Studenthood and Time Management

By: Jayson Rowe

Editor’s Note: Jayson is the editor of Between the Times, works in the Information Technology department at SEBTS, is a graduate of the College at Southeastern, and is currently pursuing his M.Div at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

In 2014, at 34 years old, and after over a dozen years into a career, I came back to school to prepare for ministry.

I will candidly admit, I occasionally look back at my previous normal life and I’m a bit jealous of all the free time I once had. Nevertheless, being a seminary student truly is a calling. Because I am following God’s will I am genuinely happy—yet, that doesn’t make me any less busy.

Students here at Southeastern come from many walks of life, and are in many different stages of life, but we have one thing in common—we all have a lot to do. We have school responsibilities, family responsibilities, church responsibilities and most have work responsibilities.

Thankfully, in my time at Southeastern I’ve never been late on an assignment and, in fact, I’m usually finished with things early. This is pretty astonishing, as I have historically not been a very organized person, and could have even been considered a procrastinator most of my life.

I wanted to share some best practices I have learned since returning to studenthood which have helped me personally manage my time as a student.

Know how much time you have:

Before anything else, you must take into account any obligations you have outside of school. Know how much time you will be able to devote to school work every day. Have realistic expectations of how many credit hours you can take each semester. You may be sure of your abilities, but at some point, you will be at the point of no return, or as Dr. Benjamin Quinn likes to say, it’ll be “that time of the semester” and you have no choice to but to dig in and get it done.

Plan your semester:

As soon as you get your syllabuses (and it is syllabuses and not syllabi. You can verify this with Dr. Bruce Ashford) plan out your semester. Make note of any weekly assignments (quizzes, reflection papers), any exams, any book reviews, and any papers or research projects. For any long papers or major research projects, give yourself a due date that is 2 weeks early. This will give you time to not be under pressure, and to have plenty of time to take your work to The Writing Center for feedback, edit well, and turn in polished work.

Know your speed:

For weekly reading, understand your personal reading speed, and know how many pages per day you need to read to complete all assigned reading for the week. Likewise, know your writing speed, and understand how your reading speed relates as you do research for writing. Always over-estimate how long it will take you to do something, and don’t procrastinate.

Work diligently:

It is not helpful to know your reading and writing speed if you are not working to full capacity. When you are on, be on. If you have three hours per day to devote to school work, turn off all distractions and give yourself up to that task fully for three hours.

Rest often:

Try to have one day of rest each week. I have tried to maintain Sunday as a day free of schoolwork. I can’t say I’ve been successful for every Sunday over the past three years, but most have been free from school work. It’s important to have a balance. Remember the first step, and try to make sure you are able to get things done in the amount of time you have budgeted for school work. Time is constant—we all only have 24 hours in each day, and you have to budget time just like money.

In closing, remember this: It is okay to get a ‘B’ in Church History if that keeps you from dropping below an ‘A’ in Family. It’s okay to get a ‘B’ in Theology if it keeps you from dropping below an ‘A’ in your personal devotional life.

Finally, let your school work reflect 1 Corinthians 10:31 and Colossians 3:17—do everything with a worshipful heart.

 

Student-hood as Neighbor-Love (Part 2)

By: Dr. Benjamin Quinn

If Jesus’ words are true (and I believe they are!) that the most important thing about living in God’s world is to love God and love others, how does this apply to Student-hood—that time in life spent in the physical (or virtual) classroom amidst peers and professors?

This is the second post in a series which reflects portions of a “1st day of class” talk I give each semester on “Student-hood as Neighbor-love.”  In Part 1, I discussed the relationship between students and their peers.

The Relationship between Students and Professors 

What does neighbor-love look like for the relationship between professor and student?  We will consider this in light of classroom etiquette, respect and expectations.

Classroom etiquette sets the tone for neighbor love towards one’s professor.  By etiquette, I’m especially referring to attendance, participation and good listening.  In part one, we considered the importance of professors creating an open, participatory environment where listening and learning flows both from teacher to student and from student to teacher.  But, now it is important to underscore that the professor is the classroom leader.  While we may hope for conversational classroom style, ultimately students should defer to the professor’s preferred style of teaching and classroom management.

For students, then, neighbor-love requires no less than showing up for class, thoughtful participation when appropriate and active listening; for “a wise man will listen and increase his learning, and a discerning man will obtain guidance” (Prov. 1:5).

Respect and expectations are also irreducible parts of neighbor-love towards professors.  Respect is straightforward and almost goes without saying.  Then again, respect may be where students struggle the most.

Student emails, for example, frustrate professors more than anything I know of.  It is not the amount of emails, necessarily (though we mustn’t underestimate this!), but the common lack of respect communicated in emails.

Honestly, I do not believe most students intend to be disrespectful.  Instead, students fail to recognize the distinctions in modes of communication.  In other words, emails are not text messages.

Almost weekly, I hear another story of a colleague or fellow professor at another school who received a “text email.”  Here are a few examples:

what time is class

 

u in office? need to talk bout my grades

 

what’s room #?

These are real examples of emails.  No greeting, incomplete sentences, text spelling instead of proper spelling, no salutation; this is the “text email” that plagues professors.

Much could be said here, but I want to offer a word of exhortation for students to respect themselves enough to craft an email that they can be proud of.  It need not be an essay (please, not an essay!), but it should be professional, thoughtful, and respectful.

I give this stump speech at the beginning of each semester and insist to my students; “I’m not saying this because these emails offend me.  Instead, I say it because you will come to me in a year or two and ask for a character reference for your next scholarship or job.  I want to recommend you, but if you send emails that look like text messages, I can’t help you.”

Finally, neighbor-love toward professors carries reasonable expectations.  Professors are human.  We are not perfect.  We misspell words in the syllabus, we forget the details of certain assignments, we struggle to remember everyone’s name, and sometimes—even often times—we do not know the answer to something.

This last point is particularly important.  Despite the fact that accreditors refer to professors as “subject-matter experts,” we’re not.  Education teaches nothing if not how much one does not know.  I’ve often thought the greatest fear of a professor is the possibility that someone might expose how much he/she does not know.

I recall a professor in graduate school who seemed to know everything about theology.  He wasn’t arrogant or trying to give the impression that he knew it all, but to me his wisdom and acumen was endless.  Until one day, about two-thirds of the way through the term, he answered, “I don’t know” to a question.  I was stunned!

He simply said, “I don’t know” and moved on.  He didn’t fumble for a response or make up something.  He just didn’t know, and he was ok with it.  Eventually, so was I.  And, it was good for me to recognize that he didn’t know it all, and I am most grateful that he was humble enough to illustrate that for us.

Professors should cultivate this humble discipline of answering “I don’t know” when necessary.  And, students also must carry the reasonable expectation that professors do not have all the answers.  They know a lot, to be sure, but not everything—especially outside of their field.  Perhaps we can all grow more comfortable with, “I don’t know” now and then.

Dr. Benjamin Quinn is Assistant Professor of Theology and History of Ideas at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Associate Dean of Institutional Effectiveness for the College at Southeastern.