"Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do and...(die)", so sayeth The Beast to calm an ever-agitated Wolverine before their mission to save astronauts from an exploding space station and the damn Shi'ar in the 90s animated X-Men television show. A few things my students know about me are: 1) That I care, and 2) Marvel over DC. This scene is from an episode beginning Phoenix's saga, whom few know as my favorite character in the Marvel Universe. All ways that Phoenix/Dark Phoenix plays into the Jean Grey/Rachel Summers storyline brilliantly represent the triple-moon goddess in her best and more terrifyingly powerful of seasons. Although I can't give Beast all the credit. They (did Beast use They pronouns?) were actually giving a nod to Alfred Lord Tennyson's Charge of the Light Brigade. This poem is not of curiosity to me as much as the futility of asking students "Why?" during helping sessions.
Let's be honest, why did we do anything when we were our students' age in college? When I ask myself that question, I can only reason that it really doesn't matter why a student did or did not do something because they are free to answer in the same way my 20-year-old self did. There are so many techniques in the Nonjudgmental Listening Cycle that serve as more constructive ways to decipher the actions of an individual in a helping session than asking "Why?" Also, and I think the actual practice of advising students has taught me this more than anything, eliminating this question from helping sessions puts the focus squarely on student accountability. If my student decided to withdraw from a class and consequentially got off-track with their course sequencing, I would want to understand the barrier to their progression. Asking "Why?" is not a shortcut, but demands that the helpee give their reason. "Why?" may be a question that puts our students on the path to experiencing shame. Sparingly do I use it, but I have allowed it in conversation.
Student: I didn't come see you earlier because I knew what you would say.
Me: What would I say?
Student: You would say, "I told you so".
Me: Why would I say that? What reason would I have?
Student: Because you could.
Me: Swiss cheese logic. Full of holes. What are we talking about today?
Student: How I am going to graduate next semester.
If we let it, the influence of Boyer's (1990) articulation of scholarship can re-position "Why?" for the academic advising profession. Yes, advising is a profession, and to further it we will need greater research and scholarly inquiry. Discovering more about the impact of advising leads to critical arguments about the need for our placement, and the development of our careers, practice, and evolving pedagogy. It is becoming more clear to me that "Why?" is a question for the advising scholar, and not the student.
It would seem my plans to buy a home keep falling through so naturally I bury myself in work and study not to think about it. I keep asking the universe "Why?", but that is another conversation. I really see myself settling down in Virginia and could work at my undergraduate alma mater indefinitely, but I'm not sure where I am going to live come August. It is a mystery.
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.