Being a successful RA goes beyond the position responsibilities of the job. To be truly successful, you have to make tuff decisions about your behavior and that whole issue of positive role modeling that is so critical to successfully fulfilling the position. It’s tough to make decisions that are at points contrary to the things you might like to do…but role modeling exemplary behavior is one of the most important things you can do to maintain you integrity and credibility on the job.
A lot of the information covered in this article is pretty simple stuff…but it is easy for simple stuff to become complicated. With that said, let’s spend some time considering a few things to get you thinking about what you are role modeling to your residents:
Have you spent much time thinking about what you role model to your residents about the importance of academics and the college experience. Let’s face it right up front, this is the primary reason students go to college. How are you doing academically? Do you role model good study practices and are you involved with your academics? Do you miss classes regularly, and always need to cram before your next exam? Do you enforce 24 hour per day courtesy hours? At this point in the year are your residents respectful of the need that others have for quiet time during the day to study? Have you formed relationships with any of your professors, beyond the classroom experience? Do you cheat on tests? Have you figured out the value of academically supportive programs and brought those programs into your residence hall?
As an RA you should be supporting the academic mission of your university. Academics are tough for a lot of students, and the distractions to do things other than study are certainly prevalent in a residential setting. Spend time thinking about the messages that you send to your residents about academics, through the things you do, the things you say, and the way you manage your floor. If you’re not happy with the results of your reflections, then think now about how you’ll have a more positive impact in this area for the second semester.
Being an RA involves making tough choices about your own personal behavior. Partying for years has been an important part of the perceived college experience. The fact here has always been and remains that the consumption of alcohol if you are underage is against the law, as is the use of pot and other drugs.
So, if you are underage and you think about partying, do you or don’t you? Do you own a fake ID that you use from time to time? Do you think it is O.K. to party if you are discreet and no one finds out about it? Is it O.K. to party off-campus with other students…who could potentially be your residents? What about the use of illegal drugs…is this something that you have done since you became an R.A. on your campus?
When you decided to become an R.A. you hopefully reconciled some tough decisions about taking the job and the impact that it would have on your life as a “party-er” on your campus. Like it or not, the bottom line here is that as an R.A., if you’re underage you should not party, and if you’re of legal age, you need to consume alcohol responsibly.
Consistency and Fairness
Do you treat all your residents the same? Has there ever been a situation where you looked the other way when you needed to document a situation, because you were friends with the person involved in the situation? Has a friend ever passed out from too much alcohol and you decided to manage the situation on your own, verses calling for assessment assistance and potential medical intervention (when you know that although this may keep your friend from getting into trouble, in could lead to their death due to alcohol poisoning)?
Being an RA involves making judgments regularly about how you will handle situations. It’s easy to have these judgments become clouded by personal relationships. As an RA you know the established standards and protocols for evaluating and responding to situations, and you need to work hard to adhere to these standards all the time. Applying standards consistently, regardless of personal relationships, will uphold your personal credibility and maintain the safety of all of your residents. Managing situations involving friends is complicated, but if you adhere to developed standards and protocols, you’ll judge situations consistently and make good decisions.
Safety and Security
What choices do you make in regards to your own personal safety and security? Whether you’re in an urban or a rural area, do you role model the utilization of good common sense in regards to your personal safety and security?
Do you lock your door during the day when you are not in your room, and at night when you are sleeping? If someone knocks on your door, do you ask who it is before you open it? When you return from the library or from working late at night, do you call for a campus escort so you are not walking alone at night? Are you friendly and considerate when interacting with the desk staff or security/police officers who work on your campus?
It is easy for your residents to consider themselves invulnerable to harm. In addition to advocating making safe choices, you need to “walk the walk” and partake in the same choices that your advocate.
Kindness, Honesty and Respect
Do your reach out to those on your floor who are less popular with others? Do you attempt to learn about the individual differences that exist amongst your residents, and do you advocate respect for differences while working to help residents find out about their similarities? Do you communicate with residents in an honest and assertive fashion? Do your respectfully confront others when their behavior against another on your floor is disrespectful? Do you gossip about floor residents in a non-confidential way with other floor residents? Do you speak negatively about another staff member behind their back?
As an RA you can have a critical impact in assisting with the development of the positive character of your floor and other building residents. You’ll have the most impact if you are of sound character yourself and mindful of your behavior at all time. It’s easy at points to lower your self to another’s position. As an RA you need to reach towards higher standards, by role modeling kindliness, honest communication and respect.
One of the lessons learned in life is that even the simplest things become complicated at times. As an RA you have the awesome responsibility of helping your residents develop emotionally, socially and intellectually. A lot of the teaching that you do comes from the choices you make and the behaviors you role model. As student leaders on campus and in your hall, your residents watch you and make decisions based on your actions.
Hopefully you are a good role model for your residents.
If you’re not, hopefully you’ll become a better one.
Submited by Terri Scanlon, Partner, Reslife.Net
Terri Scanlon is an founding partner and owner of the company Reslife.Net, and the website www.reslife.net.