An update from Ann Batenburg, Faculty in Residence (FiR) for the Virginia-Snider Residential Commons:

November 18, 2013

As I reported in the previous post, whenever I tell someone about what I am doing here in the residence hall, the first question they ask is, “What’s it like living with students?” The second question that I am inevitably asked is, “What do you DO with them?” Well…

The first thing I did with them was, really, not much. At the beginning of this adventure, I wrote about feeling like a creepy middle-aged woman hanging around, and, as it turns out, my intuition was fairly accurate. I ran into a student today in Simmons who greeted me quite warmly when she realized that I was the FiR in Virginia-Snider. She doesn’t live in my building, but she lives in another building which has a FiR. She said quite openly, “Yeah, at first it was kinda weird. I didn’t really understand it. But now it’s cool. My FiR is great! I really like him.” There you go. At first, it was “kinda weird” for all of us. Now, we all understand this role a bit better. Today, I’ll give you two examples of programs that have been successful with students.

I’ve written about Sunday Night Snacks, so if you follow this little blog, you know that I have between 30-50 students stop by every Sunday night for treats. I start baking around 6 pm, chocolate chip cookies and muffins, and open my door around 8:30 pm, usually to someone waiting, which is lovely. Last week, I opened my door while I was baking, and several students stopped by to chat apart from the crowd. Again, lovely. Football game is on the TV in the background – and honestly, 8 out of 10 Sunday nights in the fall, I would be sitting on the couch watching the game anyway, so baking during that time is not a significant hardship by any means. (Except once, I did cook early when the Bears were on.) In fact, every Sunday, I check in with myself to see if I’m feeling at all annoyed or worn out or burdened by this commitment. And every Sunday so far, I think to myself, “What a delightful way to earn my room and board.” At this point, I look very forward to checking in with students who are my “regulars” and miss them when they don’t show up. There are also new people coming every week, which is great, too! That means people are speaking positively about it, if not physically dragging their roommates down to the apartment.

Pancakes and Potter was another program that was successful. So many students in this age bracket grew up with Harry Potter – a window that is slowly (and sadly) closing. I taught fifth grade during the phenomenon that was HP, so I am a huge fan as well. (The kind of fan and former elementary school teacher that judges you harshly if you have not read the books – the BOOKS, people, not just the movies!) So, getting students together for breakfast (at 11 am – breakfast time for the late adolescent) to discuss the books, eat some pancakes, and maybe stay to watch the movie, seemed like an absolutely beautiful way to spend a Saturday. Fourteen students showed up for Book 1! Wow! Not a small irony that this woman, who neither has children nor cooks very well, made breakfast for 14 people. Such fun I had! We will continue this program, roughly once each month, taking each book in turn, hopefully completing the series over the course of the year.

I have to say that my RAs and RCD (Residential Community Director) have been integral to making these programs work. They are always there to support me and participate, and I feel like we are a great team. I couldn’t do any of this without this amazing group of people. I feel very lucky.

In the next post, I will describe some of the other programs and activities involved in this gig. Stay tuned.