At the recent Catholic Digital Media Conference, Laura and I were asked to present a workshop on blogging.

We arrived early (at the D'Arcy Room!) so we could compare notes before speaking. The minutes ticked by quickly and soon our audience was filing through the door. While everyone found seats, I took one last glance at my notes before looking up. And there was Archbishop Julian Porteous.

I’d already met Archbishop Porteous. He confirmed Sophie several years ago. More recently, he'd sat almost next to me in the auditorium earlier that day. Yes, I’d tucked my feet under my seat so he could shuffle past me to an empty seat on the other side of my neighbour.

And now Archbishop Porteous was sitting in the centre of the D’Arcy Room, a smile on his face, his eyes twinkling. Leaning towards us, he looked like a man who couldn’t wait to hear all about our experiences of blogging. Blogging was important. We were important. For the duration of the workshop, the archbishop gave us his full attention. I don’t think he looked away even once while we were speaking.

Laura and I spoke. The words flowed. We answered questions. We smiled. We even laughed. And everyone laughed with us. I really enjoyed the session. I hope our audience did too.

And do you know what I attribute the good feeling of the workshop to? I can’t speak for Laura, but when it was my turn to speak, it was the archbishop who made a difference to my words.

I once read about an experiment which involved a professor who was known for his dull lectures. His students had given up. They barely listened while the professor droned on and on.Then one day, it was suggested the students model good listening. They sat forward on their seats, looking as if they were eager to catch every word. They made eye contact with the professor. They didn’t fidget or look bored. And do you know what happened? The professor came alive. He started to believe that what he was saying was indeed interesting. A wave of energy passed through the room and his words started flowing with passion. After a while the students stopped pretending to be interested. They really were engrossed in the lecture.

I don't know if our audience learnt anything useful from my part of the presentation, but I learnt something: The speaker may seem to be important, and indeed it’s a great honour to be asked to present a session, but really, she doesn't work on her own. The audience contributes to a speaker's success. Without Archbishop Porteous and a room full of kind people, who were obviously prepared to listen, I never would have been able to speak. My words would have lacked passion. They would have gradually died away, and I’d have returned home convinced I was the most boring speaker on earth.

After our workshop, I had books and notes to gather before heading to the auditorium to hear the next speaker on the program. Most of the delegates were already seated. As I crept up the stairs, looking for an empty seat, I noticed Archbishop Porteous sitting at the end of a row. As I passed by, he reached out and grasped my arm. He looked me in the eye and whispered, “Thank you!” There was real warmth and gratitude in those words.

But it's me who should be doing the thanking:

Archbishop Julian Porteous, you made me feel as if every word I spoke was of great importance. That was so encouraging. Thank you!


Please feel welcome to join me on my Sue Elvis Writes Facebook page. We've been chatting about books and beautiful pictures!



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  1. How neat that he was there to hear your presentations and so engaged in it! You are so right, Sue, for us in the audience so to speak to be active listeners to who is talking. No matter if it is something we don't find interest in, they still went through a lot to prepare for it, so we should be polite and listen and interact with them best we can. I'll do that with sermons I hear; if I agree, I'll nod with something; just to let them know someone is actually listening :)

    betty

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    1. Betty,

      I didn't expect to have an archbishop in our audience! He was so delightful.

      Active listening... you have said that perfectly! Usually we choose to listen to someone speak. We're hoping to be entertained or learn something, so yes, we should do our bit and listen actively. I guess there's nothing worse than having spent a long time preparing a talk and then facing an audience who won't even make eye contact. So discouraging!

      I love your comment. Thank you!

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  2. Oh yes, audience "participation" (and nods and attentive faces are definitely participation!) can make all the difference in the world, can't it?

    What an honor to have the Archbishop there!

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    1. Nancy,

      Oh yes, there should be audience participation. I suppose there is a relationship between speaker and listener. It's not static but active as Betty said. Both have a role to play. Whenever I'm talking to a friend who's not really listening, my words end up fading away. It's not a good feeling.

      It was indeed an honour to have the archbishop in our midst. I would never have predicted he would be interested in blogging. Actually I think he's the sort of person who is interested in everyone and what they are doing. A rare man!

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  3. What an experience for you, he is really a wonderful man!

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    1. Kelly,

      It was indeed a wonderful experience having the archbishop at our workshop. I was surprised he didn't claim VIP status at the conference. Instead he looked for a seat among the crowd, the same as everyone else, and attended the workshops too.

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  4. What a wonderful story and I'm keen to hear what you spoke about!:)

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    1. oh and it was THAT Laura! I love her blog!!

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    2. Erin,

      I am guessing lots of people know about Laura. Her blog is understandably very popular. Wasn't I fortunate having such a great person like the archbishop in our audience? I'm glad you are interested in my workshop notes. Thank you!

      Delete
  5. Oh gosh, I used to do that with my professors in community college, but it was more to make sure I paid attention to the subject matter. I did feel at times like the professors were talking to me. :-) But, I do think that it's a two-way street between teachers/students, workshop speakers/attendants, etc. When everyone comes to the place alert and open, willing to receive and give, then amazing magic happens. The Archbishop sounds like a wonderful gentle man.

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    1. Susie,

      Yes, amazing magic does happen when both speakers and listeners arrive ready to do their bit!

      I've heard performers say, "Thank you for being a wonderful audience!" Maybe they are just being polite or perhaps an audience can indeed lift even an excellent performer just that bit higher. It's good to know people are really paying attention, isn't it?

      I think we are very blessed in our archbishop! Actually he isn't the archbishop of my diocese but I've had the good fortune to meet him twice now. I hope our paths cross again in the future. I was thinking about buying one of his books. Maybe I will!

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  6. Sue, I met a nun from Australia and she told me her sister was trying to homeschool but received little support. I was surprised because I thought you were a big community out there. I told her to look you up, since you're an expert on unschooling. The nun and her sister are from MElbourne. Do you have contacts from there? I know you do since you are rubbing shoulders with the ARchbishop now ;) Email me bythefinger@yahoo.com if you do.

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    1. Anabelle,

      Yes, it can be hard to find other homeschoolers for support, especially ones that are kindred spirits! Do I have contacts in Melbourne? I think I do! I will do some research and will email you very soon!

      Rubbing shoulders with the archbishop? Oh yes! That was a wonderful experience. Such a great man.

      I shall now go chat to a couple of friends and get right back to you!

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    2. Anabelle,

      I forgot to comment on your words 'expert on unschooling'. Me, an expert? That's funny. The longer I unschool, the more I realise I don't know! Anyway, is the nun's sister an unschooler? I'm hoping an unschooling friend of mine lives in or near Melbourne. I'm about to find out!

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  7. Thank you for your kind words on my blog. I appreciate them very much. And I am doing as you said - just keep praying and know God is with me. God bless!

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    1. Colleen,

      I am keeping you in my prayers and thoughts. There hasn't been much going on on this blog recently, so I was surprised to see a new comment. It is always lovely to chat with you. Thank you for stopping by. God bless you!

      Delete
  8. Hi Sue, just to let you know I haven't been able to access your Unschooling blog for a couple of days. Hope everything's ok and it comes back soon!

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  9. Well, at least it's not just me! I haven't been able to access the unschooling blog either!

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  10. lordmakehaste and Leena,

    Thank you for your comments and interest in my unschooling blog. It is back online!

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    1. There seems to be a problem with my blog. It is set for public viewing but isn't showing up. Sorry about that. I hope I can work out what's wrong.

      Delete
    2. There seems to be a problem with my blog's domain name. You could try the old address www.storiesunschoolingfamily.blogspot.com.

      Delete
  11. Hi there Sue~~
    Hope all is well..... I wanted to let you know that I nom your blog SOAUF for the 2014 Blog awards.
    http://hsbapost.com/2014-homeschool-blog-awards/best-homeschool-methods-blog/

    Congrats on such a wonderful blog, Sue!!


    I know you're having difficulties with it right now....so sorry that's happening!

    Gotta run be I'll talk with you soon
    xoxoxo

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    1. Chris,

      You are such a beautiful friend. Thank you! I am smiling. It's a big smile. You have cheered me up! I still haven't fixed my blog address problem but I'll keep working on it. Thank you so much for the nomination and your very kind words. Love to you! xxx

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    2. Oh you're so welcome! we have a thread going at the FB page for Catholic Bloggers Network with all the blogs nom and you're there. We haven't forgotten you even tho you're not on FB right now!!

      "Talk " to you soon!
      Good luck with the blog issues..... :(
      xoxoxoxo

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    3. Chris,

      You haven't forgotten me? That's so lovely. Yes, I am not on FB at the moment, although my Sue Elvis Writes page is still there. Some good news... my unschooling blog is back at its proper address!!! I spent hours trying to work out how to fix this problem and was finally successful about an hour ago. Now I will be able to think of other things like visiting you at your blog! I read your last post via email but I will be over for a visit soon. So good to chat. xxx

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