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Posts tagged ‘frustration’

Learning to Learn

I really wanted to write this article on the stages of learning. Partly because it has surprised me how consistently the patterns of learning stay the same, no matter how different the subjects are.  I have learned a lot of new things in my life, and each time there are stages to the learning, that once recognized become comforting. I don’t think I’m alone in this.

There are three stages, which are mostly linear, although at times you can slide back and forth from one to another. The first stage is the “Left handed fork” stage, where the learning is clumsy, slow and frustrating, like trying to eat with your left hand. This is when you are most likely to get discouraged. If you are not talented in an area, or if what you are learning is completely foreign, this stage can be quite extensive. I doubt anyone enjoys this stage, but it is necessary to get to the later ones.

The second stage is “Confidence”, when the learning is getting enjoyable. Think when a kid is learning to ride a bike and starts screaming “I got it, I’m really doing it.” For more complicated learning tasks, like learning a computer, it’s when you have a framework to in your head to plug the new information into. If you have natural talent or some familiarity in an area, you can slide into this stage almost immediately. This is where the real enjoyment begins. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this is the most fun stage, making learning addictive. This is when you start “playing” with what you are learning.

The final stage is “Imbedded”, when you no longer have to think about it the subject you are learning, like putting your fork back in your right hand. In a really complicated subject, this stage is not clear cut. If you only use computer programs once in awhile, you may have to fool around with them a bit to remind yourself how they work, but the actions of using the computer are imbedded in you. If the subject isn’t that interesting or necessary, this is where a loss of interest or boredom could set in.

Of course, once you are no longer a child, it is easier to stay in imbedded areas, or only add areas you have confidence in. You have to be able to tolerate embarrassment to stray into those left hand fork areas. Nowadays the world is changing so fast that those who refuse to start learning again get left behind. Sometimes the burning desire to reach a goal carries you though the difficulty. For example, I have no talent with math. All during school I never got into the confident stage.  My knitting and weaving requires math for proper sizing of projects, and I love making things from scratch. That requires quite a bit of math and that goal carried me though the practice it took to get good enough at it. I still make more mistakes than many others might.

Learning karate is what really keyed me into thinking about learning. It tapped into some of my private bugaboos. Growing up, I had no natural inclinations for any kind of athletics. I was a slow learner at things like swimming and skating, I had terrible large motor skills, and excellent small motor ones. I never had any motivation to improve my athletic skills, so I treated most athletic things as something to endure. The one exception was riding a bike. As slow as I was to learn it, it was transportation, and that motivated me to get past the first clumsy stage, then I loved it. If I only could have seen then the pattern of finding enjoyment of something, once past those early stages, I might have tried some more things that I have waited till more recently to try. With karate, the way I was taught showed me some insight into learning, and how to motivate and get past the early difficulties.

Some of the ways to I’ve found to get  past left handed fork stage:

  1. Break a larger skill into smaller and simpler stages to allow a better sense of mastery and less discouragement.
  2. Encouragement by those involved. Strong discouragement of any amount of teasing or disparagement.
  3. Take breaks, don’t try to go too fast. If you are getting frustrated, go back to some part you’ve already mastered and play with that.

Currently I’m learning web stuff, any and all, to try and expand on my Photoshop skills. It’s no small thing I’m after, -CSS, HTML, JavaScript, PHP, flash, fireworks, Illustrator and possibly more. It is overwhelming if I look at it as a whole.  But using the principle of breaking it down, I’m only studying what I am reading at this moment. What got me fired up to write this article was how encouraged I was tonight by the book I was reading  getting easier to comprehend.  I was re-reading an article that I read in June, and  had  set  aside as being beyond my comprehension. In the re-reading, it was far easier to understand, raising up my confidence in my ability to learn all of this information.

I would strongly encourage anyone reading this to go try something new.  Accept the fact that you will look like a fool at first, and won’t be any good at it. Keep in the habit of having something in the “left handed fork” stage in your life so you won’t be thrown by it when there is something you have to learn. Know that all these things become sources of joy as you master them.

I Love My Dog, I Love My Dog, I…

BB overruns everyone and everything

BB overruns everyone and everything

Yes, I do love my puppies. However, I am having flashbacks to my children’s toddlerhood. You know, where you rack your brain for ways of channeling that endless energy into something, anything, that is safe and non-destructive. Where five minutes of peace and quiet to close your eyes is precious and impossible. Where all you can think of is “God, thank you for making them cute, so I don’t get too frustrated and angry!” Just like kids,  I have taken them for a walk and played with them. Moses is more than ready to lay around the house now. I gave BB a bath, clipped her toenails, took a baby bird away from her, took my things away from her, fixed the leashes she ate, let her in, let her out, let her in, let her out, let her lick the cookie sheet, played fetch, asked her in all seriousness, just when was she planning on calming down and settling down, yelled at her, petted her and spent my whole evening trying to keep her from going ballistic. I understand high energy, but it seems the older she gets, the more hyper she gets. Moses has always been a slo-mo kind of pup, but since BB got here, she is acting like an old lady, I think in self defense. How would you like it if every time you got up someone latched onto your ear or tail and pulled?

I’m watching her wrap herself in a blanket right now. Like I said, cuteness personified. And she is not a bad dog. She comes when she is called, at a dead run. She stays in the yard for the most part. She understood “drop it” the first time she heard it. Unfortunately, I have to call her and tell her to “drop it” every ten minutes! She is always picking up horse poo, bugs, dead animals, and unidentified gross objects. In order to preserve the sensibilities of the bunny huggers, I won’t discuss her hunting prowess. Since it is spring, it seems to be focused on baby animals.

She has the childlike spirit of blithe glee at every instance, and the apparent amnesia of previous experience. How can you get angry at someone who is so happy to share every moment of life with you, yet how can you not, the 40th time she asks to go out in one HOUR! Yes, like kids, there are days you can’t wait for bedtime. Unlike kids, she can be locked in a crate for the night, so I can sleep through the night, with no pee, chewed up stuff or dead animals. Peace will descend.

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