by Michael Gershe
As a college administrator for 17 years, with 15 of those being an academic adviser, we try to teach accountability with our students when it comes to their academic career. I cannot tell you how many juniors and seniors will walk into the office during the semester saying, “I don’t know what classes I need to take.” Or the seniors with only one more semester left who simply say, “What do I need to graduate?” Now, if academic advising was rocket science, I would be out of a job, because it is not that difficult.
We have requirement sheets, a 4 year plan sheet, and now even a fancy system on the computer that will tell them when they are off track. All of these are to monitor a student’s progress, but if they don’t use them, then they are worthless. If they don’t take the responsibility to monitor their own progress, then how can they be accountable for their own actions? They end up not knowing where they are in the program because they do not want to be accountable for their own actions. When they take a wrong class without coming in for advising, they will end up blaming an adviser for the mistake.
Working with college students, in theory, is similar to what a person goes through with their own sobriety. People in AA have a sponsor, much like an adviser that will monitor their progress. However, in the end it is the person’s own responsibility for their actions and they must be held accountable for the choices they make in life.
We live in a “not my fault” society these days where so few people want to take responsibility for their actions. When it comes to staying sober, a person needs a strong monitoring system to assist in keeping them accountable. When I was a competitive swimmer, I had coaches that would monitor my progress, but as the swimmer, I too had to monitor my progress. Those who are struggling to stay sober, have to rely on themselves to get the job done. They need a strong monitoring system that serves as a check and balance to assist them stay on task.
Accountability for our actions, start with us, first and foremost. People who are trying to lose weight monitor their progress on a daily basis by stepping on the scale and the same mentality should happen for those trying to stay sober. The requirement sheets we use for students monitor their progress and as long as they students use them too, they will be responsible for their actions. The monitoring system and a person’s accountability need to co-exist. Of course they need to use the monitor system to stay accountable for their own actions.
There needs to be an adequate monitoring system in place in order to assist a person with their goals. Parents keep charts in the bathroom when they are toilet training their kids. I write down my weight on my calendar to monitor my progress in losing weight. When I notice an increase, I hold myself accountable for eating that extra slice of pizza, but it is my monitoring system that keeps me accountable for the choices I make. It keeps me honest on the choices I make when I see the weight go up or down.
For those who are trying to remain sober, a good but simple monitoring system will keep them accountable for their own actions. Even though they may have a sponsor or someone to help them stay on task, it comes down to taking ownership of their actions. Changing our behavior is not easy, but with a positive system in place, it will assist anyone in making that difference they are seeking.