Tis the season of student registration! Advisement is going strong and registration opened for athletes yesterday morning. Last Friday at 4:00 pm was the deadline for students to drop a class with a “W.” What all this means is that my life has been super crazy and busy lately! I’ve not been able to write much lately because work has kept me hopping from the moment I get there until the moment I leave. Tonight I’m trying to play catch up while working study hall and writing during the short breaks between the students who are asking for help with papers.
I know I shouldn’t play favorites, but some of our student athletes make it hard not to dote on them a bit. There are those who try so hard and ask for extra help. How can you not favor those kids? One of the football players is sitting beside me now working on drafting a paper. He openly admits that he never learned strong study skills in high school, and now he’s a bit lost and needs some hand holding. He writes a paragraph by hand, has me read it, then asks for guidance on how to proceed in the next paragraph. He’s been at this for over 2 hours tonight. In between paragraphs I encourage him to get up and walk around a bit, and we talk out a lot of the ideas that he’s going to write about. He’s struggling some as a student, but he’s trying so hard. Another of my favorites is one of my basketball girls. Over the last few months I have watched her transform from the shy, introverted freshman fresh out of highschool to the popular confident student who helps the other girls with their homework.
As much I love these kids, a saying of Momma’s always comes back to me: “It’s easy to love the lovely.” I’m trying to allow this wisdom to guide my decisions as an advisor and as an educator. Rather than writing off the students I assumed were lazy or irresponsible, I’m trying to reach out to them. Maybe they’re sullen and disengaged because they’re homesick, or perhaps there are family issues going on back home. This has been a hard test, but I’m working on it. Someday I hope to be that person who has no favorites, who instead can enjoy working with all students equally. In the meantime, I have learned that those who are reluctant to ask for help are often distrustful, and sometimes for a good reason. Not only is it my job to teach them, but it’s also my job to help them learn to trust.
When friends and family hear that I work in athletics they often grimace and offer their condolences to me. A few years ago, I may have had the same reaction towards someone else I might have met who worked in an athletic department. Having student athletes in my English courses first opened my eyes to how hard SA’s are willing to work. They often get a bad rep for being slackers, or being passed along due to their athletic ability, but once they reach the university level, this is no longer the case. Perhaps at larger 1A schools, like UT, UK, OSU, etc., this is true, but at a IAA school like TTU, athletes are typically held to higher standards. Our AD tries to make it crystal clear to our sa’s that their chances of going pro are next to zilch. Justin, another advisor in athletics likes to scare all of our football players with the definition of NFL: Not for Long.
Some interesting struggles SA’s have to go through:
1. NCAA does not allow SA’s to work during the regular semester. So from mid August until mid May SA’s cannot earn extra spending cash. While many do have a full scholarship, this only includes tuition, housing, and meals. This does not include soap, quarters for doing laundry, cash to go to eat with friends, etc.
2. SA’s have to practice. A LOT. Football practices five days a week, for 4 hours a day. That’s 20 hours a week! Add that to a 15 hour academic schedule, travel and then 4-8 hours a week of study hall, and they barely have time left for meals and private studying.
3. The average student can pick any major he or she wants to study of those majors offered at his or her university. SA’s don’t always have this luxury. Some coaches flat-out refuse to let their players major in certain subjects, particularly sciences or engineering. TTU doesn’t put this restriction on our students, but some 1A schools do. So a player plays his heart out to earn a scholarship, and can’t earn a degree in a field that he’d like to work in.
4. The average GPA for SA’s is higher than the average GPA for students who are not SA’s.
Learning the special difficulties SA’s face really helps me appreciate their plight at the university. I feel fortunate to work in a career where I get to be around such driven students everyday, even if a few of them do need a little extra help. These kids help me look forward to getting up and getting ready for work everyday. The staff I work with contribute to this as well, but they deserve a discussion which focusses solely on them 🙂 As the lovely, it is certainly easy to love them.