Instructors and teachers often struggle to get learners to sit still long enough to get through a complete lesson. Thankfully, more and more learning tools are being designed with tomorrow’s learners in mind. They deliver bite-sized content to students, which holds their attention better and increases learning overall.
I like to learn big things in small pieces. For example, I’m reading War and Peace. I’ve been reading it for about three years. I’m less than halfway through. Every few days a read a few pages. I’ve missed out on just about every hot new book for a few years now. I don’t really stress about it. When I talk to a particularly strong reader, replying with “I’m reading War and Peace” either nets me an 1)eye-roll or 2) a contorted ‘ugh, why’ face. My reply is the epitome of Salvadoran queso duro. Smells brutal (tastes amazing).
Why not just give up? Because it’s just how I roll. I’m not reading it for school. Such a gargantuan undertaking takes a long time. I am not the Usain Bolt of reading. I’m OK with that.
In fact, I learn a lot of things slowly. Last year, I spent about eight months learning French. Every day. Some days were just a few minutes. Other days, I would learn for about an hour. I started to read newspapers and magazines. I could hold a basic conversation. Poorly. But enough to be understood! I’ve been learning French for about 15 years.
Learning isn’t a race. I once had a friend of mine talk to me about feeling left behind. Why? To me, he had nothing to worry about. He had a hard life. His mother battled with alcoholism. He never met his father. No one in his family had ever gone to college. He would be the first. In fact, his life was such a success that he addressed his graduating class.
He was incredibly likable, too. In fact, he addressed his graduating class. He talked about his life and not giving up. Everyone stood and cheered for him. Just thinking about it makes me so incredibly proud and happy.
And yet, he had a chip on his shoulder. He felt as though he hadn’t succeeded enough. Another one of his friend’s had a 4.0+ GPA. In this case, his friend was class valedictorian. It also happens that his life was more comfortable. His life was not a struggle. To my friend, he resented the support that the valedictorian had. It’s not that he didn’t like him. He just didn’t think it was fair. I told him I understood. In fact, I used to feel the same way.
One day, something in me changed. I realized, that I didn’t care about those people anymore. At all.
Learning wasn’t a competition. The exceptionally smart are always celebrated. Nobody cares about the rest. At the same time, we’re constantly learning. As we get older, we have to. It is frustrating. For people like my friend and I, we were middle of the road.
We learned differently.
The way our schools operated made us feel stupid. But, we were far from stupid. More positively, we recognized it in ourselves from things that school didn’t value. Out of school, we recognized our talents. Because of that, we didn’t make excuses for each other. We motivated each other to learn and do more. Even though I don’t see my friend all the time, I still think about how he’s doing. I hope he knows that he became the mirror towards my constant striving to learn more and not care about anyone else.
So, for the chaff (like me), I sucked at learning fast. I just don’t learn that way. But I can learn in small chunks. So I try to learn that way. If I need to learn something quickly, there’s usually a video on Youtube that helps. Or asking a search box. Although it’s true that it’s also my job, that almost seems secondary.
Luckily, us slow learners have new tools!