Posts Tagged ‘discipline’

In a true “better late than never” fashion, it’s that time of year. Forget Hellweek, this is

FINALS WEEK

Keeping up with tradition dictates that I put off gobs of assignments until the last possible moment, and even then, I stumble or limp to the finish line in my attempts to get them done. For our Week 14 assignments in DigiLit class, we were asked to put together a digital story entailing a metaphor about learning: how we learn, what we think about learning, how we teach, something along those lines. I thought about this one for awhile (obviously). How do I learn? What do I think of it? This isn’t something I’ve ever really thought about. What defines me as a learner? How have I made it to where I’ve made it?

Then it clicked. Without discipline, routine, and determination, I wouldn’t be the learner I am. These components sound strikingly similar to another facet of life that I take almost no part in. The irony of my metaphor is palpable, but I felt it was the best one that fit. Rather than go the Powerpoint or YouTube route with my digital story, I decided to roll with something I’m a bit more fond of: the Podcast format.

For the lazy or time-constrained among you, here’s the story transcribed into text:

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Learning is a workout routine.

Not literally, mind you. If I know anything, it’s that exercise and I get along together about as well as fire and kerosine.

No, no, learning is a mental exercise. And not in that “Lumosity.com” kind of way. Your avenue, whether it be a classroom, books, or the internet, is your gym. Learning, much like physical activity, is a process that requires strict discipline, definitive goals, and oddly enough, variety.

I have friends who are weight lifters (the protein shake and Facebook memes kind), and they have a very methodical process. Each day consists of a warm-up, a workout of a different particular group of muscles, a cool down, and the maintaining of a strict diet designed around whatever their particular goals might be. Need bulk? Protein all day, everyday: chicken breasts, eggs, steaks, etcetera. Most will give themselves one rest day a week so their bodies don’t completely rebel and shut off completely from the immense stress.

Learning, I’ve found, is almost exactly the same. Learning will not just come to you out of the blue. You need to dedicate yourself to the process. Randomly surfing through Wikipedia articles doesn’t count, either. If you want to learn about something, you must discipline yourself to do so.

When I was in middle and high school in Alliance, Nebraska, marching band was an extremely popular activity. It reached across the boundaries of “cliques,” uniting the jocks, geeks, and stoner kids alike under a common banner. As you can probably imagine, trying to teach 100 pre-teens / angry teenagers how to march in time, let alone play an instrument, was nigh impossible. For band director of 33 years Dick Rischling, however, anything less than perfect was unacceptable. Dick Rischling was a man who would go for a 2 mile run and smoke a cigarette every step of the way. The man provided us with gems such as, “I love conflict! I win them all!” and “I hate cymbals, they sound horrible.” Every morning at 7:30 AM, a half hour before classes started, all 100 of us would show up, line up on a practice field in the rain or snow, and march with Dick Rischling barking commands from a megaphone. The man taught us to stand up straight, carry ourselves with some dignity, and above all: discipline. This discipline is something I’ve carried with me throughout my schooling career. Without it, I doubt I would have reached any level of success. In order to do well, you have to want to do well. You have to want to improve to improve.

Once discipline is instilled in a learner, different learners will find that they have a different “core group” of muscles that are already strengthened: some people are naturals at maths and sciences, but awful at humanities. Along this same vein, different people have different primary methods of learning. Some are auditory learners, preferring to listen to lectures or podcasts, while others are strictly visual, favoring note-taking and reading. Others still are “hands on” learners, better at learning through a “do as I do” method of teaching. While it’s natural to want to focus on your best attribute in terms of subject material, just because exercise is routine doesn’t mean you should forego adding variety to your workout. At some point, you will plateau. You will reach a ceiling that will seem impossible to break out of, and the best way to continue is to try something different before returning to that plateau. This is why weight-lifters rotate the muscle groups being worked on each day: an immensely powerful upper body is useless without the leg day to support it.

By identifying which style of learner a person is, they can also best figure out how to approach these different subjects. With the internet, there is no shortage of resources for learners of all strengths and weaknesses. If weight lifting isn’t your strong suit, maybe cardio is more your thing. Maybe yoga or some type of martial art is your best avenue. Take whatever learning style is best for you, and apply it to all subjects. See what works and what doesn’t. Identify and improve upon your weaknesses, even if only minutely.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, is that the principle of “use it or lose it” applies just as much with learning as it does with physical exercise. Your brain, the supercomputer that it is, is going to deem skills or knowledge left unused unessential. The way to avoid this is to stay in practice. Remember to review the concepts you already have a firm grasp on, while continuing to strive for new improvements.

While you won’t be seeing me in a gym anytime soon, it is undeniable that the same dedication and persistence found in a good workout regiment can be used just as effectively when building the most important quote muscle unquote of all:

your brain!

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Accipio

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Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages..

I’m back!

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Photo CC-by Bart Maguire, who presumably went on an adventure.

Yes, it’s a new year (and my final one) here at Chadron State, and the prodigal son truly returns to the English and Humanities department with a vengeance. This year I’ll be comparing religions, novelizing graphics, and literally digitizing with the very best of ’em. In all seriousness, it feels good to be back among the bookworms and writers among us.

That brings me to the main event of the post: Dr. Elisabeth Ellington’s Literacy in the Digital Age class. This class is going to center a lot, I’m guessing, on learning. About learning. Wait, what?

So, on the note of learning, I’m being asked to give something new a whirl here. I’m still blogging in my lovable Cracked,com format of witty banter-image-witty banter-image, but now I’m being asked to give it an actual purpose – 5 things that shaped me as a learner – and to do it all without potentially violating copyright law.
I think I can handle that.

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Photo CC-by az. Quite the name.
The first of five key experiences in my life that shaped the way I learn, and the way I pretty much operate at all today, was learning to read.

I know that sounds like a “duh,” but I could read on my own before kindergarten. I have my mom to thank for that. When I was around 4 or 5, every day was ended with a Goosebumps book. She read them to me, often had me read a few pages, and I would inevitably pass out on the couch. Not only do I have her to thank for my ability to read, but for my affinity for all things dark and spooky. Thanks, ma.

Seriously, though, being literate early on has given me the biggest jumpstart I could ever need. When you can read, the world is open to you. Travel isn’t an issue, you can do almost anything with a How-To book and a decently put together YouTube video, and you are never incapable of communicating with someone.. despite possibly being a continent or two away. Reading = writing. From literacy comes a growth of vocabulary, empathy, geographical knowledge, what have you. Reading is step one on the journey that is learning. When people say “I haven’t read a book since high school,” I want to vomit. On them. Hopefully I’ve eaten something messy the night before.

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Photo CC-by crypto, because street signs are apparently all the rage right now.

It wouldn’t be until late middle school-early high school that I would come across a teacher that I truly respected. If my appearance in the “About Me” section of this blog doesn’t give it away, I have a bit of a problem with authority figures. Always have, always will – only now I can use the excuse of being an adult for when my mouth happens to fire off like a cannon.

That being said, Mr. Dick RIschling taught the marching bands at Alliance High / Alliance Middle School in Alliance, Nebraska for I believe 33 years, and I was fortunate enough to be a small part of those years. Those who made the mistake of thinking band was an excuse to dick around for 45 minutes and get an easy A were in for a brutal wake up call. This man provided me with such great quotes as

“I love conflict, I win them all!” 

Dick Rischling was the type of man who would go for a two-mile run and smoke every 15 minutes while still running. He had zero time for slackers, zero tolerance for class clowns, and was not afraid to say what he thought. He was like the Gordon Ramsay of marching band. Ask other AHS graduates if I’m kidding. The man taught me to stand up straight and carry myself with some dignity, to force my nose to the grindstone, and kept me humble when my sarcastic mouth got the better of me. If my mom provided me with the tools to learn, Dick Rischling provided me with the devotion that was necessary.

So I had the skills, and I had the motivation. What’s left?

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Photo CC-by Nate Cochran, and a damn fine picture if I do say so myself

Self-confidence. It wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I began to branch out and discover something about myself. I was borderline misanthropic, extremely anti-social, and probably pretty socially awkward. I had a set circle of friends I had always had, and other than out with them, I went nowhere. I hung out at home, read, played video games, and surfed the web. My life was pretty consistently boring this way until my parents bought me a guitar.

About a year later, around April 29th, 2009, the band I’m in, Monster in the Mirror, had their first concert. Something lying dormant inside me woke up that night. The general consensus was shock: this shy, kinda weird kid who didn’t say much in class was a natural on stage. The crowd of 200 or so people loved us. And 6 years later, we’re still a band.

Being up on a stage allowed me to be everything I wasn’t. Up there, I was loud, I was mean, I was aggressive, I was a commanding force. And it all felt good. After that, I began to speak up in classes. My sarcasm and my opinionated nonsense became more and more frequent. I knew what I was talking about. If I didn’t, I knew I could learn, and I knew I could be good at it. Now I make money making an ass of myself on stage, and I’m slowly but surely beginning a career as a writer, something else I thought I could never do. Never underestimate the power of knowing you can do something. It sounds cheesy, but it’s true.

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Photo CC-by Phillip Taylor, of something that doesn’t exist in 2015

Success is nice, of course, but to me, the most powerful teaching / learning tool is failure. For me, the hardest lesson I ever learned was learned the hard way. That lesson, quite simply, is not to settle.

I was in a relationship for 4 years, 2 in high school, and 2 in college. When that relationship started to fall apart, I panicked, and did the worst possible thing in an attempt to try and salvage what was left. I proposed.

19 and engaged. Never thought that would be me, but it was. I’m not against early engagements: if you think you know, then go for it. Just be prepared for what could happen. But take it from me: never, ever, ever, ever propose out of fear. You’re building pillars of salt on top of a waterbed. It was doomed to fail from the start. Friends and family tried to warn me, but I was comfortable in my routine of boredom. I don’t regret the time spent, because the lesson I learned was invaluable. Still, it’s left me with some extra bags that I’d very much like to get rid of, and have yet to figure out how. I do have someone very special who’s helping me with that, though. Things do get better.

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Photo CC-by SNIJLAB Rotterdam

That being said, the bottom-line lesson that has come from all of this, and the thing that will best facilitate both teachers and learners alike, is flexibility. Don’t become rigid in any way. I understand that routine and familiarity is comfortable, but standing water breeds pestilence. Not everyone learns the same way you do. Not everyone teaches the same way you do. Deal with these things. You can make plans for 6 years from next Tuesday all you want, but the fact of the matter is, life is unpredictable. Sometimes it’ll flip the table on you, and you’ve got to be prepared to pick up the pieces and rearrange the silverware, ya dig?

So, that’s it for me. 5 things that shaped the way I learn, but in all honesty, these 5 things shaped my life; who I am as a person. Maybe those things are synonymous – being a person and being a learner. Whoa. I just blew my own mind. I think I need to sit down.

Percipio Percepi Perceptum