Saturday, August 3, 2013

Learning should begin with "I" : Last class of the Summer

It still haunts me today…I wake up in a panic…worried, stressed, and nervous.
The test.

Last night, it happened again...The dream about the big test…

The big test that I haven’t studied for…

The big test that I might fail…

Most of us grew up in schools where we were often “tested”. 

Questions were asked of you and you were supposed to know the answer.
Most of the time, I was one of the quiet kids, who only raised her hand when I knew for sure that I would get the answer right.

So, because I was nervous about my answer not being right, I didn’t often raise my hand.
Luckily, I had some teachers who just wanted to start a conversation during class. 

Most of the time, these were my Literature/Language Arts teachers.

They didn't seem to be asking questions where they already knew the answer…

They asked questions that were interesting and questions that simply required my opinion.
As a young child or adolescent, these kinds of questions helped me to identify who I was, what I believed, and these types of questions made me feel important.  I learned that it was ok to have an opinion. 

These teachers didn’t correct me or tell me I was wrong. 

Because, then, the conversation would have been over.

Some of us probably grew up with parents who often “quizzed” us.

Often, these quizzes might have happened in front of our parent’s friends or our extended families.  
What’s the capital of Alabama?
Who was the 16th president?

How do you say table in Spanish?

When I answered correctly, credit was not always given to me, I sometimes heard, “I taught her that.” or "She learned that from her teacher at school."

If I behaved politely or was kind to someone else, instead of, “Wow, that was so kind, I’m proud of you.” I heard, “You know why you did that?  Because, I taught you to do that.”
While, these comments were well meaning … it made me feel as though I wasn’t making my own decisions, it made me feel like I wasn’t capable of learning on my own.

And now, sometimes, I catch myself doing the same thing with my own children.

At 2 years old, “Artie, what color is this?”  “Ava, What word do you think this says?”

Most of the time, when I notice that I’m asking questions of my children that I already know the answer to, I get a look from them as if to say, “Why are you asking me that?”

But…I justify it with…I ask because I’m curious to see what they know, how they are learning, and if I’m doing a good job as a parent.

It boils down to… “Am I a good Mom?”
As a child, and now even as an adult, I am so amazed by children who learn to play instruments “By ear”.  Meaning, no one taught them how to play, they taught themselves.  They play around with their instrument, practicing over and over and listening to the different sounds and learn how to put it all together to create melody.

This was a foreign concept to me when I was younger.  I thought that adults taught you everything.

I so soooo wanted to learn “By ear”.  I wanted to understand what that meant.

At first, I thought it only applied to music.  And sadly, I wasn’t able to teach myself to play the piano “By ear.”  However, I was able to teach myself to play piano from a book.  I learned “By eye.”

My 5 year old daughter just learned how to swim last month.  Believe me, we did lessons at 1, 2, 3, (skipped 4, 5) years old. I decided against doing any more lessons because it just seemed as though she wasn’t ready.  At the lessons, she didn’t excel like the other kids.  She cried A LOT.

She didn’t want to go.

And the worst thing was, I kept feeling disappointed in my little girl.

And, I thought to myself, why do I keep taking her somewhere that makes me compare her to other children, and also makes me feel like she’s failing.

We moved into a house that had a pool and now I felt A LOT of pressure for her to learn.

But, in the end, I decided NOT to teach her.

I decided just to follow her lead and trust that she would learn if we just kept getting in that pool every day.

We had her friends come over and I noticed her “Watching” them a lot!

And then one day, she swam.

And if you ask her, “Who taught you how to swim?” 

She may look at you like, “What are you talking about?”  

No one taught her…as a matter of fact, when I did ask her this very question last week, she said, “I put my body under water and I learned it felt good.”

“I learned it felt good.”
In my opinion...

Learning should feel good…and learning should begin with “I”.