A Challenging Job

Perspectives from Spring Lake Ranch House Advisors

Morning Meeting with House Advisors at Spring Lake Ranch

House Advisors contribute a steady stream of energy, creativity, enthusiasm, and a willingness to give of themselves to the residents.

The house advising job brings men and women, often recently out of college, to Spring Lake Ranch for six months to two years.

They have a demanding job running work crews and living in the houses with residents.

They contribute a steady stream of energy, creativity, enthusiasm, and a willingness to give of themselves to the residents.

This makes the Spring Lake program a richer place for everyone.

Let's listen in as they answer a few questions about what it's really like to live and work in the community...

• • •

What has it been like for you to lead crews?
JOSH: If I wasn't working for a construction company previously I was doing work by myself, so leading a crew has been a little different. I feel responsible enough and limitless enough to let residents do what they want to do, while at the same time helping them to get the task completed. I really like the work program; the days are not as long as in some of my previous jobs, but it is very satisfying.

BRIDGET: Sometimes it is challenging if you have someone who is not feeling well and not getting engaged in a project. It's a challenge to get them involved in ways that make them excited about what you are doing and excited about what they are trying to accomplish here. It can be difficult, but on the flip side it's really really exciting when everyone on crew is into a project working together, laughing and enjoying it.

SARAH: The hardest thing for me has been learning to slow down. I am used to getting things done in the most efficient way possible and that just doesn't work here. You can't make people do things faster than they are able to go. How one does the job and how fast they do it are not the most important things here.

• • •

How do you engage a resident on crew who is having a difficult day?
SARAH: A while ago I was working in the shop with someone who was having difficulty concentrating because he was hearing voices in his head. Every saw was going at once and it was very loud, people were talking over the noise. He couldn't focus and kept getting frozen. So I asked him if he wanted to do his job outside using a hand drill. I went out with him and gently tried to engage him in conversation while he worked and it seemed to help him keep going with the work. Sometimes finding another way to get the job done is helpful.

BRIDGET: A couple of weeks ago we were doing a wood haul, a project where you work with a large group passing wood along the chain and stacking it. There was a resident who really didn't feel like being there and had made a show of not coming to the crew. My department leader had convinced him to come, but one of the conditions was that we would sing whatever he would like that day, so we did a lot of singing. In a big group like that it can be easier to engage someone, but in a small crew with 3 or 4 people it can be harder. Often if I find someone is not able to work I ask them to take a little walk, see what is bothering them, see if it can be addressed right away. Just giving them a chance to air their problem often helps.

• • •

What are the challenges and advantages of living in the house with residents?
JOSH: I live in the largest house on the campus. There are nine residents and three house advisors. It can be difficult in that you never really leave your job. Coming home for me is just another part of continuing the work. For the most part, it is a pretty enjoyable experience. I have an open door policy and residents can come and knock on my door and ask me anything at any hour. Some people utilize it and some never do.

SARAH: The challenge for me right now is that you only have a limited amount of time in the day and most of it is spent on Work Program. At the house a lot of my interaction with a resident is spent talking about things that haven't gone well. Then it is hard to find the time and energy to balance that with just hanging out and talking about whatever the resident likes to talk about. It is hard not to fall into just an authoritative role. The benefit is that how much you can be viewed as an authority is compromised by the fact that residents see you at your worst—in your pajamas with your hair all a mess on your way to the bathroom in the morning.

BRIDGET: The difficult part is all of a sudden I live in a house with two teenage boys. It is sort of like jumping in right away and having an 18 and 19 year old of your own, but not having gone through the development part. We have the same problems of any household with teenagers—asking them to turn down the music or clean up their rooms—but that's OK, its not too difficult or too often. It's nice when the four of us sit together chatting and having tea, and it's sort of like a family.

• • •

What experience at Spring Lake Ranch has impacted you the most?
BRIDGET: There was a resident who was having a really hard time, and I knew he was, so I kept trying to reach out to him in various ways, but nothing really seemed to help. One day he just came to me and said I'm having a bad day "can we talk?" and I was so elated that the progress that I had been trying to make had gotten through.

JOSH: I would have to say it was at the Coffee House. I don't have a very good tolerance for small enclosed spaces with a lot of people in them. But the first night I was here for a Coffee House I had such an amazing feeling. Almost the entire resident body was there for the two hours that the Coffee House went on. Everyone was delighted and entertained and smiling and happy. Their souls were definitely gorgeous that night. It was quite an experience to feel a whole lot of love, a whole lot of respect from everyone for everyone. They did not want the night to end, and neither did I.

Contributed by Alice McGarey Martin

Haying at Spring Lake Ranch - one of the many jobs at the RanchSpring Lake Ranch: a small therapeutic work community in the Green Mountains of Vermont

Mary Mitiguy, Human Resource Director
Spring Lake Ranch
1169 Spring Lake Rd.
Cuttingsville, VT 05738
(802) 492-3322

Learn more about working for Spring Lake Ranch »


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