Residence Life professionals hear and use the cliché “wearing many hats” all too often. I’d like to take a moment to bring light to a new philosophy especially for those of us who have a passion for residence life. It is called “The Shoe Collection Theory”. From my perspective, “The Shoe Collection Theory” uses different kinds of shoes to demonstrate the skills one must possess to be a successful residence life professional. I choose only four kinds to illustrate my philosophy. Use your own sense of creativity to choose your shoe collection. Decide how the shoes you have relate to the way you perform your duties.
Having listened to many lectures in the field, “Nancy Hunter-Denney” in particular, states, “Your shoes are one of the things people notice first when meeting you.” And just to stress how important shoes are, think about the last time you saw a person leaving the house without them. When we do witness this, typically in a residence hall, the response is “Hey, do you know what’s on that floor?” My point is your feet are your base and your shoes are your protective gear.
Here are the most important shoes that should be in your closet and ready at any given time to be placed on your feet:
High heels (dress shoes): Your heels (women) and dress shoes (men) are your foundation. These shoes exemplify your professionalism. They stress your sense of self, your confidence as well as your responsibility to uphold confidentiality. These shoes also represent respect for yourself, your institution and your team of colleagues.
Sneakers: Your sneakers represent reliability, support, and a sense of comfort to illustrate your approachability. Sneakers are often used for physical activity that stresses the importance and pay off of hard work. It is also important to not only delegate as a coach but to also be willing to hit the grindstone with your staff to develop a sense of team and cohesion. Whether or not you need to walk a block or a mile, your sneakers represent your dedication to do so. As a supervisor, it is imperative to your staff that they view your sneakers as a sign of sincerity in that you are willing to walk that block or mile along side them through their challenges. It is also important to walk a block in someone else’s shoes as this will show that you can empathize with what an individual is struggling through.
Cleats: Your cleats represent your ability to assert yourself in situations that demand effective communication as well as a strong sense of confidence when having to take a stance for the well being and safety of your students. These cleats should never have steel spikes on the bottom. The cleats represent a sturdy individual who is flexible in techniques that get to the bottom of a problem as opposed to becoming part of the problem. Another reason for having cleats without spikes is to allow for teachable moments to build an individuals integrity without diminishing another’s self esteem. Cleats also indicate clear expectations of boundaries and also consistency in their duties.
Slippers: Your slippers allow you to illustrate your ability to take a break. The slippers represent a laid back individual that knows the importance of balance. This shows that you take time for your personal life whether this includes family time, friend time or simply what I like to call “me time”. Your slippers allow you to focus on other aspects of your life, which need attention.
Your shoe closet must represent diversity in styles. Your shoes must be organized and polished for you never know when you will need to reach in and grab a different pair. This also allows for flexibility on a daily basis as to which pair to wear for the day. In a given day, you may have to go into the closet and find a pair that will help you to adjust to your circumstance. Having a multitude of shoes in your closet allows for a much smoother transition to change. It is also imperative to listen to others when they notice that your shoes have come untied or that it is time for a new pair. This allows you to be open-minded when receiving constructive feedback.
This article is intended to shed light on a new idea and to help new professionals think outside of the “hats” box. Keep in mind, a hat is an accessory; Shoes are required.
Submitted by Michelle Esposito, Area Coordinator, Clark University