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RA Pre-Service Training: It Is All About Themes!

Submitted By: Naomi Letendre, Area Coordinator, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Using themes can change your training from plain and boring to upbeat and exciting. Listed below are a few themes that will definitely help you motivate your staff to keep going throughout those long days and nights ahead of RA training.

  • A Fish theme, thanks to Disney and The Pike’s Place Fish Market surely you can have a blast talking about teamwork, determination and hanging in there through all the good and bad times. Use the book Fish to have your staff talk about a new customer service approach, through the four philosophies your staff will quickly pick up a better attitude and the best in all around them. Fresh Ideas Start Here is surely the motto you want your staff yelling in the halls; create opportunities for them to FISH around for new ideas for your training schedule and in-services.
  • An African Safari! A safari can be wild, exciting and scary, so can being an RA. Have your RA’s roaring into the new year by creating an African Safari training they will never forget. Using training topics such as “Taming the Lions,” could be surefire ways to get your staff interested in hearing about all those policies and procedures. Get camouflage shirts for the staff to wear during opening day and tell them they are “Jeff Corwin,” from animal plant for the day. They can also take the Jeff Corwin Experience one step further for their freshman by being the leader of a campus safari, “resource tour.” When discussing with your staff about the importance of being role models etc. you can find some great examples in Disney’s Lion King!
  • Shopping: There is nothing like a good day of shopping, so why not make your training into a full blown shopping experience. Help outfit your RA by filling their shopping bags with all the supplies they will need to be successful. Using stores from your local mall I am sure all of you shopaholics can create a fantastic mall experience for your staff! Oh and do not forget about coupons, give your staff coupon books that need to be stamped after the different sessions and orientation events. The staff member who has the most stamps wins something fun!
  • RA training is more fun than a barrel of monkeys! That is right that old barrel of monkeys game can be used as a training tool and here is how; not all the monkeys in the barrel are the same!

    Give each group of 4 a barrel of monkeys. Ask each group to take the barrel of monkeys and follow directions on barrel (directions say dump monkeys out of barrel and try to link them by the arms without having them unlink.) The only change you should add to the barrel directions is that they must do this activity as a team. After 15 minutes each team should have linked all the monkeys. Come to a large group and discuss how each group did this. After they have talked about the different ways in which they accomplished the activity, talk about how each barrel is the same but everyone took on the activity differently. Have the group think about and discuss how at times we lump people into categories because they look the same, even though they may be different. Have them think about what characteristics make each one of the group members different and then discuss these differences and what they add to the community. You can follow up with talking about diversity issues, and/or leadership styles.


There are so many different everyday things out there that can be turned into training themes from, “We are definitely not in Kansas anymore” to “Trading Spaces”, filling the tool box with the necessary tools to get through opening. All it takes is imagination and some creative thinking. Challenge your staff to get involved, if you have any RA’s who are around and want to get there hands a little dirty have them roll up their sleeves and get creative. The more people involved the more invested they will all be!

Good luck as you turn that ordinary training into a week full of high energy and fun activities.

About the Author

Naomi Letendre is an Area Coordinator at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. At WPI, Naomi is responsible for assisting in the management of the Residential Services program, with primary focus on student and staff development and paraprofessional training. For the past year she has been a member of the WPI Residence Life team. Prior to moving to Residence Life she worked in Student Activities at WPI for two years.