Sunday, August 19, 2012

Learning How I Learn Best

Developing self-awareness is in vogue.  Not that anybody would have argued that it was a bad thing, mind you--it just seems as though more energy is being devoted to helping people develop self-awareness earlier and earlier: personality profiles, multiple intelligences, learning styles tests, you name it!  Perhaps it's amplified somewhat at CAJ, where a lot of emphasis is placed on the students developing self-awareness as Third Culture Kids (TCKs) as is, and so we as teachers go in with the mentality that a few more questionnaires and tests really won't hurt.  Students complain that the tests are redundant or inaccurate; sometimes they are, this is true.  However, when the results of several such tests are taken together, with a good measure of reflection and thought thrown in, the students actually end up knowing a lot about how they learn and what conditions they need in order to learn most effectively.

I guess Lynden Christian tried to do this a little bit while I was a student, but I think we took less tests (I remember the Myers-Briggs for sure) and never really coupled the tests with any kind of follow-through or reflection on the results.  I could have told you that words were my strongest ally in the classroom, but that would have been it.  Most of what I now know about my learning style, I've had to scratch out through experience.

Here are a few realizations that I've come to recently:

1. I can't follow directions that are only spoken.  If someone tells me what to do, and it involves multiple steps, I'll get hung up on one of the steps as they are listing the directions, and miss out on a lot of other stuff.

2. If someone shows me how to do something (whether it's mechanical or on a computer), I will likely need them to show me several times, coupled with me actually going through the process along with them to practice.  My first two summer jobs (Premier Agendas, doing typesetting work and Haggen, stocking shelves) were terribly discouraging and frustrating because I found that my bosses/supervisors were often frustrated with what they perceived to be my incompetence.  I always felt self-conscious about asking several times to be shown how to do something, and I could tell that asking wore down on my supervisors after the 3rd or 4th time, but I also knew that it was the only way I'd learn how to do my job well.  It's given me a degree of patience with students who need to ask me how to do something several times before they get it.

3. If I have written directions (particularly well-written and clear directions), I can accomplish even fairly complex tasks on the first attempt.  I honestly think that my summers at Premier and Haggen would have been downright enjoyable if there had been written directions for the basic routines and duties of my job.

4. I need to punctuate long meetings or classes with time to stretch and move around.  I didn't realize this about myself in high school or college, but have noticed it more and more as I've taken summer classes and as I sit through a variety of different meetings as a teacher: I will zone out, get antsy or fall asleep if there's no opportunity to stand and stretch every so often.  Fortunately, teacher's meetings are usually led by teachers who have the sophistication to know that even teachers can't sit still forever.  While summer classes could likely be a mixed bag, with tenured professors who don't belong in the teaching profession lecturing incessantly in some ill-lit rooms (I'm assuming), I've had fairly good professors who either incorporate activities that involve moving or who give periodic breaks during which the students can stretch or take a short walk.  I need this, and classes or meetings where no such opportunity is presented will ultimately be a loss in my book.

5. I need a basic level of noise and activity happening around me in order to work most productively.  This is actually the lesson I've learned most recently, based on the past (almost) 3 weeks of curriculum work and planning at Tully's.  I spent about 40 hours at Tully's for the purpose of work, and I'd say about 95% of that time was focused and productive.  This stands in stark contrast to my trying to work in my apartment (productive less than half the time) and working at school with all of my colleagues back last Friday (barely productive).  I find that I can't work effectively if I'm in a setting that is too quiet, as I find the silence stuffy and stifling.  Weirdly enough, it's not a quick-fix just to turn on the TV or play music in the background: I find this distracting, and will often end up watching TV or listening to the music and not working.  I need the background noise of a public place.  BUT (and this is a big BUT), I can't be surrounded by friends or people I know, like I was at CAJ last Friday.  I can't count how many times I left my desk to go find and talk to people.  Likewise, the 5% of my Tully's time that was unproductive came from occasions when I'd started working and someone I knew had come in and started chatting with me.  Generally, though, Tully's has struck a good balance: not too noisy or distractingly filled with friends; at the same time, not too quiet or isolated.  It's some of the best planning that I've ever done, and on the heels of my resolution to eat out less this year, I'm actually resolving to spend MORE time at Tully's.  If I make a small iced tea a part of my evening routine, it will be an entirely reasonable price to pay for a very good and reliable work-space.

It's fun and exciting to arrive at such realizations--it makes me feel less self-conscious about what I'd always thought of as shortcomings and limitations, as I know that this is simply how I learn and how I function and that there's a mode of operations that will bring out the best in even me.  Let the games begin!

1 comment:

  1. You sound like you're starting the school year really well. I found this today, it might have something useful in it for you.