Your heart is pounding. One glance at your watch reinforces your fear: what if no one comes? Moments later, the entire floor streams in to the room and quietly sits down. There is some chatter among your new residents, but very little of it is aimed at you. You shuffle your information sheets, clear your throat, and begin.
Welcome to your first floor meeting!
While the first floor meeting can appear intimidating to new RAs, it is not an impossible task. The meeting is, however, one of the most important moments that occur between residents and a RA, and warrants some preparation. A few simple steps (and maybe some snacks) are all that is required to make a floor meeting successful.
Gather the troops…
To have a productive floor meeting, residents need to be present. Posters placed in the bathroom, hallway, or bulletin boards a couple of days in advance of the meeting will ensure that each and every resident knows about the event. Since it is likely that you will have spoken to most of your residents prior to the meeting, let them know what the floor meeting is about and personally encourage them to attend. If there are residents missing, as the floor meeting is about to begin, it might be wise to ask where the residents are or knock on their doors.
First floor meetings are usually made mandatory by Residential Directors so students understand the policies and are aware of what is expected of them as residents of that particular residence hall. Advertising that the meeting is mandatory on the posters is generally a wise move. However, this trick usually only works on freshman a couple of times. Most upperclassmen know better, and therefore you must give them extra encouragement to attend so that they are aware of policy changes as well as other new vital information.
Another way to lure your floor to the meeting is food. The way to the minds of residents is through their stomachs. Advertising that food will be at the meeting might help attendance. However, you have to make good on your promise and bring a snack.
“Hi, my name is…”
Whoever said that first impressions were everything was correct. New RAs need to establish themselves for their residents. Unless you tell them, most of the residents will not know your class year or when you entered the position. A good, strong greeting will command attention and some respect from your new residents.
After you give the residents a basic introduction, feel free to go into more depth. Let your residents know what major you are, where you live, what your hobbies are, and what your favorite movie is. The more information you give to the residents, the more they will feel a sense of closeness to you. This feeling is helpful, especially if they have a problem that they need help with early in the year.
After you finish talking about yourself, go around the room and have each resident talk about their hometown, major, favorite things, and one wacky fact about themselves. Sometimes entire conversations can be spawned off one crazy comment such as “I had a bunch of sea monkeys when I came to college, but they all died and I had a water burial ceremony for them in the bathroom.” Introductions are a pre-icebreaker icebreaker, and can really help clear the initial tension that is bound to exist.
Breaking the ice
Once the initial introductions are over, it is time to let the residents mix with each other for a little while. Games that allow them to do so are called icebreakers. Some are as simple as taking a handful of jellybeans and telling the floor one fact about you for each bean. Others are more detailed, and can involve a physical activity.
No matter what kind of activity you choose you must have an icebreaker. While considered a little cheesy by many, icebreakers can help residents learn more about each other and begin to build a community.
If you can’t think of any icebreakers, a simple search on this site or on a search engine will provide you with many choices. Before the meeting, check with your Residence Director to make sure that the icebreaker is appropriate.
After you break the ice…Information transmission
Setting an agenda in advance of the meeting is recommended, as it is a very good idea to give your residents an idea of what you are going to talk about before you get into specifics. For instance say, “I’m going to talk to you about the alcohol policy, where the vacuums are, and what you would like to see happen on this floor this year. After that, I will open the floor for any questions or concerns you may have.”
By doing this, you not only look more structured and sure of yourself, but you will be able to speak more freely about each subject. An outline is particularly helpful at the first floor meeting, since you will more than likely have many subjects to cover.
If you have already experienced a problem with some of the residents, you should never single anyone out in a public forum. If problems have occurred on your floor prior to the first floor meeting, it is okay to discuss the problem, but totally inappropriate to discuss anyone who might be involved.
Once the informational portion of the meeting is over, make sure that all the residents get a chance to ask any questions that they might have or make suggestions. This informal brainstorming session might prove to be helpful later in the semester, especially as you lead the discussion about the types of activities that your residents might be interested in having as floor programs for the year.
Expect that residents will question you during the meeting, and this clarification is a good thing. Do not mislead your residents when they question you, about policy or your personal stand on issues or anything. Rather, be forthcoming with your answers. Residents build a better bond with their RA when he or she is forthcoming and honest.
New residents may not know what a RA can and cannot do. They won’t know where your room is, or where you are most of the day. At the first floor meeting, establish the fact that you are there for them to use as a resource. Let them know where you live, and tell them that you are available to talk to them. These words are often the most comforting to new and wary college students. They will be glad that you told them that they are welcome to come see you and ask you questions.
Remember that boundaries must be set, and you need to explain boundaries to your residents during the first floor meeting. Let your residents know that it is not okay to knock on your door at 4 a.m. to ask where the vacuum cleaner is. Inform your residents of the personal boundaries that you are setting for them in relation to your serving them in the RA position.
The big finish…
Once the meeting is over, stick around and try to talk to some of the residents about their classes or their summer experiences. Residents will linger whether you are there or not, and talking to them benefits everyone. Get to know these people! You will be living with
them for the next year. Forming friendships with them will prove to be fun and satisfying for both you and the residents.
The first floor meeting is not difficult with a little foresight. Just remember to be organized, confident, and enjoy yourself!
Submitted by Tasha Kates, Resident Assistant, Ithaca College