Ms Betterhome

On not being good at something.
October 19, 2009, 9:31 pm
Filed under: independence days, learning | Tags: ,

I was one of those kids who learned to read very quickly & fluently. However, while I’m good at writing & talking about  ideas I tend to to lose a bit of interest when it comes to the refining/editing part of the process. It’s very difficult for me to pay attention to details – they don’t jump out at me, it’s a slow painful struggle. For a long time I gave myself a very hard time over this, nowadays I’ve realised that there is a reason why ‘Editor’ is an actual job description. I should just do as much as I can, then pay someone to help me.

Like most people, I spent a good part of my life taking the things I was good at for granted, but beating myself up over the things I couldn’t do well. I give credit to the excellent psychologist who put me straight on that front! But recently I’ve realised there are other ‘skills’ I have that I didn’t realise I had. For example, I’m very good at navigating around a strange city. I can check maps, remember landmarks, deal with public transport etc etc. If I get lost, I can retrace my steps, of find the nearest train station to get me back to a familar zone. I find this easy (if not exactly relaxing) because I’ve lived in big cities all my life, & I’ve travelled a lot. My parents also encouraged me to navigate as a kid…even if we missed the turn :). But not everyone learns that way, or knows how to learn.

It has been an interesting challenge for me as a teacher to break down the things I just ‘get’ into their component parts, so I can teach them to others. Because I have experience very bad (shaming, moralising, mocking) teachers, and very good (inspiring, supportive, patient) ones, I have a pretty good internal repetoire of dos & don’t for myself. I don’t always get it right, but I’m motivated to learn more & more about what it means to help others learn something that they think everyone else does ‘naturally’. Sometime I’ve had to remember how to learn – relax, observe, make mistakes, pay attention-  before I can actually absorb the new ideas & skills I’m studying.

Learning really unfamiliar things as an adult is hard – it feels so awkward when my body doesn’t remember what to do, the way it does with (for example) cooking or writing. I would like to go back to things like sewing & woodwork, and learn them more carefully & usefully this time. I’m trying to consciously remember that it will take time to get ‘good’ at them, but eventually my mind & body will remember all the steps they need to feel ‘familiar’ (and maybe even good at) the new skills.


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