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Becoming a Learner - Page 2
Return to Becoming a Learner CONTENTS  PAGE
                          Page 2: Setting yourself free to become a Learner

The truth is that many of us feel run over by life!  And that is especially so when it comes to education. But do we have to just lie there with the tyre tracks of life over us and that’s it?

Right, before we get under way here, I just want to check something out with you, assuming that you read the first page entitled ‘Why Become a Learner?’  
First of all, how many examples of people who weren’t learners did we give?  
Second, of the people we cited, who did get rich without education?  One did it through the lottery, but how did the other two do it?  
Third, can you remember two of the things in the list we pulled out of the educator’s quote, that require learning but aren’t school subjects?  
Imagine the page for a moment and see if you can come up with those three sets of answers. I’ll give you them in a minute.
If you were able to come up with those answers you learnt something. Memory can be about learning information. If you got those answers you learnt something without any effort at all.

Incidentally there were three non-learners, and the other two who were successful did it by:
a) working hard and applying themselves on each rung of the ladder (and no doubt learning stuff at each stage), and
b) by using her looks (and no doubt learning how to strut the stuff well).

The list of non-school subjects that require learning went from self-confidence to using your natural talents.

Now let’s eyeball some of the things people say that prevent them becoming learners:
Part 1: The Right Frame of Mind
1. “I’m just rubbish at learning stuff.”

The origins of this are almost certainly in childhood and involve school. Whenever I’ve conducted surveys, the majority of people I’ve found, don’t think their schooldays were the happiest days of their life. It was good for some but if you think this reason, school probably wasn’t good for you.

But we need to face it now and reject the negatives that were dumped on us by words or experiences earlier in life.

-   Take the example of Sandy. Sandy was told at school that she was lazy and Sandy’s parents made it worse by saying, ‘you’re useless’, and never gave Sandy encouragement.
2. “It’s too hard!”

The probable reason you think this is maybe twofold.  First, it is that your past experience involves failure. You tried – and failed. You never did well in tests and your end-of-school exams are better forgotten. Second, the subject matter is unfamiliar to you and what is unfamiliar often looks daunting. We’ll deal with this in detail on another page, but try this true story example:
-    Here’s a bunch of students taking ‘Law’ for the first time. They are all builders and surveyors and, surely, ‘Law is for clever people isn’t it?  After all lawyers are clever people aren’t they!’  In their first lecture their tutor doesn’t try to persuade them. He just gets them in small groups to imagine they are survivors from a nuclear holocaust and they have got to try and recreate an orderly society. They have to decide who is going to make the laws from their new, reduced society, why they should need such laws, and on what basis they will decide them. An hour later they all share their thoughts and realise that laws or rules are simply what society has to enable it to work well, and they are no longer fearful of that word ‘Law’. That tutor was me and I did it for seventeen years and saw the same thing very year. Seeing it from a different perspective makes it suddenly easier.
3. “There’s too much to learn!”

If you feel this, it just means you haven’t yet learned various simple techniques for handling the information in your brain. Anyone can do it. We’ll talk about this in detail on another page.

-  I’ve given this example elsewhere on this site but it bears repeating. With those same ‘law students’, when it came to the end of the year I challenged them to see how much they could jot down in note form of the year’s syllabus by way of revision – there was a lot there! They all protested against it, so I talked to them about ‘triggers’. Starting with a large clean wall-mounted blackboard, I simply wrote the word, “Law” at the top in the centre. I then created a skeleton ‘family tree’ with seven spikes down from the first horizontal line. “So what are the main topic areas we’ve covered?” I asked. They promptly gave them to me and they went on the board. “OK, so let’s just take the first one (more lines and spikes), what did we cover in that?”  More immediate answers. Within half an hour the blackboard was filled with the entire syllabus – in detail!  Yes, it’s just about learning to get overviews of it all  and using memory triggers.
4. “I don’t know what to learn, where to start!”

Well let’s be simple about this. You are likely to want to learn something because:
a) you like it and want to know more about it, (e.g. flower arranging or woodwork),
b) it would be useful to you (e.g. learning Spanish to make going on holiday in Spain a better experience), or
c) you need it for a job (e.g. how to write a CV, or how to widen your computing skills)

Assuming you have left school, those examples are all things you can learn with the help of a local Adult Learning Centre.
5. “I’m rubbish at following through!”

This probably means you’ve started things in the past but gave up on them along the way. Again there are probably two reasons for that:
a) you chose a topic that was too hard and
b) you were too ambitious, trying to do too much to start with.

The follow-on suggestion has got to be, choose something, first of all at least, that is fairly short and simple(!!!) and then work slowly at it in small bits, not moving on until you are confident in what you have learnt so far. Again we’ll deal with this in detail on another page.
So, just in case I drop some recap questions on you in the next page, scroll up over this page again and scan over the few things we’ve said here.  When you’ve done that, you’re ready for page 3.

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Back to page 1 - “Why become a Learner”

On to page 3 - “Looking at who you are”