June 22, 2016

Learning & the Art of Patience

Earlier today I saw the Robert John Meehan quote in the illustration below.

"It shouldn't matter how slowly a child learns as long as we are encouraging them not to stop."

It's a great quote and applies equally to all of us whether we're helping others to learn or learning ourselves.

People learn at different speeds. We will learn some things quickly, some more slowly, some not at all. We won't always learn at the same speed. We won't all be as interested in the same subjects or the same aspects of subjects. Giving encouragement to those learning is essential whether you're a teacher, parent or friend. We all love receiving validation for our efforts and it spurs us on to do more. It’s important not to let the validation become more important than the reasons for learning though.

Giving encouragement to those learning is essential

If we are made to feel silly because of judgement on what we choose to spend our time learning, that we didn't do well enough in a test or that we aren't learning fast enough we will probably give up. Stress ultimately kills enthusiasm. We may not give up immediately but negative reactions or results too often, over too long a period, are likely to arrive at that outcome sooner or later. No one wins when that happens.

Robert John Meehan Quote

It's worth taking a step back now and again to check that our learning is still fun. If not it's probably just become a habit and the learning has stopped. Try looking around for something else to do, a new way of applying the thing we are working on, changing the difficulty level etc. In short - find a way to make it engaging again when that happens or move on to something else.

​​We need to be patient with ourselves, and others of any age, to allow learning to take as long as it needs.

Some types of repetition are great and others not so much but repetition is inescapable. Thoughtful repetition is essential and can be fun. An element of problem solving in each repetition will gradually refine and improve a process. Repetition without thought reinforces what is already there but won't lead to any progress. Over time the process may well become worse as the care and attention put in initially loses definition and is replaced by a careless imitation.

As a society we tend to focus on children when we talk about learning but the same is true for adults too. A key difference is that children don't tend to put time limits on an activity. They are not frustrated so quickly and will repeat things over and over again until they get it. Their stresses tend to come out once adults apply more time sensitive parameters. A problem I come across over and again with adults is that if they can't learn something quickly they get frustrated very fast. "I should be able to do this", "Wish I'd done it when I was younger", "I'm too old to learn now". We need to be patient with ourselves, and others of any age, to allow learning to take as long as it needs.

About the author

alswainger

​Al has performed, recorded and taught all over the country and internationally for more than 25 years. Highlights include sessions, tours and workshops with : Peter King, Grice, Paul Jones, P.P. Arnold, Scott Hamilton, Siobhan McCrudden, Gary Bamford, Gilad Atzmon, Mike Outram, Alan Barnes, Ant Law and many more as well as h​is own projects : Pointless Beauty, Biophosmos, Snow Giants and Mahatmosphere. As an educator he has taught for schools, colleges and privately for more than 25 years and has a BA (Hons) / PGCE in Music.

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