Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Mentoring moments

My strength in teaching is in one-on-one interactions. In order to encourage students to partake in this activity, I try to make myself more accessible, or appear to care about their lives when I see them in office hours or other settings. Usually this ranges from asking how the student's term is going, to sharing unimportant details of my life, to following up on details of their academic lives they have shared. Over a 10 week term, where I'm interacting this way with students on a less than once a week basis, this formula works pretty well in striking the balance between being friendly and a "real person" and over sharing.

I'm discovering that this formula doesn't work well when meeting with students every few days. My summer undergrads come in, we spend 45 mins to an hour talking about their questions, how to proceed, and then few minutes asking them about non-academic stuff. But these are students who I have gotten to know pretty well at this point, and it becomes harder not to cross the line between small talk and over sharing.

For instance, when I discussion of my travel schedule for the next few weeks leads to a discussion about my family, and then to my surprise, an offer to babysit Epsilon, while she is doing research for me?

Maybe as a female mentor I should have pointed out that making statements like that to her colleagues is not a wise move in terms of career advancement. I think I was too taken aback to do anything other than firmly say no, and wrap the interview up.

This is completely my fault for fostering a relationship like this. I need to tighten up and create some more distance. Its just an interesting example of how algorithms fail up changes of domain.

No comments:

Post a Comment