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My Staff Gap? June 14, 2007

Posted by Wilz in Personal, Student Development.

Shortly after I got my job last June, I ran into a new student during his first (or second?) week of classes. She stopped me by saying, “Excuse me, sir. Where is […]” That’s when it struck me. I’m no longer a student in this university. I’m working here now. Or to put it in the HR director’s words, “Willie, you’re an officer now.”

Enter my conversation with my trusty friend E:

Me: Dude

E: ?

Me: Is it weird for a staff to ask a student to go hang out and watch a movie?

E: Well, if they didn’t know each other well enough, it’d be a tad weird

Me: uh huh

and how exactly do they get to know each other well enough?

E: I dunno

Therein lies my dilemma.

Those who knew me before: I’d like to say that people treat me differently now that I’m a staff, but that’s too general, and isn’t true in some cases. Take Edo for example. He comes up to me, makes a funny face, says “screw you” and generally shock the other students around him who’s seeing him do it for the first time. (Actually I think he has fun doing it. Puts him in the spotlight.) Me becoming a staff didn’t change much of anything with him, because we’re already friends, before ‘staff’ ever got a chance to get in the way.

The stiff ones whom I just got to know: Then there’s Pu, Sa and LeHo – student leaders whom I got to know after I became an officer in the university. They’re decent people, I have the utmost respect for their opinions and good work in the university. Under any other circumstances, my relationship with them would be like two individuals who respect each other’s thinking and work. But there’s a ‘stiffness’ about our ‘friendship.’ A polite question here, a careful answer there, etc. It’s quite different from what I have with Ra, whom I met while I was still a student. We’re not really close friends, but we toss each other smart remarks every now and then. Pu, Sa and LeHo doesn’t do that though. (Doesn’t dare?)

(I know these short forms are getting tiring, but I’m trying to make them long enough for the individuals to realize it’s them I’m talking about, without being explicit.)

So this isn’t really a generation gap is it? I’m barely older than they are. I am however in a better position to affect change, often for their benefit, and I like to think of myself as quite experienced in this university’s voluntarism/activism landscape. It’s feels more like a staff gap? Are they worried that I’d ruin their society’s plans or rat them out to STAD or … I think I’ve quite clearly demonstrated that I’m not about that. But there’s that gap. I know that back when I was an active student, and there was a staff like me around, I’d hang out, even if it’s just to get some favors for my own organisation. Heh.

Is it because they’re trying to show respect? Well, every human being deserves respect to some extent, but I don’t see why some deserve more than others just because they’re staff or whatever else. At least, that’s true for me. And is being slightly distant and being extra careful in conversations a sign of respect? I definitely don’t think so. I personally think that without a bit of jibing and some friendly embarrassment, one can never really enter the social circle of another.

The non-stiff ones who I just got to know: Wait – there are one or two who can be quite relaxed around me. Si acts almost like Edo does, although he’s a bit less forward – but that’s okay. We don’t really know each other that well after all. He doesn’t act stiff around me though, and that’s refreshing.

The ones who think I no longer remember them: And earlier this morning, I ran into yet another type. I know Sunshine (heh it’s not technically a name so I get to use it right?) from a club we both were in a year or so ago. I saw him like four times during the whole orientation programme, but I wasn’t sure if he remembers me. I didn’t really have a chance to say hi – couldn’t really catch his eye the first three times. This morning he was standing right in front of me, and I waved him down and spoke to him. Turns out he remembers who I am, and relaxed considerably. Why does that happen? Even if I don’t remember who you are, when you think maybe I should, it should be my embarrassment and the apology for forgetting should come from me. Don’t have to go about avoiding me in case I don’t remember…

The ones who thought I’m not friendly: This one’s harder to classify. You meet a bunch of faces, don’t really have the chance to get to know them, but you remember those faces. And you keep smiling at them, and they smile back, and that’s it. It gets a bit annoying – I feel that it’s better to know someone, rather than superficially smile at/with them all the time. Even if I forget names, at least I know, that I know this person. If you get my drift. Yeah I know – I should do my part too by stepping up and chatting people up. I do! But imagine the number of nice people I don’t get to meet because others don’t dare to step up to me.

There’s always the possibility that it’s all me. Maybe I’m not happening/crazy/relaxed enough. Anyone wanna come and give me some pointers? I’d love some tips. I’m finding it hard to balance on that thin line between ‘appropriate’ and ‘friendly’. Or is it that now that I’m a ‘staff’ there must be limits on how close I can get with the students? Considering that it’s part of my job to connect with the students on as many levels as possible, I hope that’s not true. At least not for a bunch of years more.

Many questions and much ramblings. Herm… So, can I ask anyone to go hang out for a movie? Will anyone ask me?

EDIT: Ok re-reading this made me realize that it sounds like I’m feeling really lame trying to connect with the students. It’s not really that bad. Just that the formalities and how some students freeze up around me can be a bit annoying. Relax dudes!



1. Edo - June 15, 2007

You want me greet you “Good Morning, Sir” ?


2. Seifer - June 20, 2007

lol willz u just getting old ;x

3. Nirah - June 22, 2007

Never thought you’d write an entry like this, to be frank – it’s refreshing.

Concerning the “The ones who thought I’m not friendly” bunch.. Humm, I notice that most of the time, these kind of people are so (un)comfortably satisfied with the notion that they’ve conjured about us just by a few exchanged thoughts and/or ideas. I’ve personally experienced this myself as well as experience people totally misunderstanding my friends, you included.

Truthfully though, did you honestly expect students or colleagues to be as comfortable with you as pre-grad? :)

4. Wilz - June 22, 2007

Heh, I guess not really. But one can try. It’s annoying to receive respect because of my station (which I do not deserve), and end up not receiving respect for who I am (which I may or may not deserve). Throws everything out of whack.

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