Nov
09

Paying Attention in Class

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I will be the first to admit that I’m not the best person to give advice on how to pay attention or take notes in class.  I was terrible.  I spent more time reading Perez Hilton and scribbling nonsense in my notebook, than I actually spent paying attention.

I have a very short attention span. 30-40 minutes was my absolute max.  After listening to a professor lecture for 15 minutes I would often hit a wall.  I couldn’t sit still anymore, and I couldn’t begin to focus on the topic of discussion.

I mean, how do you pay attention to someone who drones on and on about boring communication theories for 90 minutes, especially if they don’t move or use PowerPoint? There are so many other more interesting (and important) things to think about.  Like how slow the clock is moving and how hard your chair is.  Or how much you wish you’d dropped this course two weeks ago when you still had the option. Or even how gorgeous that girl/boy over their looks.

I know I’m not the only student who does this. There are plenty of others who just can’t focus.  But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t embarrassed when friends asked to borrow my notes. (I often had more scribbles than actual words in my notebook.) I wanted to be a better student, one that really learns in every class. And I didn’t want my inability to pay attention to ever hurt my grades.

Unfortunately there are no easy answers.

Simply not bringing a laptop to class was not a solution.  It didn’t stop me from watching the guy in front of me play angry birds, or counting how many students in front of me were on Facebook.

Plus, even if I didn’t have my computer, I always had my phone with me.  Texting my boyfriend or even checking the weather often felt more important at the moment.

That’s just the way things are.

I could adjust my position 5 thousand times. I could refuse to bring my laptop, my phone, and even my notebook to class. But that wouldn’t make me pay attention. Sometimes, it wasn’t the right time for me to focus, and attempting to make myself was a waste of effort.  So, over my four years of college I became an expert on not paying attention in class.  Here are a few things you should remember.

1) Professors know exactly what you’re doing on your computer.  They may not call you out but they will remember who you are.

2) If you can pay attention for 5 or 10 minutes at a time, throughout the course of the lecture, than do so.  If you take a 5-minute break from listening every 10 minutes you’ll probably get more out of the lecture than if you attempt to force yourself to pay attention for 30 minutes straight.

3) When you are paying attention get involved in the class.  Volunteer answers and bring questions to class. This will show your professor that you are paying attention (even if you’re not) and it will help you stay focused.

4) If you’re not taking notes than who is? Friends are just as likely to wander off in class as you are. Don’t trust them to get the work done for you.

5) Take advantage of the resources you have available.  Read the textbook and any available online class notes before class.  That way if you’re tuning in and out of the lecture you’ll have a basic idea of what your professor is talking about.

6) Eventually, you’ll have to focus on the coursework, doing it during a class you’re already sitting through might save you time in the future.  Which may mean you’ll have more time for entertaining activities.

7) If you do take your laptop to class, learn how to hide your actual activities.  There is nothing more embarrassing than being called out in front of your entire class.

8) This is obvious, but turn the sound off on your cell phone. Your teacher probably knows what Angry Birds sounds like, she probably plays it in her own free time.