Saturday, 5 September 2009

Evolution, not a building

Where people mislead themselves about the process going on in someone - a magical, mystical process of learning - is that they think learning is akin to a building. With a building you make plans, obviously, or you'd forget the wiring in the basement or forget the basement altogether. You might place the front door too close to the garage or lay the garden path in the wrong area. You need plans to construct a building.

Education, though, isn't a building. It isn't predicated on plans. Those poor souls who lay down thousands of plans, as if they were piloting aircraft, can get very frustrated because people do not actually learn that way. They twist and turn, and check and regress, and find out and digress and skip steps and intuit and leap forward and have a bad day or bad years, and then have gestalts where they 'get' it. People evolve in their learning.

Learning is an evolution. When I was a little girl my father thought he could help me with my Maths homework. I was always quite excited by this because Mathematics was pretty well incomprehensible to me. He showed me what to do on two or three problems from one night of homework. Then I had to go and try to puzzle out the rest.

I confided solemnly that I didn't like Maths, but ran to my French lessons. He explained that he had squirmed through French lessons but whizzed happily down the corridor to Maths. We laughed gently together.

My Dad had a plan. His plan was simple. To lay the foundations of my learning how to do the mathematical questions he explained the first one or two. He thoroughly informed me how to do those sums. Unfortunately, I scuppered his careful ideas by going back to say I couldn't fly solo. I had failed to solve number three, four, five and six and, by the way, could he show me one and two again because I just couldn't really remember how they went again.

My father yelled at me. For a while.

As a result of such humiliation I decided to take my fate in my own hands, stumble through each set of problems according to my level of comprehension and decided bravely to pass or fail by my own efforts.

I failed.


For years, Maths was my worst, and most heartily loathed, subject. It let me down and I let me down by being very poor in Maths.

A few years later, after the ignominy died away a little, and I only changed colour slightly at the mention of a fraction, I went back to the scene of my battle.

I tried a Mathematics course in University.

Oh, what a mad girl. What a silly chicklet. What a complete...

I called myself all sorts of names, stumbled to the Maths lab between classes, worked through various sets of lovely juicy problems.... and GOT them. Understood. Comprehended. Completed. Loved the course. Passed with an 'A'.

So, although I thought I was as good at Mathematics as a hamster is at chess, I was wrong. I had matured in my abilities. My father's natural mathematical bent had not jumped a generation and lurked waiting for my offspring to make him proud. I had some maths savvy buried somewhere just lingering until the right moment appeared. Waiting patiently to reveal itself when I had evolved to a point where I could host it properly.

Such a shock to find what you believe about yourself is not true. Never too late to learn, springs to my lips, when people tell me that they cannot do basket-weaving, Geometry or Haiku poetry.

Give it time, petal, I tell them, it will happen, you will evolve into someone you never gave yourself credit for being. You'll change and morph into that basket-weaver or look at an angle and know it immediately or produce poem after poem of hot Haiku.

I believe it will happen. Holy differentials, I've seen it up close and happening.

Funny thing, though, my Dad never did learn French.

1 comment:

  1. love it, agree with it, why can't everyone see it?