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Helping Students Understand Staff

Every year, the Beloit Mindset List tries to help faculty and staff relate to the mindset of the incoming 1st year college class. As a faculty or staff member, this is a terrifying list, where you realize how old you are getting. But what about the reverse? How does an incoming class understand the 30-65 year old faculty and staff around them? Let’s see if this can help:

  • When they say that they remember a time when Jimmy Fallon nor Jay Leno was not the host of the tonight show, they don’t mean the Conan months.
  • Forgive them when they look at your phone, shake their head and walk off sputtering something about Dick Tracy or Star Trek. Just expect it will happen at least once, accept it when it does, and move on.
  • If you serve on a committee with any of these faculty or staff and they suggest running an ad in the newspaper as a way to notify the campus about an upcoming event or campaign, try not to stare at them slack-jawed or laugh right in their faces. Not only is it rude, but they don’t realize how silly their statement sounds.
  • They know someone for whom Aquanet was once as much of a necessity as food and water.
  • They too remember being limited as to where in the house you could have a phone conversation. For them, it’s not because only certain parts of the house had 4 bars of wi-fi coverage, but rather because the phone was actually connected to the wall via a cord and didn’t work if you unplugged the cord.
  • Yes, they have danced the electric slide at a wedding or tried to moon walk and are thanking their lucky stars that YouTube had not yet been invented.
  • Chances are they have walked like an Egyptian or walked a mile for a Camel. And not because they participated in the Arab Spring protests.
  • They have clicked the keys of a typewriter that was not in a museum.
  • If they seem skeptical about solar being the wave of the future, it’s not that they are apathetic zombie creations of the corporate societal machine. It’s because they already lived through that trend once and remember when the solar panels were taken back down off the White House roof, and the energy efficient building standards were reversed. Prove to them that your vision for solar and energy efficiency has more staying power this time and they will be less skeptical and/or apathetic.
  • No, you are not out of line for suggesting that they predate cable, but expect them to get upset if you ask whether they predate television.
  • Forgive them if they seem a little overwhelmed by the car. They remember a time when you had to roll up a window by hand and close the door of a car yourself. They also remember a time when if someone other than the David Hasselhoff talked to their car for any significant length of time, you took them away in a straitjacket and put them in the mental hospital. OK, in hindsight maybe we shouldn’t have exempted David Hasselhoff.
  • If they are over 40, there is a good chance they made it all the way through high school without having a computer in their classroom. And yes, before you ask the follow up question and offend them, they did still have cars, and flush toilets.
  • There is a decent chance that they remember a time when there was still a town dump and the only recycling being done was the scout-troop paper drive or returning bottles to the store to be refilled.
  • Chances are they can vividly remember where they were when they found out that John Lennon, Stevie Ray Vaughn, or Kurt Cobain died. And yes, you can tell how old someone is by almost a decade by determining which of those they remember most vividly.
  • No, they did not serve in WWII.
  • They can actually tell you why a Duran Duran reunion concert is a big deal, why it would have been cool to see the original Guns-n-Roses lineup play together again at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, or why anyone would pay to see a Beach Boys concert.
  • Chances are, at one point in their life, they owned a record player. And yes, they did still have electricity. It wasn’t the original hand-crank phonograph.
  • Believe it or not, they may never have texted. When you suggest texting everyone about an upcoming event, expect them to stare at you as if you have just suggested something really complicated.
  • Forgive them if they seem “out of it” when they are ordering. They remember a time when you could say “I’ll have a cup of coffee,” and that was a complete sentence.

For students, I’m hoping this helps to make your interactions with faculty and staff more productive, or at least a little less puzzling. If you have any other follow up questions (anything from “why don’t they understand when I ask them to send me a PDF” to “would they have been there for the Lincoln assassination”) feel free to e-mail and I’ll see what I can do to help.

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Roger Guzowski

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