Friday, October 24, 2008

Learning, Slowly

My courses are built around letting students discover as much as possible for and about the topic of the course and themselves. This generally involves giving them both conceptual information (readings, lectures, etc.) and experiences (simulations, other exercises) that are related to the conceptual information, and then working to integrate the two, so we can go forward, building on that base, repeating the whole cycle. Experiential learning, it is called. A very wise man who generously shared advice and materials with me told me that the lessons people learn best are those in which they are given an opportunity to do it for themselves, fail, and then learn from the experience. He pointed out that if you just tell them information related to the topics I teach (negotiation, interviewing, leadership, ethics, etc.) without context or application, their reaction is often “I knew that” although, likely, they did not and could not have applied the information—nor will they likely be able to generalize and apply it in the future. It would have been nice if I had been quick enough to learn my fatigue lesson without experiencing it first. It's not like there weren't plenty of warnings.

People I know, respect and love advised me throughout this process to take things slowly, or risk prolonging the recovery. I heard this advice, trusted them, nodded my head (“I knew that”), and then was not very good at applying it to my situation—or recognizing what being overextended felt like. However, having failed now, I get it. Now, the feeling of being tired and on the brink of over-doing it is clear to me, and I have observed personally how long it takes to recover from going too far. Wiser now, if set back by most of a week, my tortoise lessons have progressed by leaps and bounds, enhanced by all the information supplied all along by those who had been there themselves and tried to warn me. This has been another illustration of the power of experiential learning. I am sure there are people who manage to learn this without failing the way I did; how do they do it? That would be a nice skill to acquire....

Sometime this week, I realized that my fingers and toes have almost completely stopped tingling—the absence of something (even something unpleasant) isn’t always quickly noticed. Anyway, that is more evidence of progress, so hooray.

Thanks for the encouragement, all. We get to see Kearney this weekend, who finally gave her long-delayed seminar yesterday and passed with flying colors. Another hooray! We’re looking forward to cooking, visiting and exploring together. Plus, of course, resting even when, in the moment, it might not feel needed.

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