Monday, September 04, 2006

Advise me on advising?

Tomorrow I have to Advise. I have to advise first-year students in a group, and later in the week, one-on-one. I’ve never done this before, this formal advising thing, nor did I ever have to participate in it myself as a first-year undergraduate student. But New University has an intensive first-year advising system in place, which requires all full-time faculty and staff to be responsible for a handful of incoming students, tracking them through the year.

Now, I have tips on what to talk to them about tomorrow, but I’m interested in starting to think about what this role means, represents, and how I should approach it in a larger sense. Last year, in my first year of full-time teaching, I had a goodly number of my own students come to me informally for advising-ish functions – students told me they feel comfortable talking to me about their lives. But that was haphazard, and I never felt as if I knew quite what to do or what to say, or just what my function was supposed to be. It seemed to work; they were happy, and gave me grateful cards and such – but I didn’t like that I was doing it without clarifying a sort of philosophy of advising for myself.

If any of you who are more experienced advisors have any tips for me on the kinds of things you see as central to this advising experience, from the perspective of professor, I would love to hear them. Also, if you have a sense of what I might say to terrified first-year students tomorrow – besides “it’s important to go to class, do the readings, hand in work on time, and drop courses instead of failing them,” as I’ve been instructed – bring it on.

I’m sure I will post on this again, as I develop the role throughout this week and the year, and figure out what it means to me to be an advisor…


loren said...

I'm always soooo tempted to offer emphatically two pieces of advice that fly in the face of how I actually lived my first undergraduate year:

1) don't drink anything alcoholic during the school year. ever! and especially not before writing your essay or exam!!


2) do the readings!! (sober: see recommendation one)

Texter said...

I hope this doesn't come across as unenthusiastic or unsupportive, but I'm a bit perplexed that they have contract people in advising positions. I have absolute faith that you would be a wonderful advisor, so I'm not questioning your ability --I just know Visiting full-time people where I am do not take on advising responsibilities. I think the powers-that-be here believe that advising requires an investment in the place (which comes with a tt position, presumably) and not only that but some consistency... like, if you advise, you are likely to be around and not moving on at the end of the year. Perhaps it bodes well for you that you are advising! :) I hope you find some support (formal support systems) as well.

Hilaire said...

Loren - Ah, yes, that is some very sage advice!

Texter: I think it's weird, too. Definitely. Chiefly because I don't know the first thing about the ins and outs of things like registration - exactly the kinds of things students are going to need help with. All I will be able to do in those cases is smile and pass them on to someone else - and I won't even know who that someone should be. It's very odd. One thing to note is that though this is dream job for a lot of reasons, I'm beginning to understand that administrative and bureaucratic things do not constitute one of those reasons!

Bardiac said...

Hey Hilaire,

/comfort Being thrown in on the deep end of advising is rotten.

That said, and I'm sorry to be late to the game, here's what I'd want to communicate:

1) It's the student's responsibility to read the catalog (explain the contractural nature of the catalog) and to ask questions about majors and such.

2) Students need to think about how their classes work together to build an education. I think that's something advising can really help students with.

3) I'd tell all students that they're entering an incredibly exciting time, a time when they can start to focus on learning what they want to learn. I'd tell them to look at the catalog as a fantasy book, and think about what they want to learn, and to plan ahead to take classes that excite them.

I send my advisees an advising of the month club email. It's pretty basic, but I find that students respond to it to get in touch with me, so I know it reminds them I exist. I focus on a couple things: often a personal connection (hey, I just read this really cool book), news about upcoming important dates (registration, specific activities), and reminders about filling certain requirements (specific to my school, but every school has their own). I'd be happy to share further info by email if you'd like. Bardiacblogger at yahoo dot com.

Good luck!

Hilaire said...

Bardiac, thanks so much!!! Those are great suggestions...I love the idea of an email newletter...I think I will do something like that. I was already thinking of sending them an email in the next day or so, as a follow-up to our meeting, since I was unexpectedly frazzled and unprepared for reasons I will surely blog about later. Ugh. Anyway, I love the idea of staying in regular touch that way, and I think I will try it. Esepcially to remind them of ever-important drop dates!!

Cheers - and thanks.

Texter said...

Those are really good suggestions; I'm learning alot here too for some far-off future reference!

Yeah, Hilaire, I thought that even tt profs don't advise until at least their second semester, if not their second year, so that's why I was surprised. I hope you learn alot in this new position and take some pleasure in it too.

MaggieMay said...

If the school's culture permits, I would urge terrified students to GO SEEK OUT THEIR PROFESSORS if they need help. So many students are scared as hell to go to office hours, to ask a question if they don't understand something-- make sure they know that the professors not only tolerate it, but appreciate it (at least I do). As I always say to my classes: I don't know if you're having trouble unless YOU TELL ME.

Hilaire said...

Maggie, we are *so* on the same wavelength...I didn't see your comment till after the session, but that was one of things I stressed the most...come see us!! We love it!! I hate it when students don't come to office hours...they want to rely entirely on email - that's fine for some things, but for other things, come see me, dammit!! I'm *so* not scary!

Anonymous said...

I always ask them questions - TAKE THE TIME - DON'T RUSH, even in a group setting. I have them tell me about themselves, in particular what times of the day they think they are at their 'best' intellectually; what times the worst; ask about jobs; child care -- the things lots of advisors don't want to know but really will impact the student's schedules and hence their ability to try their best. For first year students in their first term, sometimes they have to take whatever class is open, but this conversation with them I hope starts them thinking about how to think about their schedules for other terms. Ask them about if they have math anxiety - if so, don't schedule a math and a science class the same term! Or if they talk about reading being hard, I wouldn't suggest two social science classes or a social science and a literature class the first term together. Those are the bad combos for my students - what are the bad ones on your campus? By bad, I mean combos that seems to get students overly frustrated if their skills are not the best and they often give up on one or more or college in general. Think about how far apart the buildings are - if you can, help them to schedule an hour apart for long walks, etc. All the little things that can help them to succeed. And give them a business card if you have one; make a flyer if you don't -- they often have questions or feel overwhelmed the first few weeks and need someone who's a friendly face. Our students know their email by advising time in the summer - so I write it down and send an email about every 10 days for the first few weeks, just saying hi, reminding them of where my office is, that they can drop by anytime. And be human, be yourself.

Good luck,

Hilaire said...

Those are some excellent, excellent suggestions, Kath - thanks so much! It's past the time of that meeting, now, but you can bet I'll be coming back to these ideas next time! Really great.

Cheers, and thanks for stopping by.