If I were a betting woman, I’d bet that your students are tired, both physically and mentally. From the semester, from finals, from travel home. And perhaps your students don’t want to think about anything taxing just yet. But I hope at some point during Winter Break, you can have some conversations with them and ask them to reflect on the semester.
I was in a class myself this fall, and I have a renewed appreciation for how hard it is to be a student, particularly in a subject that does not come easy to you (or that you just don’t enjoy). It can be tempting for students in those situations just to focus on whatever they have to do to get out of that class getting the best grade they can, perhaps at the expense of deeper learning; I confess to being guilty of this at times this fall.
But it can be very helpful for your Deacs to reflect on their classes, to glean as much as they can from those experiences – and just to know themselves better. Encourage them to think about some of the following reflection questions. Even if they don’t want to share their answers with you, prompt them to reflect on their own.
What was my favorite class this semester? Why was it my favorite?
What was my least favorite class this semester? And why?
When did I feel the most energized in class? Was it a particular professor? The topic?
Are there modes of learning that work better for me than others? Lecture vs. group work? Research papers vs. tests strictly on recall?
Were there ideas or concepts that made me uncomfortable? What were they?
What stands out as an “aha!” moment from a class? Why do you think that was?
Questions like that can help students discern more about the types of classes they like, modes of learning that work for them, etc. Having some self-awareness about those topics can possibly lead them to making better, more insightful choices of classes going forward.
And by the way, those types of questions can work for extracurricular activities and campus life too.
When was I happiest this semester? What was I doing that made me the happiest, and why?
Who are my go-to friends on campus, people I can be myself with, get support from, etc.?
Do I have a mentor on campus? A faculty or staff member? Someone else? If I don’t have one, should I?
Are there resources or activities I wish I had taken advantage of, but haven’t? What might I do differently next semester?
What I am most (or least) proud of? What do I want to keep doing/do differently?
Did I stay in my comfort zone all semester, or did I do something to challenge myself? What was that? Getting to know someone outside my normal circle? Going to a new activity? etc.
There are no right or wrong answers, by the way, just what is right for your student. If you can have these conversations, listen more than talk, and show interest and support (even if what they do or say is different than you expected).
Just a little food for thought for conversation topics with your Deac.
— by Betsy Chapman
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