When it comes to being an effective resident assistant, many different roles come into play occasionally making the job more difficult and usually more confusing. Oftentimes, resident assistants feel they must act like mentors, teachers, disciplinarians, parents, friends, older siblings, counselors, and leaders. With all of these different characters and personas, it can be a challenge to balance between them and become the most effective resident assistant for one’s residents. As the residents are learning and growing within their residence halls on campus, though, it may be best for a resident assistant to focus on becoming an influential role model of success.
As discussed in class, residents are generally at an age within their life in which they are finalizing who they are and beginning to think more independently and make more serious decisions. Influenced by their environment, surroundings, school, friends, and parents throughout their childhoods and into adolescence, now they find themselves in a completely new situation, within a new environment, with new surroundings, at a different school, with new and different friends, and without the guiding aid of parents. Because of this new-found freedom, some resident assistants may feel they must parent their residents and guide their actions. This may not always be the best course of action, however. With residents of varying ages and varying degrees of independency and stubbornness, it may be best for a resident assistant to act in ways in which they wish their residents to act.
Without parents, residents now find themselves with limited resources to look to for how they should act. Oftentimes, they will turn to their friends. This can be problematic because generally, their friends are of similar ages and are in the same situation. Other times, they will look towards the media for guidance, possibly an even worse decision. Filled with exaggerated and unrealistic portrayal of celebrities and reality shows, television, music, and the media can deliver false images and misguide ignorant people, including one’s residents.
Because of this, resident assistants should take the lead and become the positive role model within their residents’ lives. By acting how residents should act and ignoring the false and incorrect messages delivered by the media, resident assistants can positively influence the lives of their residents and guide them to make more wise decisions. Through positive role modeling, resident assistants can create the “new cool,” and create a new norm, showing that even if one does not smoke, drink, or do drugs, he can still be well-liked within the residence halls and have fun with friends on the weekends.
With so many responsibilities and expectations, resident assistants may feel overwhelmed or unsure of how they should best aid their residents. Not knowing whether to parent, counsel, or discipline, they can become less efficient, but by simply being the best role model they can be, resident assistants can become effective and influential guides within the lives of residents, clearly making a difference. By demonstrating desired behaviors and showing that they are not unpopular, resident assistants can create the “new cool” simply by role modeling successful behaviors.