What’s your learning style? Do you prefer learning in a group and in an interactive setting? Or one-on-one? Do you retain information best through lectures, or visuals, or simply by reading books?
When I arrived in New Mexico in 1988, my professor husband said: Sign up for a class! So I started my first university experience at age 53. And I just loved it; a class here, a couple of classes there, some overseas independent study, for 14 years.
Once I got over the nervousness of starting classes after more than 35 years, I discovered I had a passion for research and even writing papers. I loved it, especially getting them back with the prof’s comments. In all honesty I have to admit those were seldom bad, which helped.
I could read the required texts in the original because I had time, no children or job to take me away from the Library. Although the paperback copies are well done, there’s something special about the feel of the original book.
What I needed to learn first was what the professors required. I hadn’t written essays since I was 18. My working life was as a secretary, later administrative assistant overseeing other secretaries in a large multi-cultural adult institute in London. No essays needed there.
And “Office Hours” confused me. Why should I go? What would I ask, what would I need to know? So I never went. I really don’t like breaking into groups to share ideas, though I enjoy the other students, and I think I’m good at running meetings. So I suppose I like to do it myself.
With a photographic memory that knows which side of which page I saw an article, my factual memory doesn’t have to store all the details. And when I do remember names it may be by thinking of a certain letter or two. So I guess my learning style is visual.
My PA can’t understand it; he’s literal, needs to reread the piece I just read out loud to him, or the information panel by the artwork after the tour guide has explained it all. But then he remembers where we have been, and when, while our travels jumble together into pictures, experiences, people – I know we were there, but the year evades me. “Goodness was it that long ago?” I ask, and he says “I told you that a million times.” And if necessary I can always ask again, so why must I remember it?
I do need a deadline, the discipline of having to go to class is good for me, and having to turn in a certain length of research by a certain time. Daily prompts help me to produce blogs, but my main Theme – Stan Watkins, his life and work – sometimes gets neglected. It’s so easy to get side-tracked, isn’t it, when there are so many interesting things to write and read about.
One day I’ll put all my final papers (two on Stan Watkins!) into a book called “Grandma Graduates” or something like that. It took me many years to finish and that was with regret; I wanted to continue being an undergraduate. I may have to return to the university to get the SSAW book done. Who knows?
So my style of learning may be rather haphazard, but I do have fun doing it. Learning by doing, as Ernest Thompson Seton championed at his Institute of Indian Wisdom in Santa Fe. That’s what I did; and now I’m doing blogs and learning as I go.