Thursday, January 16, 2014

SLLO Where Are They Now: When You’re Reminded Why You Do What You Do

I like to consider myself a very intrinsically motivated individual.  I’m the first to admit, however, that sometimes I get tired.  Tired of feeling like I’m beating my head against the wall… Tired of feeling like the students just aren’t quite getting it… Tired of consecutive late nights at work…just tired.  But then every once in a while, out of the blue, someone pops back into my life for 5 minutes, an hour, or as a new colleague, and reminds me why it’s all worth it.

The latest instance of that happened for me the weekend of graduation.  Knowing that thousands of people were going to be heading straight for campus, I very strategically chose to drive in the opposite direction and ran all of my errands that stayed outside a very intentional radius distance away from Reed Arena.  Nevertheless, as I was filling up my car at the gas station, a friendly but clearly lost woman stopped and asked me to point her toward Reed and all the festivities.  After a short conversation with her which involved a lot of pointing on my part and some near hysterical laughter on hers, I turned back to my car…only to be interrupted once again.  This interruption, however, turned out to be one of my former students who graduated over 4 years ago!

There was a great deal of laughing and hugging and quick catching up (I imagine the other people in line at the Kroger station were ready for me to fill up my car already), but one of the comments that he made in passing changed my entire weekend.  After answering all of my questions about his life that Facebook hadn’t been able to keep me apprised of, he looked over and said, “I just have to tell you, I use the skills we learned in those advisor time activities every day in my job…especially using my Strengths to work with my team!” That, naturally, earned him yet another hug.

As I reflected on his quick comment later in the day (and for the rest of the weekend), it occurred to me that moments like that are what make it worth pushing through the tired and not just dropping those items off of the meeting agenda as life gets busier and the major event gets closer.  He didn’t once mention the conference we spent a year planning together with the other members of his team, or the specific duties of his job…it was the supplemental activities that stuck with him.  I would imagine that his was just an off-handed comment in a quick interaction, but the ripples made a difference.  So, thanks to all the former students everywhere who take the 5, 10, or 60 minutes to drop back by and tell your former advisor what’s going on in your world.  And, to all my future students, thank them for the fact that you, too, are going to continue to be supplemented with advisor time activities…and one day you might appreciate it!

- Sarah Edwards

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

SLLO in Action: Flaky Communication

At the beginning of each semester with a new team of students, I have one activity in particular that I LOVE to incorporate.  Partly, this is because I don’t have as many kinesthetic activities as I do the “think about it and talk to your neighbor” ones, so I like to optimize the few that involve actually DOING.  But also, I just love how the students respond to this one.  It’s called Snowflake, and it’s a great exercise in processing the importance of clear and specific communication when working with others.

Supplies Needed:

1 square sheet of paper for each participant (can be any size, but use fewer folds in a smaller sheet)

Activity Directions:

Give each participant a blank sheet of paper, and instruct them to close their eyes and be silent.  Not talking is very important for this activity, so stress to them that they just need to listen and follow directions…no speaking.

Their instructions are:

  1. Fold the paper in half; (This first time will be your greatest risk of someone blurting out “hot dog or hamburger”, thus causing people to start wondering about how their neighbor is folding it…you can anticipate this with another reminder of silence and to keep their eyes shut)
  2. Hold the folded half toward the front of the room and tear off the left-hand corner;
  3. Now fold the paper in half again, and tear a section out of the center;
  4. Now tear a small piece off of the right hand corner;
  5. Fold in half again, and tear a small piece off of the right hand corner.
  6. Now instruct everyone to open their eyes, unfold their papers, and hold up their snowflakes


Everyone heard the same instructions, but just like real snowflakes, no two are exactly the same. Why did this happen? 

What steps could have been taken to make this turn out differently?

Can you think of a time of another time where this has happened?  (You said one thing or set of instructions that you thought was clear, but the person heard and did something different)

Process with the group how this is a reflection of communication, how two people can hear the same thing and interpret it differently, what would have been helpful for the listeners (the ability to ask questions and get feedback, the ability to have a visual idea of what was expected, etc), and how this can be applied to their group.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

SLLO In Action: How Do Your Students Learn?

If you’re like me, you approach advising or supervising or navigating the freeway in the way that makes the most sense…to you.  I LOVE to learn and for a long time I was THAT kid in school (let’s be honest, I sort of still am) because I assumed that everyone liked learning as much as I did.  The realization that this wasn't the case sent me into a bit of a developmental tailspin…but I digress.

When choosing activities to facilitate with my students, I strive to be very intentional in selecting resources that push me beyond my comfort zone of learning and facilitating.  I’m very much a “give me a worksheet, let me think about it and write down my answers, then discuss with a neighbor or as a group” kind of learner.  But, personal news flash, that’s not how everyone prefers to approach every activity.  Some people enjoy those activities where you have to draw something (mine invariably ends up as a page covered in words).  Others enjoy building things.  Some people actually even LIKE IT when you’re forced to act out a scene ** introvert shudder**.

A very informative activity, and one that I've had lots of positive feedback from my students after conducting, is the VAK Assessment.  This is a learning style test that the students take, and then you can process with them as a group to learn more about themselves and each other: how they prefer to give and receive information, and the best ways to keep them engaged in meetings.  There’s a free, online tool that I routinely use that can be found at:

But if you don’t like this one, just google VAK Assessment and you’ll see that there are tons to choose from.

This past year, 6 of my 8 executive officers were Kinesthetic learners.  At the start, my highly Visual/Auditory self was a bit terrified at the prospect of keeping the team engaged and focused through their planning meetings.  But with the benefit of advanced knowledge and a summer of strategic activity planning with the Director, it ended up being one of the best years yet!

- Sarah Edwards