As student affairs practitioners, we are constantly thinking about how to improve the experiences of students. We might even find ourselves asking questions like, how do we get on the same level of students? Or, what resources can we use to help students in their educational endeavors? Both questions are important in meeting students where they are developmentally and allowing them to see personal growth as learners who can find success in their educational career. However, while we should remain focused on the experiences of students there is a need to also identify and pursue opportunities for our own growth and development.
Doing so will give us more skillsets and experiences to utilize in dialogues with students transforming us into stronger practitioners. This is possible through getting to know the variety of strengths we possess and our personality type. Having attended numerous training and workshop sessions in the past I was given the opportunity to identify some strengths I have. One of these being my need to learn and continuously improve. Finding this out about myself made sense since I enjoy new challenges and the actual process of learning. Helping students to formulate their own techniques and ways of learning is one reason that I became interested in higher education.
Another aspect that I learned about myself was my sense of responsibility as it applies to serving student populations. I find myself brainstorming new ways to help students connect more with their campus environment whether it be in a small or large way. In the past when I have seen a student who is having a hard time making their campus community their own I have provided guidance. Sometimes students benefit from having a conversation about what student organizations they can be involved with to give them a sense of belonging. During these conversations, I have found it helps the student to give them a variety of options to participate in.
Taking the initiative to become more familiar with those strengths I possess has aided me in helping students grow into engaged learners. Nonetheless, while becoming more knowledgeable about my strengths I know there are other areas that could be focused on. Understanding your personality and how it contributes to your environment is also crucial when working with students. If you are more introverted like I am as opposed to extroverted this can also aid you in developing methods for working with students. I have realized that this also gives me perspective when helping students who identify as being introverted. Reflecting on my undergraduate experience it was hard for me to initially participate as I was hesitant about putting myself out there. Each day I worked on becoming more comfortable with my environment and continuously working to get others to know and understand the true me. Being able to relate my process to a student’s experiences allowed me to show them that it is possible you just need to go at your own pace.
This goes to show that being more in tune with your strengths and personality can serve you and those students who you are working with well. Practitioners should be working to use their own background and knowledge to relate to a student’s experience. In this way, they will be more equipped to help them develop into the type of engaged learners they want to work to become.
About the Author
Benjamin W. Bucklin, M.Ed.
Ben is currently working with Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor, Maine and Colby College in Waterville, Maine on a variety of projects around student life. He is always looking for new ways to get involved with the field of higher education and in his spare time enjoys volunteering within his community.