“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” —Seneca (also lyrics from the Semisonic anthem “Closing Time”)
For many of us, the semester is starting up again, and students are arriving back on campus or moving in for the first time. Here in Nacogdoches, as with many of you, we have lots of activities planned to help them get engaged with their new surroundings and neighbors, and hopefully be exposed to new friends or on-campus resources they will need during their learning journeys.
Our campus recreation staff has also been busy with staff trainings, not only with colleagues from our department, but with individuals working all across campus. Hopefully you’ve been (or will be) able to reach out to help other departments with their respective departmental staff trainings, since collaboration is one of the things we as campus recreation professionals do so well.
Each new school year brings new energy, new people, new problems, and hopefully lots of new ideas. I have seen a lot of pics on my Facebook feed from many of you in campus recreation who have already been posting back-to-school events, all of which look great. I’ll be posting my own soon from our welcome back events here at Stephen F Austin State University.
Our responsibility and our opportunity as campus recreation professionals
We should also make an effort to remember that while this is a very exciting time for our students it is also a very scary time for many. Some are leaving families for the first time, living on their own for the first time, and in some ways saying goodbye, at least for now, to friends and what has been familiar and home. This new beginning is also a goodbye in a sense to who they were as a child and represents a close to that chapter of their lives. It’s a bigger deal for more than many of them like to let on.
That turning of the page gives us a perfect opportunity to actively and intentionally reach out to them and help them along this new journey, as they continue to discover who they will become. I encourage my staff—professionals and students—to not take the responsibility to be inclusive and welcoming lightly. We can either help students find their fit in the campus community; or SFA Recreation can be seen as a place they don’t belong. It is a huge responsibility but also a great opportunity!
We spent a lot of time in staff training, coaching our student staff to see their roles in this bigger picture and encouraging them to take ownership of it. I’m sure many of you do the same with your own staff.
The parable of the three brick layers
On the Best Practices for Business website, I found this simple story to be very relevant for helping our student staff to see the bigger picture:
“A man came across three masons who were working at chipping chunks of granite from large blocks. The first seemed unhappy at his job, chipping away and frequently looking at his watch. When the man asked what it was that he was doing, the first mason responded, rather curtly, ‘I’m hammering this stupid rock, and I can’t wait ’til 5 when I can go home.’
A second mason, seemingly more interested in his work, was hammering diligently and when asked what it was that he was doing, answered, ‘Well, I’m molding this block of rock so that it can be used with others to construct a wall. It’s not bad work, but I’ll sure be glad when it’s done.’
A third mason was hammering at his block fervently, taking time to stand back and admire his work. He chipped off small pieces until he was satisfied that it was the best he could do. When he was questioned about his work he stopped, gazed skyward and proudly proclaimed, ‘I…am building a cathedral!’
Three men, three different attitudes, all doing the same job.”
This story clearly reveals two secrets of success: Your attitude towards your work (or other activities) often influences your level of success. And an ability to see a bigger picture—the capacity to see the end result rather than the immediate task—is motivating and can be an object of focus and a source of energy. Both are things that benefit our team members!
What is your team’s cathedral? Do all the members of your department know what it is? And do they know what they are working to accomplish when engaging with students and why? Hopefully the answer is a resounding yes. If not perhaps it’s time to take a step back with them and together see the bigger picture.
P.S. – For those of you who were worried about my wellbeing, and whether or not I got to my vacation as anticipated in my previous blog post, fear not! I indeed found my vitamin sea.
I was able to spend a beautiful week in Hawaii; it was perhaps the only beautiful week between the serious threats posed by the recent volcano and hurricane. A highlight from the trip was scuba diving with an unidentified whale shark. Since we got good pictures and video of it, we get to name her for the official database! Pretty cool!
I’m taking suggestions. #NIRSAthrive!