Saturday, April 28, 2012

My Worst Learning Experience

I am beginning doctoral work at the University of Georgia in two weeks.  At 56, this is daunting, but the opportunity is too great to pass up and if I buckle down, I can be done in a little of three years and thus fulfill a lifetime dream.  So I am going to use this blog to post my writing for the program with the hope that it will help others.

So far for our first class I have to read a book entitled Action Research and Reflective Practice, which cost my $140 USD and had to come from England (published by Routledge).  I also have two short personal essays due.  I am posting them here.

I already know my dissertation area, in general.  We have a four-day retreat in a couple of weeks and then a summer class that is mostly online.  This works for me.  I hate driving to or through Atlanta, which is what killed me (almost literally) on my last foray into doctoral work at Georgia State.

My Worst Learning Experience (first writing assignment)

My first thought when contemplating the subject of this essay was to approach it from an academic standpoint:  a class I may have taken or a project I had to complete. Other than a few classes with extremely dry professors, my academic life does not really yield anything note-worthy in terms of horrible learning experiences.  I decided to look elsewhere and remembered how in the year 2000 my husband decided that we were all going to take up snow skiing.
            On Christmas morning he surprised my son, twelve at the time, and me with (secondhand) skis.  A few days later we were trying to maneuver the slopes at Hawk’s Nest in North Carolina.  My first experiences were unpleasant and involved a great deal of falling, facial scrapes, embarrassment, anger, expense, pointless lessons, and uncooperative equipment.  Over the next few years we tried to various ski resorts in the Southeast, mostly North Carolina.  The best we found was Cattaloochee, near Waynesville.  That was the place I finally rode a ski lift to the top, stayed on two legs as I slid off my seat and down a ramp, stayed vertical all the way down the hill, stopped myself somewhat gracefully at the bottom to get in line for the ski lift again, and did so several times over and over.   Mind you, I achieved this after the age of forty-five.  I don’t suggest waiting that long to learn to ski.  Five years old is much better.
            Despite eventual success in the fourth year of our skiing adventures, I consider this one of my worst, if not the worst, learning experience for several reasons.  First, I had very little motivation to pursue the sport.  Skiing is an expensive hobby—outrageously so.  Skiing is a dangerous activity.  Skiing is inconvenient; it involves wearing heavy boots that make walking nearly impossible, waiting in long lines for a chance to get on the lift, and carrying heavy equipment; also, it has to be done in the cold, and I moved from Maryland to Georgia to avoid cold weather.  My only motivation early on was maintaining marital bliss, thinking it would be good for our son to learn, and fulfilling my general desire to try new activities.
            The second reason that learning to ski was not a good learning experience is that, well, I fell down a lot.  On my face.On the back of my head.On other body parts.  Blood appeared.  Any learning activity that involves blood flow cannot be good.
            The third reason is that my son hated it.  His father is agile and had skied a great deal in his early twenties when he lived in Colorado.  My son, raised in North Georgia, likes basketball and golf.  His bad attitude did not help.    Additionally, skiing in Colorado is not skiing in North Carolina—the conditions are much different.  So my husband ended up complaining a good bit, which added to the negativity.
            I haven’t been in a pair of ski boots in years, so all that learning was for naught.  That is the last reason it was the worst learning experience:  I learned to do something that has no practical application in my life anymore, and at this point I probably could not even hope to ski.

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