In most of my classes, the idea of student development is intricately linked to one’s effectiveness as an instructor. Students are expected to grow and learn over time, but this is not just limited to one’s intellectual progress. Personal growth is important as well. As an RA, I have seen this take place with my residents over the past seven months, but the biggest observation I can make is involved with my own development.
It’s been two years exactly since this photo was taken. At the time, I was 18 and had only recently accepted my role as an Orientation Leader with Rutgers. I had thought it would just be a way to make some money, get some experience, etc. All about adding to that resume, you know? But I had no idea what a wild ride I was about to be on. Becoming an Orientation Leader was one of the greatest experiences of my life. The friends I made and the lessons I’ve learned will stick with me for the rest of my life.
You want to talk about development? I finally had a degree of self-confidence, a sense that I had something to offer others. I felt supported by a network of student leaders who cared and wanted to inspire just like I did. I was able to come out of my shell and advocate not only for myself, but for others as well.
Yes, I still doubted myself. Yes, at times I still felt alone. But becoming an Orientation Leader at last offered me a chance to emerge from the shell I created for myself years ago. It forced me to be challenged in ways I never could have imagined, culminating in me reevaluating how I perceive my surroundings and those around me. It’s the reason I am the man that I am today.
For students, growth comes through struggle and conflict. It is hard, and they have to bear the bulk of it on their own backs. But the greatest teachers don’t necessarily carry that burden for them, but rather inspire them with the belief that it IS possible to bear it. I’ve had bosses, supervisors, and teachers in my life who have done just that for me.
Here’s hoping I can do the same for my future students.