I spent some time with a student today who'd gotten a letter from the Fort telling her that in order to get this or that approval, she had to get an advisor to sign off on a plan to deal with a problem.
That was it. The student brought in the form she was supposed to get signed.
So I asked her about the plan, and she gave me one of those looks, the kind that says that she really didn't get that this letter and signature was supposed to be more than jumping a hoop.
We talked about why she'd gotten into the trouble, and how she was going to find strategies to avoid the trouble in the future. It's hard, but I talked about having some students with drinking problems, and some with drug problems, and how those are important. And I talked about how for some people working a lot and having money problems keeps them from doing well in classes, and how having to care for someone who's really sick can add difficulties. I started to get a sense of this student's own source or difficulties, and then we talked about how to change things.
We talked about getting help early, going to the study center to learn study skills and how to deal with test anxiety. We talked about being more pro-active in class work, especially in groups, sitting nearer the front, etc.
And all of it seemed so new to the student. And it frustrated me, not that the student was clueless, because that's why she's a student. No. It frustrated me because the Fort office that was sending her this letter to get signed was basically sending her a hoop rather than helping her figure out that she needed to change some things.
I had the student come back later with a typed list of things she's going to do, and based on that plan, I signed the paper. Now she has a list of strategies, and in my fantasy life, she's going to do at least some of the things on the list, and they're going to help her do better in her classes. And then later, she's going to find the list, and realize that some things have been useful, and she'll try something else, and that will be helpful, too.
I live a rich and full fantasy life.