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Thursday, January 4, 2007

Are You Theory Driven?

I work in the field of Student Affairs. I had to get a Masters Degree in this to work with college-aged students. I jumped through the hoops to get it. I took counseling techniques (which I will have to say, I use regularly) and I took student affairs theory (something that I don't consciously use).

I have never been big on theories relating to people or animals. My thoughts are, if this particular person does "this" when you do "that" and you don't like it, then you should probably "do something else" to them. Yeah.. vague I know (that's basic Reality Therapy/Choice Theory
from counseling there) It boils down to this. Theory is someone's best guess of how something will work. It may be coupled with their personal philosophy and some research - but what about our own research?

I've now been in this career field for 5 years. I have never once purposely used student affairs theory. I may have placed theory in a report, presentation, or discussion - but that was just to please others who enjoy theory. I will agree that I do buy into knowing the stages of a person's development or the stages of a groups development - but that's about where the bookworm in me ends.

How many quizzes and tests must we take to feel like we really know our own selves? Are you a TSJL or whatever the case may be? Are you a Connector, Maximizer, or blah blah blah? Shouldn't we already know that just by talking to one another? Why do we need a quiz to tell us
that? Don't get me wrong - I'm glad I know that there's someone out that who has given a name to the type of person I am out there in publication. It most certainly lends itself to office conversation such as, "Oh, I'm a GBPM - what did it say you were Craig?" Well, I say that although Craig might be listed as a SMRT, he's still a JKASS.

With this said... Do we really need to cite theory to our colleagues to prove that we do it?

This has really pushed a button in my soul. I recently read an evaluation that someone wrote of me. It had nothing negative to say, however, it did say that they wish I'd take more interest in theory. I read the evaluation yesterday and it just kind of stuck with me. Theory? THEORY? I sometimes just want to give a big fat middle finger to student affairs theory!

On my drive this morning - I was driving and thinking about it more. I realized that most everything I do it based on some sort of theory and that everything that I can't pinpoint "off the top of my head" can certainly be related to theory. The main factor for me is that each individual and my relationship with those individuals supercedes any thought of what that theory proposes.

As I entered my office and checked my email, I saw an email from one of my students. Yesterday i had to tell her that she could no longer be involved with our student organization. In her email, she asked if it would still be okay to meet with me on a regular basis. I obliged. That email made me feel like I am REALLY doing what is supposed to be done with students - I CARE. I never analyzed her with a theory. I never called her a Millenial. I never grouped her in a specifc type that I've seen so many student affairs professionals do. What I have done is given her the respect she deserves as a human being and served as a mentor (which was unbeknownst to me until I read her email).

My question to you is, "Is your work theory driven - or are you driven by the work you do with students?" There's a difference and there's a greater connection made with one of the choices.

Would I advocate for the abolishment of all student affairs theory? No. It's valid in many instances. What I would advocate for is less focus on how the theory is fitting our students and more focus on how we're fitting our students.

Let's get back to relating to the work we do and knowing our students as individuals. Let's get back to mentoring and looking after our students so that they are successful in whatever they choose to do. We may not reach all of them but the ones that we do reach will always
remember our efforts.

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