Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Just Showing Up and Living Deliberately
Recently, I had an interesting conversation with a friend who works in a supervisory position, and we discussed the absolute rarity of consistent self awareness and a reasonable work ethic. Occasionally, her employees will note how "things just seem to run so much more smoothly" when she is there. Amazingly, it is lost on these employees that the situation is true precisely because she actively makes it so.
Because there is a sales and customer service component to her job, we discussed how important it is to pay attention to detail. People, be they customers or colleagues, like to be acknowledged, and something as simple as using someone's name or creating comfort out of shared interests can be so important. This is something I learned growing up with a personnel director as a father, as well as working in restaurants. If I heard a customer's name mentioned in passing, I could use it when I delivered their food. If someone was wearing a Cardinal's shirt, I could comment on the game. It is simply called paying attention.
This was reinforced to me when I took the kids to a rock climbing gym the other day. The manager was so attentive to our needs, regularly using our names when she saw us. Of course, we go there regularly, but we also hand in our ID cards each time ... so she knows who we are, and she lets us know that she knows. It's a nice touch that is the sign of a well-run business. And, it's not only natural - though that helps - it comes from working hard at the job and "paying attention to details."
I try to impart similar lessons to students - for, regardless of our subject, effective teachers know that so much of what we do is imparting knowledge and skills on "how to live." Much of life is "showing up" and being self aware. Being organized and self motivated is so important. I tell my students what a special commodity they will be if they simply show up on time each day and do their jobs on a regular basis without having to be reminded. Surprisingly, that is so uncommon.
This extends to the concept of self awareness, paying attention to details, or what Henry David Thoreau liked to call "living deliberately." Early in the year, I have a variety of activities in class focused on teaching students to pay attention to details and become close readers. We look at visuals and key in on details before interpreting them. I encourage students doing research to spend copious amounts of time simply reading. That way they know what they are talking about before they sit down to write. This is what Bob Dylan meant when he wrote "know your song well before you start singing."
From reading literature to conducting research to performing computations to public speaking to interviewing to meeting new friends or asking a girl/boy out, kids need to be taught those basic skills that come from living deliberately.