I started writing this post a few weeks ago (on August 13 to be exact) and just couldn't bring myself to finish it. Until now. Here goes...
On Friday, August 12, after an emotional last day, I came across this post. Written by one of the students from Panhellenic - a touching tribute. To me.
Being an educator can be challenging, frustrating, even heartbreaking at times. I have spent the last four years working with some really fantastic students. But I also had those moments where I wondered what the heck I had gotten myself into.
And yet, these really special moments come that fill my heart with more joy than I could ever imagine possible. Those moments where the connection happens. The part in all the struggle, where the students learn, and when we learn too. And as I walk away and on to my next adventure, I can't help but reflect on all that I have learned over the last four years. I continue to do what I do because of these students. And together we have created some amazing memories. Here are just a few of my favorites.
My Love/Hate relationships with sorority recruitment. I can't speak for all fraternity/sorority advisors, but for me, recruitment has its highs and lows. It is an exciting time of welcoming new members into our community. But it's also a high stress and emotion/low sleep whirlwind two weeks. And sometimes my crabby pants come out. Because I don't do what I do for arguments about balloons, or hours listening to cheer practice. I do it because I believe in fraternity/sorority and sharing the experience with as many as we can. However, there are those moments that make those weeks memorable. Silly conversations about "that sisterhood pants movie." Serious conversations about the stereotypes in our community. Surviving an H1N1 recruitment with serious amounts of hand sanitizer. And lots of gummi bears. And of course, bid day - when we get to see the women go home to their new sisters. The day that it is really all about.
My Love/Hate relationship with conduct. For most advisors, we don't get into our jobs because we love conduct and can't wait to run a hearing. As self-governing organizations, I believe that standards and accountability are one of the most important aspects of our community. But my heart sinks a little each time that I have to put aside the other projects I am working on to respond to an incident and prepare to oversee a conduct process. I cannot think of another part of my job that is quite as emotionally draining. It is hard to see a chapter struggling. It is even more challenging when mistakes are repeated, and no learning has happened from the previous time. At the same time, I know how much that I learned from my own experiences with the conduct process as a student, especially during those times that I failed in my own leadership. And I have appreciated those moments when I can be there with the students through the icky, hard, dark times until they push through to the other side to become a stronger chapter.
Serving in Jonesville. When I think of love, joy, and community, I will forever think of Jonesville, Virginia. And the amazing group of students with whom I traveled for a week of service with the Appalachia Service Project. Plus my partners in crime, Vinny and Steve. When we were approached by students interested in creating a Greek Mission Trip in late spring 2009, I don't think I had any idea what it would become. Steve might have, because he was good at dreaming big. But I didn't. What we were able to create with the students, was one of the most genuine/real experiences I have ever participated in with service that really captured what a fraternity and sorority community can be. If we could recreate that same experience every day on the college campus, I don't think we'd have nearly as many issues with alcohol, hazing, and the other diseases that plague our community. Those were the best two spring breaks that I have ever had.
Supporting the students as they create successful programs. One of my proudest moments as an advisor was sitting in the room for the sorority community's first Panhellenic Grand Chapter, a program created by the council and a chapter president to bring sorority women together around issues important to them. It was a conversation that was challenging, and meant to push people to think and to act. Hopefully the starting point for a conversation that will continue.
This is my job?! I love those moments when I have to stop, smile, and say to myself, "I get paid to to this." It happens when I'm sitting at a free concert as "staff presence" of a band that I love. Or when I get stopped at Sam's and asked if I run a daycare because my cart is full of bulk quantities of mints, capri suns, gummi bears, etc. Sometimes I feel like I am herding cats. Most of the time, it is just plain awesome.
I am so proud of the men and women that I have worked with at Saint Louis University, and wish them all the best. I hope that I am leaving things a little bit better than when I started. I can't wait to see what they all do.
It has truly been an honor.