There has been a very distinct pattern of severe weather alerts this month. Every Wednesday, the stars align, and a severe weather alert is issued. This week is no different and the sky outside is dark and frightening. I've jokingly started referring to this psuedo-phenomena as "wacky weather Wednesday." Part of my job as an academic advisor is to notice patterns. Noticing patterns in students' behavior can help me to identify potential barriers to success and hopefully impact the students enough to alter that behavior before it inhibits their academic success. It was appeals week here at Cameron University and I have had the privelege of meeting with students re-admitted after being academically suspended from the university. I enjoy talking with these students, because 1) I really want to help them get it together and 2) I feel as though I grow as an advisor through dealing with these tougher situations.
Helping them "get it together" is a mighty task. I try my best to be nonjudgmental toward their situation and give them the opportunity to be honest with me about how they became suspended and what behavioral (or attitudinal!) modifications they can make. On the other hand, because of my nature, I tend to want to make them feel better about their situation. I worry that sometimes I may underplay what a BIG deal it is to get suspended. One thing I do with each student no matter what is to go over grade point calculations. I show them first how to calculate it by hand so that I am certain they understand how it works. Next, I use the website www.back2college.com to do the GPA calculator so that the student gets a very realistic understanding of exactly what he or she needs to do to regain good academic standing. I don't ever have as much time with them as I would like, as it is one of the busier times of year, but then again if they haven't listened to all the free advice available thus far what makes me think they want to listen to me for an hour?
On the selfish hand, I like these tough situations because it gives me a chance to practice the more confrontational, strict side of advising. I am very rarely stern with students because it's not my style. However, I do need to hone the ability to get my point across in a serious situation like a student facing second suspension or losing scholarships, financial aid, etc.
To my peers- what advice or resources do you have for new advisors advising students on academic probation, readmitted from academic appeals, or in danger of either of those?
And to my students, I am always here to listen, to creatively solve problems, to strategize an academic plan, and to share my story if you'll let me.