The (Very Little) Wisdom of a Second Year

It’s the night before the first day of school. I’m currently watching Netflix (my favorite past time) and creating a mental to do list. I’m also thinking back on the past 13 months since I’ve began with the MSU College Advising Corps. My sole goal this year is to improve on what I did last year. As a first year, I had many successes, but even more mistakes and missteps. Going into my second and final year,  I’m going to take the lessons I learned during the first year, and do better.

Before I go too far, I should tell you about myself. My name is Ashley Justice, and I serve at Waverly High School in Lansing, MI. This position opened up at the perfect time, after completing my student teaching year, and realizing that teaching was not “my thing”, I was chosen to serve in the MSUCAC. Last year, I worked to establish the role of MSUCAC in both Waverly and Webberville high schools, as it was the first year that we were in these communities. This year, I will serve full time at Waverly, and another adviser is serving at Webberville. With last year being the first year that anyone had served as a College Adviser in these schools, I learned a great deal.

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One lesson that I learned pretty quickly was to not rely on Plan A working out. On the first day of College Application Week, I had 22 seniors attempting to log onto laptops. What someone neglected to tell me was that those laptops had been reconfigured over the weekend, and the Wi-Fi would not connect with the laptops on that day. This completely threw out my plan for the hour, and all of a sudden, I had to come up with an activity for 22 seniors that would occupy an hour. Luckily, an adviser in Alaska had shared some college games with us, and I was able to use one of those with some minor adjustments on the fly. I learned that I need to have back up plans lined up, because a class full of seniors without any structure will often lead to chaos.

When working as a College Adviser, you often feel isolated. I spent an entire month with the other College Advisers in training, and then suddenly, we are spread out across the state and I’m left in my community to make it work. While I felt isolated, I should have realized that I was never really on my own. At my most stressed out points early in the year, I should have reached out to my team of advisers, or to my teachers in the building. I learned later in the year that I have many different people who have the capability of helping me, I just have to ask. Even though there isn’t another adviser right in my building, it takes a simple phone call or an email to get the support I need, whether it be through moral support, or simple advice. All I have to do is reach out, and there will be someone there to support me. This year, I’m fortunate to have two other awesome advisers in Ingham County to support me in both moral support and actual physical support (they don’t realize how many events I’m going to draft them into helping me yet).

One of the best lessons I learned was that it is ok to be excited. My favorite part of my job is when a student comes and tells me they got into college. Every time a student brings me this information, I have a similar reaction, my voice gets super high and loud. Then I shout out  how proud and excited I am for them (I sometimes struggle to monitor how loud my voice gets, I never got the whole  “indoor voice thing”). Most times, I was greeted by blank stares; I thought that I might be scaring off students (which is still a legitimate fear of mine). I would like to say, however, that this is a genuine reaction, it’s never faked. I get excited about this because I love my job, and I love my students. And I found out later that students realized that I was genuine, and that was why they kept coming to me. Having an adult take the time to be that excited for them was what they were looking for. Often times, my students might be afraid to show that excitement about something because it might seem uncool, or they are struggling to process such an exciting thing. But at the end of the year, students thanked me for my support and excitement. I made many mistakes last year, but I am not sorry for my excitement and enthusiasm when students broke the news to me. Our students need people in their lives to be excited and to believe in them, and it’s a great privilege to be that person.

I hope when reading this post, you are not thinking that I have all of the answers; I actually have none of the answers. I have no idea if the plans I have for this year will work out, I have no idea if the things I used last year will work for my new group of seniors. What I can tell you is that it is ok to ask others for help, it’s important to be able to adapt, and that it is our job to be excited for our students. I look forward to my second year. I’m nervous for the challenges that are coming, but I hope to learn from last year, and to start off on a strong foot.

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