My t-shirt (photo, r.) got some laughs at the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) conference in Washington, D.C. this weekend. It was a birthday gift from my daughters, and it’s precisely what I find myself saying to my students when they seem surprised by an assignment or a class policy. In fact, most teachers say it a lot, and in its silly way it speaks volumes about how much we all simply don’t pay enough attention.
I can tell you with some embarrassment that I’ve almost thrown out checks and credit cards, because the mail looked like junk and I was too careless to open the envelope. We allow ourselves to become so distracted that we don’t read past the cover or think things through or ponder before taking action. We multitask to our own detriment and, as a result, we wind up making mistakes and missing opportunities. Hallway conversations become quasi-meetings, and email messages become a substitute for contemplative brainstorming and conversation.
This is why I enjoy conferences as much as I do. I relish the chance to completely focus on a presentation. The cell phone is off, no TV is on, the dog isn’t asking to play, and no one’s dropping by the office with a quick question. I get to listen to every word, share ideas and contemplate how they apply to my own experience. And that is exactly the point of a conference. It’s a chance to get away from our every day environment and do some critical thinking–without interruptions. Then we enhance our professional lives by applying what we’ve learned.
Yes, it’s on the syllabus. It’s in the envelope. It’s in the classroom, at the conference, in the program. It’s taking time to hear the words and really listen. It’s enjoying the parts of our day when we can pause, observe, and experience the moment. Sometimes it’s just forcing ourselves to slow down, pay attention and think. Your thoughts?
Next week: What I heard and learned at
the PRSSA conference