You never forget your first class of students. They saw you as a new professional. They saw you with boundless energy. They saw you make every conceivable mistake possible. They challenged your every decision. They may have even set the bar for dozens of classes after them.
My first class of Resident Assistants was in 1993 at Boston University. I was a Residence Hall Director and my staff was made up of 14 RAs and one Senior RA (more typically known as Graduate Assistants). I was green, I made mistakes and I cannot believe they learned anything from me - other than how to do a jazzy bulletin board. But apparently some things stuck.
Kate was a Resident Assistant for me at Boston University. She was from Wisconsin. Worked at the Harvard Coop (Bookstore) in Cambridge where a family member was a manager. And had the most unbelievable handwriting - which was good, because she was studying to be a math teacher and her handwriting was going to be on full display. She had a close friend, named Vivian and they made sure to be on-call together as much as they could. “They went together like peas and carrots”, as Forrest Gump would say.
After teaching in New England after finishing college, she returned to Wisconsin and has been teaching there ever since. Impressive - to say the least. She is also a mom with an amazing daughter who has grown up on the ‘semi public’ virtual photo album called Facebook. She is a senior in high school and Kate is going school shopping.
The text was straightforward, “I am at an admitted students day on a [redacted] campus… I was imagining you and so many ridiculously smart and savvy people running it like we had when I was at BU … that is not the case. 😣”
My response was matter of fact, “Oh, good lord. 😬”
She continued, “It is painful. So hold your head high, you set the bar way up there.”
While I could get cocky about an admitted student day presentation that I gave in 1993, that would miss the point. The fact that Kate made sure I knew she was thinking of me IS the point.
Kate may be recalling some of the presentation, the snacks we served, or even how we had the RAs run up to the rooms in advance of the tours to be sure that there was no alcohol in the tour rooms or the odor of marijuana in the hallways. Most likely she was recalling the sense of pride and affinity she felt being a part of the tour team.
But honestly? I’m just overwhelmed that she felt it was important enough to text me in the middle of a milestone moment and make me a part of it.
Our students grow up. They have families. They overcome difficulties. They live their best lives. And they still find time to remember us. That’s not only a good day. That’s a great career.
You never forget your first students. And it seems that some of them never forget you.
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Dr. Laura De Veau is Principal & Founder of Fortify Associates, LLC. Fortify Associates, LLC is unique in the higher education, not-for-profit, and public service market. They provide comprehensive workshops, program reviews and project management services with a combination of in-person and virtual delivery. Fortify Associates is committed to creating experiences that are unique to the needs and culture of each of their clients. Fortify Associates wants to elevate your organization and help you optimize your workplace. As a Predictive Index partner, Fortify can leverage the power of PI with the knowledge and talent of the Fortify team to create a truly unique set of offerings. Contact Dr. De Veau
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I was one of those Senior RAs in that first class of yours. I'll never forget it. The professionalism you (and frankly the rest of the BU Residence Life team) brought to that job was unrivaled. Truly a world-class program that attracted world-class people.
Grateful for people like you, Kate, Vivian, and the rest of the team we had there.
Yes, even Mrs. Shannon.