Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Hall Staff Training I

The GREs will have to wait. And who really wanted to hear me gripe about them? They're outdated and inefficient, like many institutions our education system is structured upon (a later entry, perhaps).

I write this plea for respite from such a post because, one, I don't want to think about the implications of my low verbal score, and two, I've recently moved into a new room in the dorms, my home away from Home, meaning hall staff training at Unit 1 is definitely in session.

One of the points I had touched on earlier is my interest in actually blogging this event, to consign these magnanimous events to incoming college student posterity, and to my future self as a way to remember these experiences and how they've had an impact on me. There are limitations to this adventure, namely from the long hours bestowed on us (13 hours today, 12 hours tomorrow), but more importantly for the sake of trust for my fellow staff; we've touched on several personal issues tonight that I will remain silent on, as is bound to happen again this week.

Maybe we should start off on a lighter note: what does training for hall staff imply and entail? Anytime I tell my friends outside of staff about this, they look at me like I’ve signed up for boot camp, start sizing me up and asking if I’m doing more push-ups lately. Really, it is a significant mental exercise more than anything, to prepare us for the enormous task of building up and caring for a community comprised of a handful of incoming freshmen (sprinkled with the occasional upper division student), to shape their experiences for the better and encourage development socially and academically both now and for the remainder of their early years. For two full weeks before residents even move in, we as a staff address key issues of diversity, of community development, and of addressing our own biases and proclivities, not to mention constructing a cohesive staff and simply getting to know other staffs from all around the Berkeley campus.

A typical day will begin with a few ice breakers and light activities to crank up the blood circulation to the brain-o, lead into classes detailing specific expectations that describe our job title, and be followed by discussions on practicing inclusion of diversity and private sessions to reflect on and digest what we have experienced as a group. Yes, that averages out to 12 hours a day, this fact alone being irrefutable proof that we work damn hard for this free housing.

Our first official day of training was today, and was blessed with all the afore mentioned hallmarks. One of the key points discussed that resonated with me was that, as hall staff, we are given all this responsibility and training to inspire growth within incoming high school graduates, and the biggest downer of this exchange is that we almost never see a visible, effected impact on our residents. We synthesize as much information as we can into bite-sized morsels, but seeing actual growth result from our efforts, on the scale of less than a year, is impossible; we plant all of these seeds of knowledge and don’t often witness blooming minds.

There are certainly exceptions to this, as no statement here can be absolutely definitive, but for the most part growth does not occur so quickly. It’s just too fast for expanding intellect.

To paraphrase a quote that was said, we cast our bread along the river so others who hunger downstream can feast. It is one of the reasons our job is so difficult: we are feeding a hunger that is not manifest immediately, a hunger for social awareness and education, and so over the years as that hunger grows, it can be sated with some of the guidance we provide. In effect, we’re basically public school teachers of the halls, except no one is expected to learn the stuff we teach while they are in our classroom. We’re simply expected to trust that our initial impact and interactions over a year will be enough to afford such a change at a later date, requiring inordinate amounts of confidence with the issues and with ourselves. I truly can’t think of another job that dictates such a dynamic.

And-it-is-breath-tak-ing. The rush we get—I get—from learning more about each other and outside perspectives, and from knowing our efforts possess the possibility to engender powerful change in growing minds, is amazing. The progress afforded can be so grand that it is simply worth the wait, so to speak.

I had some further thoughts but need to wrap this up to catch some winks. More later!

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