ASC 281: Dynamics of the Paraprofessional Role in Student Development February 6, 2007 Mattering Theory Kevin Moberg Writing Center and Supplemental Instruction Coordinator “To be of importance to others is to be alive.” – T. S. Eliot
Agenda • Review and discuss major concepts of mattering theory • Apply those concepts to your own experiences • Apply those concepts to your work as a paraprofessional in student development
Opening • In your first days and weeks at DSU, who on campus showed you that you “mattered”? How did you know? • Outside DSU, who “matters” to you? How do you show them that? How do they show you that?
Mattering Defined • Fundamental need that we have to feel important and significant to others • Extent to which we make a difference in the world around us • To whom and to what degree we perceive that we matter
Assumptions • Humans need to matter—it’s not merely a nice perk of social living but is instead a fundamental component of our self-identity. • Society, too, needs humans to matter—social bonding and interdependence depend on our wanting to matter to one another.
Discussion • Why does society depend on our feeling as though we matter? • Why would a college community depend on its members’ feeling as though they matter?
Not Mattering • If we don’t notice, believe, or receive indicators from others that we matter • Consequence we must find or create ways to cope with the realization that we do not matter • Even negative attention is preferable to no attention whatsoever.
Not Mattering • “Shunning” in US military academies • Ignoring others of a lower social class • What are other examples? • What are potential reactions by those receiving no attention? • Internalized reactions • Outward reactions
Types of Mattering • General—mattering in a broad sense to society • Interpersonal—mattering to specific other people
Awareness • We matter if others recognize, acknowledge, and pay attention to us. • Negative attention is better than no attention at all. • What are examples of ways to obtain others’ attention • in a positive way? • in a negative way?
Relationship—Importance • We matter if others are interested in, concerned about, and invested in us. • We matter if we are someone’s “ego extension”—if they take pride in our accomplishments and feel shame over our shortcomings.
Relationship—Reliance • We matter if others depend on us for resources for their needs or wants. • What are the benefits of this reliance for • the person being depended upon? • the person doing the depending?
Genuine Mattering • When others attend to, care about, or rely on us as an end unto itself—not as a means to gain something for themselves • Example of insincerity: “I will pretend that you matter to me because I know that you can help me get that great job that I’d like.”
Related Constructs From social psychology: • Self-consciousness • Self-monitoring • Self-esteem • Alienation • Meaninglessness • Normlessness • Social support
Positive Relationship Mattering and • Self-esteem—evaluation of our own attributes • Self-monitoring—control of self-representations that we put forth every day • Social support—resources that others provide us to aid us in our lives
Discussion Why might you expect a sense of mattering in someone who has • healthy self-esteem? • control of his/her self-representation? • strong social support?
Negative Relationship Mattering and • Self-consciousness—chronic tendency to be the object of our own attention • Alienation • Meaninglessness—thinking that there are no rules for life, so social interactions are unpredictable • Normlessness—thinking that social rules are ineffective and should be broken
Discussion Why might you expect a low sense of mattering in someone who has • high self-consciousness? • a sense of meaninglessness? • a sense of normlessness?
Connections Mattering to others • High self-concept • High self-significance • Physical wellness • Psychosocial well-being • Social support • Job satisfaction
Connections Not mattering to others • Depression • Loneliness • Academic stress • Job-related stress • Deviant behavior
Mattering for Paraprofessionals • We feel we matter to those whom we help. • Sense of mattering brings meaning and satisfaction to our work. • Students whom we help feel they matter to us. • Sense of mattering leads to confidence, persistence, retention, dedication, success, etc.
Expressing How Others Matter • The perception of mattering—a sense of social support—is what’s important. • Others’ indicators that we matter won’t mean anything unless we notice those indicators.
Discussion In your role as a paraprofessional meaning to communicate to a student that he/she matters, how might you do so • verbally? • non-verbally? How can you check that he/she has noticed your verbal or non-verbal indicators?
Students’ Differing Needs More study required: • Age • Sex • Ethnicity • Socioeconomic background • Sexual orientation • Family structure
Discussion Return to your writing from the beginning of class. • How can you interpret your early college experience through the “lens” of mattering theory? • How can you explain your non-DSU relationships in terms of mattering theory?
Closing Describe a scenario in which you, as a paraprofessional in student development, interact with another student. Explain how you might apply what you know about mattering theory to that interaction. Keep in mind:
Closing • Attention—the sense that we are noticed • Importance—the belief that what we say or do has importance • Ego extension—the feeling that others will be proud or disappointed in us • Dependence—the sense that someone is counting on us • Appreciation—the view that our efforts are appreciated