piece, you really need to home in with the RA the purpose of the paperwork: We need it for (1)legal reasons; (2)accountability, and (3) a tool for performance reviews, since the paperwork is the hard evidence of what they do (or lack of it what they failed to do).

    For example, let's say when an RA holds a floor meeting, you require their final floor meeting package to include (a) the flier they used to promote it; (b) their floor meeting outline; (c) attendance sheet with students' signature and room number; (d) Billing summary of students who skipped with $50 Missed Floor Meeting Fine leveled and (e) any notes written by students who had to work and could not attend.

    If the RA failed to turn any of this in, then you can't evaluate it on their performance review. In which case, on mine, "Holds Monthly Floor Meetings" is one value I score. If the floor meeting paperwork isn't there, then I SCORE THEM ZERO. That's accountibility.

    You sound like a recent Masters or someone just beginning a program. And you've got a building to run in addition to your classes.



    Mistah L

    By Anonymous Mistah L, at 4:22 PM  

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