Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Where You Teach, What You Learn by Andy Scheer

I just got back from a road trip in which I attended two Midwestern writers conferences and spoke to writing students at Taylor University. So I might think that I'd taught for nine hours, not counting my 36 one-on-one appointments.

But a statement a woman made during one of those appointments—added to what I told the students at Taylor—reminds me that as writing professionals, our teaching is not nearly so limited.

During our appointment time this past weekend in Kansas City, a woman thanked me for something I'd taught her years ago during a conference in Glorieta, New Mexico. I didn't remember her, so I asked what she had learned.

Turns out the big lesson she gained from me didn't come in a class—or even directly pertain to writing. In those years the Glorieta conference was directed by an especially Type-A individual. The schedule was packed with sessions from breakfast until ten at night.

But not for me. Knowing I needed time to reflect and to unwind, I'd excused myself from attending not only the night owl workshops, but also the evening general session. While I could be there in body, I knew my mind and spirit were not up to participating.

So I found a comfy chair in the lobby of the residence hall and gave myself permission to sprawl—despite the risk of conferees seeing me and my faculty name tag.

This past weekend I was reminded that a Glorieta conferee had asked me if I was okay. I'd told her my brain was full and I'd given myself permission to take the evening off. Nearly a decade later, she said that brief encounter proved one of the most valuable lessons she learned at that conference—and that it had shaped her attitude toward every one she'd attended since.

And I thought I was done with teaching for the day.

As I spoke to students in the professional writing program at Taylor University, I emphasized that everything they do affects their professional reputation. Do they meet their deadlines, fulfill their assignments, and consistently deliver quality work? Editors remember that.

Can they say, like Dr. Seuss's elephant Horton, “I meant what I said and I said what I meant”? Any time you interact with a colleague, you teach them something—often about you. In the writing business, we keep encountering the same people. My current boss for much of my freelance editing work was once part of my editorial staff at Moody magazine. These days I appreciate what I'm learning from her, and I hope she can say the same. After all, you never know what—or when—you're teaching.


Anne Love said...

Thanks Andy. I think that is true whether its writing, or our day jobs--but especially true because we are to be Ambassadors for Christ. That is, we represent Him everywhere we go, and in everything we do, say, or write.
Also, its nice to know you took time to speak to students at Taylor. My daughter is hoping to attend there next year for professional writing.

Timothy Fish said...

A few years ago, I was privileged to lead the singing at the annual meeting of an association attended by about 1,600 pastors and church leaders. The president that year was a highly respected pastor in the work. I have heard him preach on more than one occasion and I’ve never heard him do less than an excellent job. Before the session, I went up on stage to introduce myself. He was sitting at a table next to the lectern. He had his briefcase open in front of him and he was arranging all of the papers he would need for that session. But whatever was going through his mind about the forthcoming business, when as we shook hands and I told him that I was to be the one leading the singing, I could tell from the way he made eye contact, and the words he spoke that he had his full attention on me. The message he conveyed was that I was the most important person in the world (for the moment at least). He could have spent an hour preaching on how we should treat people and not taught me as much as that encounter of just a few seconds.

Yvonne Blake said...

Great article!

There have times in my life when someone has told me of something I said or did that impacted their life. More often than not, it was something I didn't even know I was doing.

It's humbling and exciting to know that God wants to work through our lives ALL the time...even when we don't know we are ministering to others.

Thank you for the reminder.

Rick Barry said...

When I worked on the the security department of the university I attended, we referred to our glass-enclosed post at the front entrance as "the fishbowl." All our actions could be seen. Supervisors often reminded us that our actions in the fishbowl could leave lasting impressions on people passing by. That lesson is good for life in general.

Glad you arrived home safely, Andy. I heard many positive comments from fellow Hoosier authors.