One on One? One on Four? How Do You Operate?

We are in a field that LOVES its “one on ones”. I like having that time with a student to talk about what is going on in his or her life, and also how I can best support him or her in the work being done. I know that students get varying levels of value from it- I have some students who will meet for their full hour, others who are in and out in only a few minutes.
However, the nature of the one on one that I want to talk about today is the truly singular nature of the one on one. Ever since a very impactful work-life balance discussion at NACA, I’ve taken great pains to make sure that a one on one is just that: one student, one advisor. No interruptions, no phones, no email- I even turn my computer monitor off so it doesn’t serve as a distraction!
However, this is not the case with everyone that I work with, and I know that students have noticed the stylistic difference. While some in our office appear like the picture above to our students, I prefer to be thought of more like this:

Well, maybe not just like this, but more like this than an octopus with goals of doing everything for everyone at every moment, doing it all at 100%. To me, it’s a sign of respect that you can prioritize your interaction with a student over anything else that is going on, and I like to show that respect by being as attentive and present as possible. Some of the practices I employ:
  • Be as timely as possible. Sometimes it’s difficult, because our days are also full of meetings, but try to get to one on ones on time. If I realize I’ll be late, I like to shoot a text- it doesn’t interrupt what they’re doing prior to our meeting, and it sets an expectation that they can do the same if they’re going to be late- and all of my students do notify me if they’ll be late.
  • Meet about what you said you’re going to meet about. When I conclude meetings, I like to have a talking point to consider over the course of the week. Typically, students put work into that directive. And I would hate to negate their work by brushing over it with seemingly more urgent matters. And while I’m talking about that…
  • Set levels of priority. This is present in my mind because several students expressed problems with it. When our students do high levels and high quantities of work, we sometimes tend to set a long list of things for them to get done. However, if they don’t know which ones are urgent and which ones can wait, they may feel either uncertain about what to attack first, or even paralyzed and unable to start anything at all! As you add an action item to a list, for yourself or the student, set a timeline as to when the task can/should get done. That way, they can move about their business in an efficient manner.
  • Balance the personal and the professional. When looking for an office to work in, I accepted the offer at FSU because we have a staff that values the ability to get to know each other. We are friends outside of work, and understand who each other are not just as colleagues, but as people. I like to establish the same with our students. There are boundaries, of course, but the fact of the matter is they are more than workhorses: they are students, they are people. We should treat them accordingly.
What’s your one on one style? Do you look more like an octopus than a person during your meetings?

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