The posts over the last week or so have been very reflective and have helped me to not only think about our readings, but “see” my classmates. Parts of my own narrative keep pushing to the surface (I keep pushing them back down). Anytime one is pushed to examine theory in light of experience things get stirred up. Then the quotes Susan added this week intensified my own reflective mood. So, please indulge me a bit of my own narrative – my reflection on my road to becoming an “expert learner.”
Expert learner is a term I picked up some time back, I can’t tell you where, but it stuck with me. I thought “ah” that is me. Often when asked about my “area of scholarship” I fumble. But this term has allowed me to express exactly what I do – I learn – expertly. Before you judge that statement, let me frame it for you.
Change was the only constant of my childhood. I am the oldest of six on my mother’s side. At age seventeen I found I had a few more siblings by my father. The final count was 10 half-siblings (5 on each side) and 2 step sisters. This gives a peek into lack of stability and the need to constantly adapt to surrounding environments. The thing that has had the most impact, though, was my erratic school attendance. Until age 13, I never attended a single school more than a few months. We moved a lot. I can remember once not attending school at all for two months – around age 11. I loved school. It was the most dependable thing in my life. I worked hard to adapt to every new environment- new teacher and expectations. I was a straight A student. And I was a chameleon, taking on the environment, surveying, adapting, honing in on what needed to be learned quickly in order to survive.
My younger siblings did not fare so well to the constant upheaval, except for one younger sister and I would consider her an “expert learner” too. At age 15, I entered foster care and learned that system. Out of the system and on my own at 17, I tried, unsuccessfully, to return to the 11th grade – 3 times in that year. It is hard to reconcile making a living with going to school. At 18, I entered a two-week GED prep program, obtained my GED and the rest is history, so to speak.
I look back and wonder how things might have been different, sometimes. But I don’t stay there long; I have gained certain abilities that serve me well. I am an expert learner. I can learn anything I have the desire to learn. I am experiencing a certain rest these days, realizing I don’t have to “prove” that anymore. I like that.
I have seen a couple of commercials recently where two chameleons are trying to decide which color of paint to choose. The female changes color with each swatch she steps on and I smile to myself, thinking back. (My subtitle for this post was going to something like “the chameleon qualities of the expert learner” but I resisted.)
“Constant problematizing of their existential situations,” embodied learning, tacit learning, naming and framing the world, temporality… agency. I have the T-shirt.
Thanks for reading, Susan.