What do I know already about what I need in order to learn well?
20 September 2020: Staying organized with my Agenda book will help a lot – I’ve already written down the due dates for most of the assignments this term – and looking at T.P.E. by taking it one week at a time is helping! I don’t have a problem with learning, taking notes in class, paying attention to subject matter or participating and handing things in when I’m present. I know that having instructions that are clear and Professors and students that can help with answering any questions I might have helps me out a lot, for clarification.
Other than that, I know that I need to feel like I can put my schooling first and that it’s okay to do this for myself. I need to feel like nothing will interrupt the term, or that if something comes up, that I will hopefully turn to the supports in place (a teacher, another student, a counselor) to help validate the feeling that I can stay in the academic environment, that I can pursue my education.
I know that I have what I need already to learn well. I have a mind that is endlessly curious. I want to break out of old patterns and thoughts that prevent me from moving past the obstacles I have or that I put in between myself and following through. I know that I have the capacity to succeed as a student. I have space in my home environment and I have yet another chance to do this. Only this time, it’s 2020 and it feels like chances are running out.
I already know that I have what I need to learn. What I need this time around to learn my best is something I had to find outside of the classroom – the goal of autonomy and self-sufficiency. I’d say that I need stability in order to learn well but I’ve learned that being stable is something much too fleeting and uncertain to wait around for if I want to do this or anything else in life.
What was my experience of school like in the past? What can those experiences tell me about what I need in order to learn well?
27 September 2020: If I think back to high school (something that happened in the ‘90s) it doesn’t seem applicable at this point, given that my most recent experiences of returning to school have been my attempts at the TPE (previously RTE) program and before that, my experience as a twenty-something year old adult finishing my high school diploma when I was going through the so-called “re-training” program that W.S.I.B. had in place.
My experiences with learning or wanting to learn have never been an issue. When I apply myself (or even when I barely do) I have often been able to do well. My problems have often been external factors affecting my internal lack of being able to cope with too many stressors. If I become too anxious, there is a chance I shutdown and withdraw (from school, literally). I have never felt that I had a support system in place to help me through anything in life, honestly, and so when I stumble, I free fall and I let go of everything just trying to keep some footing. This has often been letting go of my hopes for education.
Personally, I’ve done a lot of self-reflection on this and I believe this stems from me being told as a child from a step-parent that I would never get to go to university if I left that home (I was being abused and I was getting out of there) and unfortunately, this was internalized into a self-fulling prophecy, reinforced when I had an opportunity while living with other parents to go to college early, but instead they used that money for themselves and I kept working at the factory. Since then, supporting myself on my own the majority of my life, I have felt lost with no examples of how to navigate my way into pursuing higher education while being concerned with health, financial and stability of home.
To learn well, I need to build a support system that wasn’t there for me when I was younger, that wasn’t there when I was in my ‘20s, that I still have yet to find. I’m in my forties now and I realize I’m on my own, that I have always been in some way or another, but I don’t want to pity myself for it – I just want to get on with this already and give myself the permission and validation that I can do this. I don’t know if it’s too late. I haven’t given up on trying so that must mean that part of me believes I can do this.
In order to learn well, I need to figure out how to get past the obstacles in my mind and to not give up when the ones in real life present themselves. I need to learn how to get around all that so that I can get through it. I want this. I don’t want to give up on my schooling. I never did. I think I somehow internalized that I was choosing between survival and schooling and couldn’t figure out how to do both.
What I need in order to learn well is to tell myself I will survive and I will pursue my education. I am doing both right now.
What messages have I received from others about me as a learner over the years? How do these messages impact how I think about myself now? Are these ideas about me true?
05 October 2020: I’ve always been told that I am a good student, capable of achieving good grades, that I have the capacity to excel in studies. Unfortunately, I also received the message early on that I could not get a higher education without certain people’s help and it’s turned out to be either a self-fulfilling prophecy or based on circumstances, turned out to be so. Now, as the years continue, I feel less intelligent, more frustrated, less hopeful that there is a place for me in academia. I hope to push through the negative thoughts I may have toward myself and the deep wounds I have regarding lost chances and ruined potential, the possibilities no longer available to me as I age.
The messages I’ve received are mixed. Or they’re been consistent in their belief in me but with nothing behind those words, or actions that deterred any of my attempts to achieve an education. I must still think that I have a chance or else I wouldn’t be trying to do this program right now. I wouldn’t be wringing my hands over a lost half mark on an assignment because I want to get the best marks possible in the hopes I can get into further college (and then university). I wouldn’t care so much about becoming a student and chasing the dream of an education if it didn’t mean to so much to me.
Is it true that I am a good student? That I am intelligent? That I am capable? Yes. Is it also true that I am on my own when it comes to attaining an education? It seems to be so. I was told I was a good student and I was, despite situations at home. I could have done better and I wish I had a support system back then and now to help me in the way that I saw some of my peers / friends be supported on their education and career path. I feel a tremendous weight on me to do something with my life and a diminishing amount of time and energy to do it.
What strengths do I possess that can help me as a student?
18 October 2020: I’m determined. When I choose to focus on a task, I can work on it until it is finished. While I am not immune to distractions, when I’ve set my mind to something, I put what energy I have into it. I’m more organized than one might expect of a forty-something year old who has no job, no routine, no major responsibilities to keep them on track. I make good use of an agenda / organizer and have a talent for checking off boxes. Never underestimate the power of a to-do list in whatever form it might be! I’m driven, despite circumstances and self-sabotage, and I can be persuasive when it comes to moving things forward and toward what I would like to do. I sincerely have a yearning for learning (sorry, Kate, I had to) and this insist wanting to pursue education has not waned even as time and opportunities seem to be getting away from me.
I’m self-aware enough to know what I struggle with and what challenges me and I’m very conscious of how I stumble over perfectionism and my own anxieties of failure. This term I have taken note of when I am close to the edge of throwing my hands up in the air even though I do indeed care and I’ve stopped myself from jumping --- because I know I want to be here. Realizing that I have to show up for myself and I have to get the work done – to know that it is in my hands to alter my path – that is probably the greatest strength I hold at this time as a mature student.
What supports do I need in my life outside of school that would help me thrive as a student (e.g. a person to cheer me on, particular resources like housing or income, a certain kind of place to do my homework, etc.)?
30 October 2020: I thought about this question last night after taking a look at it. I thought of how I had a counsellor of sorts years ago – one that met me at a coffeeshop in the neighbourhood when I lived in The Beach/es for a time. She was great to speak with and it got me out of the house regularly to go for that one block walk (later, walking some more to take the long way home along the lake) and I know for a fact that having someone like that to listen and advise would be beneficial. I don’t have anyone like that in my life at this moment although I do have the outlet of journaling, which I intend to do more consistently moving forward. More of a support system is something I have wanted but lacked for nearly my entire life and I’m slowly coming into acceptance of that. Sure, I have a partner who cheers me on but honestly, they are okay with whatever I want to do – they just want me to be happy. I’m not of course. I go through periods of restlessness and wanting everything different. I apply to jobs and don’t get hired (even more consecutive disappointments as of recent) and I’m trying to think of other ways I can place myself in some relation to the world. (I filled out a volunteer application for literacy tutoring and hope to hear something back about that.)
I noticed that I was headed toward a familiar pattern of self-sabotage in the past couple of weeks and allowed myself a week to not put any pressure on myself regarding assignments, to attend classes and not expect more of myself, telling myself I would catch things up the following week. I’m in that week right now and leaving things to the very last but I haven’t given up yet. I know that if I drop one course, then I’ll drop another and then I’ll disappear from the program like I was never there. Noticing that I was close to doing that, I sat with it and did not act on it. I’ve stayed in my classes. I’m going to make the most of the opportunity to do the program from home – without having to worry about transit costs or the panic attacks I have before leaving the apartment each day. I miss the academic environment and the one on one talks I could have with professors / teachers at the college and the ability to sit in the library and to be out and about – take photos of the city, walk a bit – but I also know that this is probably the best opportunity I will have to show to myself if I really want to follow through with this program or not. If I want to attain any education after this (and I do) I’ll have to follow through.
So, with that in mind, I did something I rarely do and that is I reached out and asked for help within the TPE student led chat group on Teams. I said that I was behind on my assignments and while I can do them myself, I needed the push of presence. One classmate heeded the call and we had a Zoom Meeting. I was able to complete one assignment during that time and it helped to get me moving again with my homework. (For instance, I’m now typing this at eight o’clock in the morning on a Friday when I had put this off since last Friday.) I think that asking for help instead of being the one who usually helps whenever anyone asks was something outside my usual habits and that I shouldn’t stop myself from asking for help again. Better that I do that instead of giving up on myself or the program. P.S. I need to apply my resilience to my studies.
As an adult learner, how are my learning needs different than when I was a kid? How can I apply that knowledge of how I’ve changed to how I approach school?
09 November 2020: I have to be organized with my schoolwork and be motivated to stay on track. I don’t have as many options or as much time. It makes how I learn very different than before. I’m more aware of how much this matters as an adult learner – the grades, the follow-through, the chances to pursue education further – but I now have to deal with the fog of years of medications, the aging brain, the lack of structure in my life because I don’t have much else to do aside from this as I’m unable to find work or get a volunteer position. I’m in need of more fortitude and follow-through and I have to make myself pay attention more than I ever did before. It’s easier to gravitate toward distractions as an adult. I have more at hand to divert my attention - problems of home life, health, economic concerns, worries about whether I can get accepted into more college and how will I have the money to do that and still survive? All of this affects how I learn and what I need to do it well. I need to keep a roof over my head which means minding the finances and checking in on the partner (and hoping he’ll be honest with me) to see that we’re okay so I can focus on schooling. I’ve changed in my ability to bounce back as quick from disappointments, even within the past ten years I have noticed this when I’ve been an adult learner sporadically since exiting the factory in my ‘20s. I’m becoming a bit stronger and more resilient when it comes to school partially out of desperation because of time lost, time passing and also because I know I must do something to shift the direction of my path. My needs are the basic hierarchy and self-love. That never changed. I must secure those for myself and path of education.
If I was to design a school that was designed perfectly for learners like me, what would it be like? (for example, how would teachers teach? How would your days be structured? What would the physical space be like? How would people relate to each other? etc.)
25 November 2020: Surprisingly, what is working the best for me this time around for school is being able to do my courses online at home. The ability to concentrate on classes without worrying so much about panic attacks prior to leaving the house, without being self-conscious about my appearance, without having to worry about the cost of transit – all of this has been helpful for me. It could be that I’m more motivated because of the pandemic and reduced options for work. Perhaps I’m more self-motivated and that is making all the difference? That said, I miss the college and being in an academic setting. I miss sitting in the library at breaks. I miss being able to talk with the teachers one on one. I don’t miss classrooms that felt suffocating but I understand that’s just how the building can be and that teachers would do their best to get a good classroom when possible.
I don’t think that this program could get any better than it already is, honestly, with how flexible it is with students and understanding of our various needs and where we’re coming from in life. The online learning experience has pros and cons to it but one of the things that has stuck out to me most is how for some of us, this has brought in more inclusivity and accessibility, more accommodation for several. At the same time, I know that it has affected people who aren’t able to access internet or have computers.
How has my understanding about what I need in order to learn well changed this semester? How would I explain my learning needs to another person, if I was asked?
30 November 2020: Turns out that all I need was for a rare event like a global pandemic to occur, simultaneously while we have internet available at home for remote learning! It’s as easy as that. Simply make a horrific tragedy happen worldwide with incompetent leadership and an already fractured society that doesn’t make sure everyone is okay and suddenly, I’m all ‘Melancholia’ (2011) up in here. I’m in my comfy clothes. I don’t have to worry about whether I’m going to have a panic attack prior to leaving the house.
I miss some aspects of being at the college but how many times can I take the exact same photo of the streetcars rolling past from the patio as I try yet again to make it through first semester without something in my daily life tripping me up, giving me an out before I can disappoint myself academically, some crisis as reason to put my energy toward instead, or just an excuse to self-sabotage?
What I needed for learning well was to feel that I was doing this for myself and that I was ready. Nothing like a pandemic to bring into clarity what one wants and what one doesn’t. Feeling the shadow of looming death is also a motivator. Having figured out that nothing else is working out so far to change things and look at how I’m home anyway, why not follow through with the program? It seems to have worked out for me this first term and I’m hoping it’s not a fluke, a once every 100 years kind of thing.
I learned from myself and for myself that I need to ask for extensions if I need them. I need to know when I’m overwhelmed and make the decision to work through it or to ask for help. Having teachers that understand how perfectionists put things off when the student is competent to complete their assignments, well, I believe knowing that there is a level of compassion regarding that has helped immensely. It reiterated to me internally that I can have that compassion toward myself. And also showed me that I can still do the thing. I’ve done the thing! I’ve made it through first time.
To summarize, what I need in order to learn well is to believe in myself. Push myself over the obstacle of feeling uncomfortable and uncertain when I’m facing the daunting deadlines. Allow myself to rest when needed. Understand that this is a process for me. Also, this chance to participate in this program is a privilege for me and it is also a choice. I am making this choice and owning this choice by putting forth my best attempt and showing up. Virtually.
In a practical way, having an Agenda (Planner) and keeping it handy has been an invaluable tool in staying organized. Being organized has helped me make it through the First Term and will most likely save me during Second Term. Thank you for making us do those excruciating assignments!
amber dawn pullin
30 November 2020