While I have been blessed with a small hand full of mentors in my life – true, committed mentors…not the trite use of the word for occasional acts of mentorship – Dr. Frank Pajares stands out for me. Among countless reasons, Dr. P stands out because of a conversation that we had in his office one day. After two hours of conversing, I looked at my Timex Ironman watch, and I apologized for keeping him so long. He closed his book, which we were referencing, and he looked over the top edge of his glasses. Then, he said, “The greatest gift you can ever give me is to ignore your watch when we are working together. I am not thinking about the time; I would encourage you not to think about the time. Us working and learning together is what’s important.”
I tend to be a very task-oriented person. I care deeply for people, but I sometimes give off a different vibe because I do like to check things off a list. Dr. P further changed my paradigm about task completion that day, which was over ten years ago as I was completing graduate school. (I fall short of Dr. P’s ideal all the time, but I am working on it.)
Today, Dr. P flashed into my mind when I was talking to a colleague with whom I work at Westminster. We’ll call him B. At this time of year, I have a million things on the task list. To name just a few, I am working on new faculty orientation details, faculty recognition citations, Apple roll out issues, etc. Truly, though, I did not think about any of those things while I was meeting with B. He had some important things to discuss, and we sit down together about once every month or two months to discuss some questions we have about education, school structure, etc. After about 80 minutes of talking, he was getting up to go, and he apologized for taking so much time.
Dr. P flashed through my mind. Something he shared with me years ago has helped shape me a bit better, and now I could genuinely say that all those tasks were inconsequential to me compared to the conversation I was having with B. I was thinking, learning, questioning, considering. Who knows how that thinking might come back to benefit later when engaged with an issue or challenge. During the conversation with B, we talked through several scenarios; the time was infinitely worthwhile. I bet, in the long-run, the conversation proves to be a time saver, instead of a time waster – because I was able to rehearse some thinking with a great thinker before I needed the thinking “in battle.”
During the conversation, though, B made a remark that he is still having to justify to people that time on Twitter or blogging is not a time waster, but rather a time saver. The thought occurred to me that I bet those people would not claim that this face-to-face conversation was a time waster…in general, that time spent with another human in conversation is what we should be doing, for instance, instead of tweeting and blogging so much.
But, then, a George Couros adage came to mind – there are people at the other end of those screens and keyboards. We are connecting when we employ those tools. In fact, B and I were able to have the depth of conversation that we were having, at least in part, because we “talk” regularly by following each other’s tweets and blog posts. Moreover, We remarked that by tweeting and blogging, we are able to maintain many streams of conversation and learning that can keep us connected and thinking on a number of exciting and invigorating fronts in education and schooling.
I don’t regret any time I tweet, blog, or connect with my colleagues on social media tools. By doing so, we are thinking and learning and reflecting together. I also don’t regret any of that face to face time spent in personal dialogue. BOTH are important. BOTH are “time savers” in the long run. And, even if they aren’t, they are “life savers,” as they broaden and deepen my network of connected learners…my tribe.
Dr. P died a few years ago, but I like to think that this story would make him proud. I still learn from him everyday. He was THE master of contextual thought and deed, and I think the context in which we connect to think and learn together would excite him – as long as we valued the relationships built by those connections…and ignored our watches. Thanks, Dr. P. Love you.
I was moved by this particular post, especially in our team efforts to add transparency to how we share with one another as educators in providing feedback for learning and growth. As Dean of Faculty, I’m going to try an experiment for this upcoming year with Peer Observations and see just how much it increases connections because, like Stephen Johnson claims, good ideas get incubated and catalyzed by connectivity.
I couldn’t help but think about the 8 to 10 people I am currently playing “Words with Friends” with. Though this isn’t a “work” game at all, it is a way we keep in touch through technology. We rarely leave messages for each other, but the fact that we know we are thinking about each other every time we send a word is more connection than I usually get with most of the people I am playing with. I don’t have time to have an in-depth conversation with all these people, but I do have time to spend a few minutes sending them my next move. I wish there was a math game we could play with interested students; that would be a kind of neat connection; similar to the kids who choose to follow teachers on twitter. (I can hear both daughters saying, “Mom, that is so lame; no student would play a phone game with their teacher?” 🙂 )