According to my MBTI type (ENFJ), I am extremely people-focused. I understand and care about people and have a talent for bringing out the best in others. I tend to have a strong need for close, intimate relationships and I will put forth a lot of effort to maintain those relationships.
Ever since I first took MBTI in undergrad, I’ve found all of the above to be SO TRUE.
Since I enjoy tuning into emotions, I am energized when I am able to create unique opportunities to “check-in” with my students and gauge how they are doing. To me, “check-ins” are an opportunity to reconnect with students and to learn more about them more holistically, outside of their leadership role in relation to my advisor role. Quite honestly, lately I’ve noticed that when my schedule (or my students’ schedules) gets busier, we tend to go straight to business and forget the importance of checking in with each other so I thought I would share a few of my favorite, creative (and easy!) ways to check-in with students.
Turn a regularly scheduled one-on-one into a fun-on-one by doing something different than the norm. For example, for my fun-on-ones I’ll recommend going to a local coffee shop, getting ice cream, having a picnic, or taking a walk around campus. Sometimes we’ll even run errands together! Changing the environment and the tone of the meetings helps check-in with students in a dynamic, informal (yet energetic) way.
2. Reverse Bucket List
It feels great to reflect on the things you’ve accomplished. Instead of focusing on things you have yet to do, a reverse bucket list is made up of amazing milestones you have already achieved. When I ask my students to complete their own reverse bucket list, I’ll prompt them to reflect on how they were able to achieve that list and how they can apply that to their current/future circumstances. This prompt helps them reframe their perspectives and gives them a confidence boost while also giving me a glimpse into their past.
3. Mind Map
A mind map is a way to visually represent ideas and concepts. It is a thinking tool that helps you analyze, comprehend, synthesize, recall information while generating new ideas. Mind maps can be simple or complex, depending on the student. It is a great tool for students that have a lot on their minds and need a little help organizing ideas or making meaning of their experiences. Bonus if you are able to facilitate that process by helping them get started (:
4. One Word
In this activity, I prompt my students to use one word to either 1) describe how they are doing at that moment or to 2) reflect on a particular program/event. After they’ve had some time to reflect on their own, they are each asked to share their word. This process can be particularly powerful because the students often select a word that conveys an emotion so they are able to adequately describe the experience. Ultimately, this helps students identify shared experiences and provides some common language for conversing about those experiences. It also gives you (the advisor) insight into how the group is doing as a whole.
5. Index Card Feedback
This activity is similar to “One Word,” except students are asked to anonymously provide feedback on the back of an index card. When the cards are completed, they are thrown in the middle of the circle and the facilitator will reach each card anonymously. Again, this helps students identify shared experiences and provides some common language and structure for conversing about those experiences.
6. Postcard Home
Ask your students to visualize a postcard they would send to family or friends from home. What image would be on the front? Who would they send it to? What would it say? The image, text, and who they would sent the postcard to each promote a different level/perspective of “checking in” with your students. This is a fun way to encourage your students to create a ‘snapshot’ of how they are doing and share those experiences with you and each other.
I hope this list is helpful. I would love to learn about your favorite ways to connect and check-in with students — please share by dropping your comments below. Also, if you’re looking to add some positivity into your work routine, I recommend exploring Sinclair’s blog: The SA Pro Next Door.