Friendship and Authority: A Hard Thing to Balance

A few weeks ago, I wrote my post about how I really wanted to start connecting with my residents and I found that it works for the kids in my immediate hallway, but not so much for the whole dorm. I have learned that trying to balance being an authority figure and being a friend is not an easy thing to balance.

I have spent an extreme amount of time this week trying to make better connections with all of the residence in my hall. I had been told that I am kind of scary when I yell at people. Honestly, who isn’t? But on the other hand, I can see why people see me as….more intense that others. I am a pretty straight forward person so when I say “HEY no skateboards in the resident halls” or “guys remember that it is quiet hours, keep it down” I can see why some of the residence are a little bit afraid of me, but that is all they see of me. They do not know me on a personal basis like my residence do. So in an attempt to make myself less “scary” I have dedicated my learning this week to my people skills.

I have made it my goal to smile and say hello to every single resident that I walk past at every point of the day. I’m a little worried that they think that I have lost my marbles, but I want them to see that I am friendly, not just the person that tells them to abide by the rules. It is almost exhausting smiling so much every day. Holy cow, my cheeks hurt! I think that everyone thinks I have started popping happy pills! (Totally untrue, just a reference.)

I have also been told that I am an unapproachable person because I always look mad. I just have a crabby looking face, but I am almost never crabby. So I am trying to smile more for that aspect. Really working the face muscles. I have also made it a point to not “yell” at people for things, but try to joking in a serious manor (if that makes sense). For example, instead of “it is quiet hours keep it down” I have tried “Hey guys I just wanted to remind you that it is quiet hours in a few minutes, be as loud as possible for three minutes while you still can!” And then people yell and scream for a few seconds and then quietly retreat into their room. So far, it is working.

My biggest fear with my “personality change” is that I don’t want students to think that I am lax with the rules. I am afraid that they are going to see me as the RA that jokes all the time and that they won’t take me seriously and listen to me anymore. I have learned that there has to be a balance between being a rule enforcer and being a friendly, approachable person!

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2 thoughts on “Friendship and Authority: A Hard Thing to Balance

  1. These are good questions to ponder as you consider what kind of teacher you will be too. How to balance connection and power. How to be authoritative rather than authoritarian. One of my favorite compliments ever from a student was, “This is the strictest AND the easiest-going classroom in the school.” It took me several years of teaching to understand where authority comes from and how to have a classroom that was simultaneously full of laughter AND full of hard work!

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    1. One thing that I have realized while being an RA is that this is giving me skills to figure these kinds of things out before I enter a classroom someday. This is some of the best training that I could possibly get to learn how to handle a position of authority is a way that gets things accomplished.

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