The majority of us don’t know what it means to pay attention.  We’ve been told to pay attention since pre-K, but we were not told how, so we didn’t.  Now that we’re adults, we tell children to pay attention, but like those before us, we don’t offer any clue how to proceed.

Paying attention to something means focusing on the subject.  Get this…there is no such thing as multi-tasking.  Some of us can task really quickly, and we think we’re doing all of this at the same time, but the truth of the matter is that our attention is jumping from one subject to the other very quickly.  In other words, we are focusing our attention on several things one at a time, not at the same time.  As we get older, the speed with which we can switch our attention from one thing to the next becomes slower.  At some point, we begin to forget things and we say things like, “Now, where was I?” 

This same thing can be experienced by you the student who has a lot of things on your mind.  You’re trying to push the limit of your attention span, but you are becoming overwhelmed.  Now what?   Sometimes students react by shutting down and even say things like, “I just can’t learn this.”  It’s at this point that you need to realize that it’s not about your ability to learn.  It’s about your ability to pay attention.  You are trying to process too many things at once.  What will help is if you slow down and compartmentalize your attention.  What I mean is purposefully think about only one thing at a time without allowing thoughts of another to intrude.

Paying attention requires practice.  Focus on A&P for 20 minutes and nothing else.  Don’t allow your mind to wander.  Stay focused, and you’ll see how different and good it feels to learn.  It may take a few tries, but it’ll happen.  You just have to keep practicing. It may even help you to create a schedule.  Twenty minutes of pure focus and concentration on each subject can be more beneficial than a couple of hours of distracted “attention.”  Try it.  You might learn something.

Elisama Puente - Campus President, Houston SW Campus