Last week I was again asked the question “When am I ever going to use this in latter life” At the time, my students were wrestling with evaluative essay structure. Specifically the student who posed this relevancy question was seeking a reason why he should learn how to use a knowledge of language techniques to evaluate a text. He earnestly sought to comprehend how understanding the effect of similes and metaphors would help in ‘real world’ situations. My answer was simple, even accountants need to use their understanding of ‘language’ in order to evaluate. I then drew on the board my rendering of axons and dendrites and the synapses in between. Unfortunately my drawing skills leave a lot to the imagination, and while hilarity at the possible explanations of what they were looking at temporarily diverted the class, we were eventually able to discuss how learning created connections within the brain which may be called upon for future use.
I have previously posted on the importance of learning how to learn. This time I want to highlight how learning skills in one area (specifically the skill of identifying and interpreting evidence) may be applied to different fields. The importance here is not the evidence (or in this case the similes and metaphors) but rather developing the ability to offer reasoned evaluation.
It is of tantamount importance that this is understood. It is the skills, we learn at school which are important. These physical processes are much more significant than the content itself. Content is easily accessed through modern technology, and it changes rapidly. It is therefore vital that students learn flexibility of thought. They need to appreciate and embrace change in order to survive our rapid paced world.
One way to achieve this is to feel secure in the face of change. Experiencing security within a maelstrom of change may seem like a misnomer to some, yet it is more likely to be achieved if a person has confidence in their evaluative skills. Why? Because being confident in your ability to consider evidence and propose your own ideas allows you to remain in control of your thoughts and actions. Importantly it provides choices and reasons for making that choice. It is these tangible reasonings that provide handholds of security. It provides an environment for success. Fear is the enemy of achievement; fear is the demon which thwarts the desire to move forward into unknown territories. Yet feelings of security banish fear.
Einstein defined ‘stupid’ as repeating the same action over and over in the expectation of a different result. How often have you found yourself repeating past actions in the hope that this time, it will be different? Do you date similar people, only to have your heart broken each time? Do you hand in essays following the same structure, expecting a better mark, only to find you have again received a fraction of what you thought the essay was worth? Why? Could it be that a fear of attempting something new binds you to familiar patterns?
Recently a friend lent me her copy of a short metaphorical book by Dr Spencer Johnson entitled Who Moved My Cheese? Contained within its pages was a short narrative about 2 mice and 2 ‘little people’ forced to cope with a change to their access to resources (cheese). The mice, pragmatically and determinedly adapted to their changed circumstances and went in search of new supplies. Similarly, one of the little people, as a result of recognising and confronting his fears, developed a new flexibility which yielded positive results. The other little person, kept returning to the same empty room, each time with the same expectation, and each time discovering, nothing. This book is definitely worth reading. It is short, simple and obvious. Its metaphorical message is clear, success is much easier with a willingness to adapt and embrace change.
Schools are an appropriate place to learn a positive response to change since they are where teenagers spend so much of their time ‘changing’. So, next time you wonder why am I learning this? Think, I am learning to evaluate so I may approach ‘change’ with confidence.