The 2017 Scootah Hockey World Championship was certainly a nail-biter. Each year, the tournament is hosted by MIT undergraduate dorm Simmons Hall.
For the past two years, B-Towah (i.e. 8th, 9th, and 10th floors of B-Tower in Simmons) has scooted away with the trophy (check out the 2017 exciting final minute here.) Ten teams of students, each representing one of the ten “sections” of the dorm, scoot around on their butts and slap plastic pucks into tiny nets, all for the eternal glory of the world championship title. And I was their coach.
Well, ok, I’m nominally their coach; really I’m more like their scootah hockey mom. I lose my voice cheering at games, bring a box of tissues for the teams we beat (see the picture), and buy my team Mike’s Pastry’s when we crush the competition.
However, my actual official role for the B-Towah students is being their GRT, or Graduate Resident Tutor. I’m a graduate student who is also a resident of Simmons Hall (along with the undergrads), but I don’t actually tutor anyone. It’s one-third misnomer. Instead, I’m a mentor, like a big brother, for my 40 B-Towah students.
It seems that many grad students don’t even know that the GRT position exists or perhaps have misconceptions about the role. It’s very unlike the traditional RA (Resident Assistant) role at other universities: there are no 2am rounds, no sorting mail, no tedious rule-enforcement. Instead, I live in and help build an inclusive community for a diverse group of extremely talented and intelligent undergrads.
I spend a lot of time chatting with students in the hallways or over dinner in the dining hall. One of my favorite activities is hosting study breaks. I’ll make bubble tea, tacos-in-a-bag, and fruit pizza--all sorts of tasty treats to give my students a break from their p-sets.
GRT life is not always fun and scootah hockey games, however. From time-to-time, student issues or emergencies arise, and I put other things aside – like class, research, or sleep – to assist. My first weekend as a GRT, I spent Saturday morning, 12-6am, in the hospital with a student who was having trouble breathing. (She was ok.)
After chatting for six hours, we bonded over our love of musicals and are still good friends today. I’ve also had difficult late night conversations with students concerned about the health and safety of their friends or with some even worried about family members being deported.
Honestly, sometimes I don’t know the best thing to say. GRT training, of course, helps prepare you, but oftentimes students just need a listening ear.
This is my third year as a GRT for B-Towah in Simmons. I’ve had two sets of my seniors graduate; I still send them memes. I’ve got two Scootah Hockey championships under my belt and am looking forward to another this spring.
And then in a year’s time, I hope to be walking across the stage along with my first set of freshmen. (I should probably save some tissues for then.) It’s been an absolute pleasure and privilege living with and learning from the students of Simmons Hall. Hopefully, they’ve learned something from me, too.
Learn more about the GRT position and application process at https://beagrt.mit.edu. Also, several other amazing GRTs have written about their experiences in The Tech. Find their stories here and here.