The other day, Zach (at Reflections on Holes in Graphs and Reasoning) wrote about how he was reminded of how it feels to be a learner while auditing a Hapkido class.
It made me realize how quickly us professional learners forget what it’s like to be in the learner role.
I’m having a similar experience to Zach this week. I am taking a knitting class to learn how to make socks. This is something I’ve wanted to learn for many years, but have shied away because it seemed “too difficult” and too “above my level”. REMINDER 1: it’s often our immediate reaction to shy away from challenge.
The first class was fine because it involved doing things I already knew. Awesome! I love it! I’m great at this! I’ll knit socks all the time! REMINDER 2: class is always awesome when you already know how to do it.
In the second class, we started by learning the heal flap. I was a bit confused, but I was doing okay because the stitches weren’t too different than what we were doing before. REMINDER 3: class is still pretty good if it’s not too far of a stretch.
But then we started running out of time and the instructor went very quickly through the heel turn, picking up stitches for the gusset, knitting the gusset, then how to do custom decrease for the foot if needed. WOAH. WOAH. WOAH THERE!! That was too fast! Too much information! I wanted to try it, not just watch it! I wanted to do this in class so the instructor could help me if I had problems! REMINDER 4: too much information that comes too quickly is way too confusing and can be paralyzing; REMINDER 5: trying it yourself really helps with learning.
During this burst of information, the instructor made a couple passing comments that made me start questioning my ability as a knitter. REMINDER 6: even small negative comments can have a lasting effect on students.
I went home to try out what the instructor showed us, and it was a complete disaster. I had made a mistake, tried to fix it, and it just got worse and worse. I got SO frustrated and angry. I was annoyed at myself for not being able to do it, and at the instructor for not covering the most difficult part of socks during class time. REMINDER 6: Learning can be frustrating, and it can come out in different ways.
This morning, I had a friend help me fix my sock. I’m back on track, but I’m a bit gun-shy about moving forward. REMINDER 8: Failure can be a big stumbling block for some.
Here are some things I’ll need to remind myself of:
- It’s important to encourage a growth mindset, but understand that it takes a lot of time to embrace it and most will stumble along the way
- Challenge is good, but not too much and not too fast all at once. Slowing down and ensuring everyone is on the same page is crucial
- Make sure that students have ample time to try it themselves and offer support (though my flipped experience flopped, I think it really has merit on this point)
- Be careful with wording and don’t be too negative
- Frustration can manifest itself in many ways; it’s important to empathize, but help students find ways to cope with and overcome it.
Like Zach concluded in his post, I think it’s important that we put ourselves in the role of a learner so we stay in touch with what our students are dealing with every day.