Lynn Spruill: The value of showing up


Lynn Spruill



Many years ago one of my exs attended a prestigious management seminar on the East Coast. She was smitten with a concept she got from that experience, and quoted it so often that I even memorized it. She is now a big muckety-muck at IBM, so I assume it has served her well over the years.


They called it the Four Rules for Success: "Show up, pay attention, tell the truth and don't be tied to the outcome." It is one of those precepts that rings true and has applications beyond business management.


A recent campus brouhaha over mandatory class attendance reminded me of this axiom. The Reflector, the MSU student newspaper, printed an opinion piece arguing against attendance requirements. A couple of weeks later it printed the counterpoint op-ed piece.



It occurred to me that this management strategy could and should be applied to the classroom. Notably, it starts with showing up.


The advocate for changing the policy argued students can learn about being an adult the hard way. The theory posited was you have paid your money, and as an adult consumer you can make your choices: attend or not attend. The author was disturbed about the possibility of a lower grade for not showing up even though he knew the material.


The counter article pointed out the value of learning to show up, equating it to the requirement of an employer expecting the attendance of an employee at work. This writer also emphasized the value of a structured environment for the student.


Recalling my college days, I felt attendance wasn't necessary when I thought I knew as much as I needed to from the subject matter. But in hindsight, class is about so much more and informs a student beyond grades.


The student thinks he or she is fully entitled to ditch a class with no consequences; after all, they are paying the fare. Reality check: the Mississippi Institution of Higher Learning (IHL) gets a major portion of its budget not from tuition but from the State of Mississippi. That budget -- and thus the cost of a student's education --is largely supported by taxpayers.


As a taxpayer subsidizing a portion of that educational opportunity, I like to think of it as a community investment. When a student opts not to attend class for whatever rationalization, I'm not getting the return on my investment I should. I'll wager Mom and Dad have expectations of class attendance for their investment dollar as well.


As an employer, I agree that requiring attendance helps instill the practice of personal discipline mimicking workplace expectations. Showing up for class is an indicator of work ethic and respect for the professor and the class. That isn't learned from simply acing the exam.


There are lessons to be learned from actually being in the classroom, knowledge that doesn't show up on tests. Developing the patience to listen to other opinions whether you agree, disagree or are bored silly by them is an essential component of citizenship. Better citizenship requires listening and trying to understand another's perspective to help inform your opinions.


If you intend to participate meaningfully in your community as a volunteer, an elected official, a member of the local school's parent organization, you sometimes have to endure much to glean kernels of wisdom from your compatriots. You are more likely to learn those traits from classroom participation than from skipping class in favor of happy hour.


At its best, the classroom environment provides the give and take of ideas that makes a positive difference and a better person. You can't know what you don't know if you don't show up to learn from others and allow them to learn from you.


Lynn Spruill, a former commercial airline pilot, elected official and city administrator owns and manages Spruill Property Management in Starkville. Her email address is [email protected]




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