Tuesday, 2 June 2015
Nearly 10 years after finishing my university degree in theatre in the USA, I am putting myself once again through the 4-year-plus ordeal of acquiring a second degree, in a completely unrelated field, here in Uruguay (physiotherapy).
In that 10 year span I wasn’t idle either. From 2009 to 2011 I put myself through three years of Alexander Technique teacher training and got certified in Pilates Method.
Hence, I know a thing or two about being a student… and what it does to you. I am also prone to forget what I know if I don’t remind myself about it.
With that in mind, I am putting those nuggets of wisdom in writing. These are my 5 key reminders for psychophysical survival and enjoyment as a student. They have carried me through 15 years of studying in different countries and settings (both public and private), through different approaches to learning, in different group sizes and with widely varying resources. They count for both long training courses to short one-hour lessons, and everything in between.
1. Find your “deep why” to channel your energy and drive you on.
Your “deep why” is your dharma, your calling, that thing that sets your soul on fire. Being a student is tough, especially when you also juggle a working-life and family-life. When the going gets really hard it’s tempting to just call it quits. Your “deep why” will carry you through those rough patches.
2. Make peace with how things are to husband your energy and keep you sane.
Learning situations are never ideal; one or several factors are usually not up to standard. Be clear about what you want to get out of this learning situation, why you chose the institution, teacher, venue (or whatever), and use that clarity to separate the chaff from the straw. Once in the learning situation don’t waste energy in pursuits that don’t fulfill your deep why (like complaining that things are not ideal).
3. Know your habitual patterns to avoid wasting energy and losing track of your true goal.
We all have student-personas. Different learning scenarios (study groups, exams, one-on-ones, etc.) will trigger full psychophysical reactions and you might find yourself acting like a high-school adolescent all over again. Know yourself and be prepared to inhibit your desire to “be cool”, or "be perfect", (or whatever) and direct your energy towards actions that truly fulfill your deep why.
4. Empty your glass that you might taste your teacher’s wine.
If you’ve been around for a while you’re probably already full of your own ideas about how things are (or should be). But if you’re so full of your own wine, you’ll never get a taste of your neighbour’s. So, regardless of how much you think you know about the subject, don’t fight the teacher (unless, of course, they are directly attacking you). After all, it’s you who chose to learn from them. So be humble and listen to their point of view. Try to understand what frame of thought they come from, why and how it works when it works, and how it relates to your way of thinking about it.
5. Involve yourself psychophysically that you might make your own synthesis.
Learning is simultaneously a sensual, emotional, social and mental pursuit. To get the most out of your learning bring your whole self into the matter, immerse yourself psychophysically and socially. And after full immersion take time to create your own synthesis, force yourself to elaborate your map of the subject matter. Only then will it become an integral part of you.
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