(Originally posted October 29, 2017)
I like to run. A lot of people do. Though as an adult, I never ran before this year. I used to be that person sitting in the back of a room shaking their head. "Not me," I'd say, "I wouldn't run unless someone was chasing me." Then one day I woke up and all I wanted to do was run.
Instead of listening to music or audiobooks while exercising, I prefer to zone out. I allow thoughts to come up and fall away, as running is very much a meditative practice for me. Occasionally, I will simply wonder. I am not one to place emphasis on times, I run because everything seems right in my world when I do. So yesterday when I participated in a 5k Halloween themed trail run by the Virginia Hemophilia Foundation, imagine my surprise at placing third in my age group. For someone who couldn't run one mile in high school, I consider that to be an accomplishment. I have never been so happy to come in third place!
During the event and later reflecting on the experience, I wondered where advisors stood. Are we placing first? Second? Or do we come in third, too? It seemed an ill-fitting question to ask. Advising is not a competition, or so I thought at first. The more consideration I gave the question, I realized advisors do compete with themselves. We learn to confront our thinking, emotions, personal bias, and physical behaviors. We have to aim to be neutral and present for our advisees. In some ways, the practice of academic advising is similar to running in a race.
I follow Kelly Roberts' She Can & She Did blog (formerly Run, Selfie, Repeat). One of her recent posts reminded me that while I am not yet ready to run more than a few miles in a day, I am ready to do something else: advise students. Her marathon "secret" can be applied to advising students. Marathoners intend to run. Advisors intend to teach. The more both excel in their attempt, the greater and more positive the outcome. "The reason I run marathons is because of the magic and transformation that happens in the training. It's incredible to see and experience how setting out to accomplish something you're convinced is impossible can change your life" (Roberts, 2017). Similarly, the reason I study academic advising is to consistently learn how best to invite students to achieve their academic goals. I prepare to serve advisees as a teacher and guiding light; to provide them with a safe space they can turn where their comfort and trust in me as a professional is never in question. To provide session times during which they can freely explore and where they feel understood. The collaborative advising session creates an alchemical sequence, where I am honored to watch advisees "cross the threshold between their present and future self" (Wineland, 2016).
Competing with myself to be the most neutral and present version of Tanya is a lot like running these 5k races. For those of you who have never run a race before, you usually set out not knowing your exact course, and power through a few highs and lows in your quest to finish what you started. Running the longer races "will push you to your breaking point and then ask you what you've got left" (Roberts, 2017). If I place first my intent to teach as an advisor, then everything else that follows guides students to successfully cross their finish line at graduation.
K Roberts. (2017, October 23). The secret of the marathon, intent to run. [Web log
post]. Retrieved from http://shecanandshedid.com/blog/the-secret-of-the
Wineland T. (2016). Personal academic advising philosophy. Unpublished paper.
Creative reflections on academic advising and learning
Cultivating dual resilience: Teaching shame recovery and image rebuilding through academic advising.
Unless noted otherwise, all content copyright 2017-2020 by Tanya Wineland.