What is the Peer Leader Role? (contributed by Bethany Sullivan)  

 

            One of the most difficult things to clarify about the being a peer leader is what the role is exactly. You are not a teacher. Not a teacher's assistant. And yet you are not just a student in the class. Your role lies in-between that of the teacher and the FYE students. It is to you that the students will look for guidance and advice as they go through their college transition. Therefore, it is very important that as a peer leader you realize what your role consists of as you go not only into the classroom but also interact with them outside of it. You will decide where you as a peer leader fall within this wide-spectrum of possibilities. So take the time to think about this issue.

            The first thing that you must realize is that you are working with a professor. Discuss with them what your role is going to be, what they are going to allow you to do within the class time, how they will react to different ideas that you want to implement, etc. Many times what role you take is based off how much time you are given within the class and what the professor is comfortable with you doing. Some professors will allow you stand in front of the class every time they meet and teach a concept, share personal advice and experience, etc. Others will perhaps only give you a few minutes for announcements and the one class period that you are required to teach. Your role in the class is heavily dependent on these factors. Be sure to discuss your role with your professor as you begin meeting. This is also something you will continue defining with them as you go through the semester and should be brought up in your weekly meetings if necessary.

            However, it is incredibly important to remember: though you are working with your assigned professor, your role is to be there for the students. You have not been given this position for the professor's sake. You have been given this role to be there as a help for the FYE students in your class. There are many times when what you say to them will be even more influential than what the professor is saying. They, to use a cliché, look up to you. The experience and advice you bring to the table is something the majority of students are very interested in. As they transition into college they want to hear from someone who has just been in those same shoes and who is now doing well in the college setting. What you say and do matters. It will affect them and their college career.

            To this end, a peer leader should “be there” for their students to the best of their ability (without overstepping the boundaries of the role as will be talked about later) as much as possible. Attend every class. Your presence and influence there is crucial. Contact your students outside of class. Meet with them outside of class. Your role can (though it is not required) include study groups for the class, a group on Facebook, coffee at the Devil's Den, making comments on homework (though grading is not appropriate), etc. Try to form relationships with them. You can be their friend. Just make sure that you are not only their friend. You are a resource and guide to them. You are a role model (which means that you must act like one).  

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