During our first summer Orientation, I showed one of our triple spaces with a current summer student and a future RA. We were chatting about his summer and all that he needed to get done. He seemed to be feeling a little overwhelmed, so we discussed his individual commitments. One in particular was preparing to be an RA. He did not know if he was going to be ready for the experience.
Me: What do you need to be ready?
Student: Well there is training. I also want to get all of my bulletin boards and door decs done by training.
A few sentences later and after some reflection,
Student: I’ll be prepared. Don’t worry.
Me: I’m not. There is time built into training to be creative.
In a span of a few minutes the student expressed his concern for not being prepared, but also stated that he would be prepared. I proceed to ask him about this further. I knew exactly what he meant, but wanted to help him get ‘there’ …to get to a place of understanding that there are different types of preparing that need to happen for something so consuming and life changing.
After some further reflection following our conversation, I know my preparation process for student staff training is quite intentional. I’ll be going into my eighth year, so it has to be. Training is a time to watch the growth in our student staff members, to develop relationships, and to build a strong team for the upcoming year. But it can also be fairly draining. I am a huge proponent of wellness and it’s components (intellectual, physical, emotional, social, spiritual), so I rely on the wellness wheel model to prepare myself for this intense and amazing experience.
I need to mentally preparing myself for training. This happens many weeks in advance through setting the schedule, reaching out to outside presenters, and putting international time into the presentations and discussions I’ll be leading.
I become very aware of what my body needs during this ‘go-go-go’ time. I know I need to be intentional about my sleep. I prioritize what MUST get done in the office following each day of training, and what can wait. I also know that I need to get exercise. Too much sitting makes me incredibly antsy. We made sure to infuse some play time into the training schedule for everyone and I scope out evening workout classes nearby that I can spend an hour at in the evening while my staffs are completing in-hall tasks on which I have already provided guidance.
I need to gear up for training through understanding the time that will be dedicated to the weeks leading up to opening. As long as I know it’s going to happen, my mind and body plug through until the end. It’s similar to getting through an incredibly stressful time and getting sick as soon as things calm down. I guess it’s the body’s way of protecting itself. I also take time before training to thoroughly enjoy summer. Walking by the creek, reading a book, or shopping are things that fulfill me, so I try to fulfill my life with these things leading up to training.
Generally social time with anyone not associated with training is the first to go. Summer time is perfect to get in your fill of connecting with friends and loved ones. I also prepare them for the change in my availability so they understand why I don’t respond to social requests or phone chats quickly. I usually try to plan something in advance to reconnect following training.
Everyone’s definition of spirituality is different. For me it’s connecting with myself and rejuvenating. I build in a checkpoint each day throughout training to touch base with myself, with my energy. What do I need? What do I need to get that? I can’t take care of my staff, and therefore students, unless I take care of myself. I also make sure I take a moment each night to have some quiet, reflection time before bed.
As much as we love the energy from our student staff members, we all know training can be a busy, consuming time. Simply put: there is much to get done before our residents arrive. I encourage you to prepare intellectually, physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. Good luck to all my SA folks as training approaches!