The Great Collegiate Juggling Act

If you’re like me, your mind constantly races off in a million directions.

As you sit in Physics of Everyday Life, you worry about your Bible Survey homework. As you sit in Bible Survey, you open an email from your Lifelong Fitness professor about your nutrition logs. As you sit in your room working on your nutrition logs, you can’t help wondering if you’ll have enough time to finish your physics lab write-up.

This is college: also known as multitasking.

The great juggling act in which we all find ourselves participating can be fun. At a liberal arts institution, we have the incredible opportunity to take multiple classes in vastly different disciplines. We can balance out lab or lecture-heavy schedules with ceramics or yoga or U.S. history. Extra-curricular activities beckon to us from brightly-colored posters hung up around campus. The chances to learn, to be involved, to “be known,” are many.

But even though we may feel involved or “known,” how much are we actually learning?

When you start to think of class time as a valuable opportunity in which to check up or catch up on work for other classes—and when you will do the same thing when you get to those classes—something seems a little off.

In attempting to juggle classes, homework, assignments, maybe a club or work-study job, we are losing the chance to focus. When you’re sending ten different objects looping through the air above your head, it is impossible to watch one of them intently without the others falling down.

This is perhaps the most unfortunate aspect of the liberal arts experience: the fact that we can only spend x amount of time working on something that truly interests and excites us before everything else comes crashing down in a wave of impending deadlines and projects.

But what can we do? When multitasking is such a fundamental piece of the college experience, can that piece be altered without upsetting the whole?

Maybe change can start with us. Maybe instead of standing out on the quad with signs reading “NO MORE BUSYWORK OR BUST,” we can close our laptops in class and try to quiet the voice that tells us to check our email or work on other assignments. We can ask questions, scribble down notes, and rest in the knowledge that we are not superhuman. We will make mistakes; we will let some things slide; we will forget about that one FoxTale quiz.

But at the end of the day, as we pack up our backpacks and head out of a lecture or a lab or a club meeting, we will hopefully have learned.

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