Today’s post was born as a personal reflection after analyzing several situations in my inner circle and myself. Today I would like to talk about a serious problem that we can find in every teaching–learning process and that is usually overlooked:
the fear of learning
This issue has nothing to do with any pursued pedagogical strategy or the platform used and it affects all of us, often without being aware of it, limiting us in our personal and professional development.
I must confess that the trigger for this article comes from a personal experience I had yesterday. I started going to the gym at the age of 31, a strange and unknown world for this writer. My trainer, in my first supervised session, made me exercise with an experienced person, and I experienced first-hand the feeling of fear or intimidation I’m referring to, and that you may have felt identified with some time.
Fear of learning. As a pedagogue myself that is able to analyze the well-reasoned decision, the first reply that I make when the instructor asks me how the session went is: “You’re crazy, how could you do that?”. The first thing that came to mind, as they say.
I remember that my cultural management teacher once told us about a study that analyzed the reason why people had never gone to the theater or the opera. Do you know one of the main reasons drawn from the conclusions? Those people felt self-conscious for fear of making a fool of themselves in an unfamiliar environment. The fear of not knowing the codes of conduct, procedures, and other sets of unwritten “rules” that other people have internalized.
So, what is limiting many people is not a matter of money, time, or interest, but of something much deeper, as is the fear of ridicule. Interesting, isn’t it?
Now think about how a person can overcome that fear of learning. Asking someone who is a regular at the opera or theater seems like a sensible idea, but we’re back to the same problem: how can I ask something that seems so basic?
Fortunately, the Internet has solved many of these limiting factors. The peace of mind of being able to access information on any subject provides us with a huge safety net. Nothing is truer than “someone has already asked before what you’re wondering about now”. Besides, we can always ask on social networks, forums… without having to do it face-to-face.
I have talked about my experience at the gym and a study on cultural consumption, but these situations happen constantly and they can’t always be solved with a Google search: students left with doubts because they think their question might get perceived as too elementary, people who don’t dare to experiment with technology because they think they might break something, those who don’t practice sports because they think they are too old, those who don’t dare to learn a new language because they don’t know how to pronounce it correctly, and so on and so forth.
Another prime example is that of a friend of mine who is just starting with her driving lessons:
- They keep honking at me.
- I just can’t coordinate the pedals.
- I can’t see anything, there are too many things going on at the same time.
If you have your driver’s license, you know what I’m talking about, because we’ve ALL gone through the same thing. However, we still go through the stress that limits and blocks us every time we face a learning challenge in an unfamiliar context for us. Isn’t it contradictory? We fail to learn because it affects us not knowing how to do what we are learning to do. BOOM!
I am sorry to announce that I don’t have a solution to this issue, but I would like to give you a series of reflections that I think we all should remember in those frustrating moments:
Embrace the learning process
Learning something new is one of the most incredible feelings we as humans get to experience. Learning to walk, learning to read, learning to ride a bike… They were all difficult processes, but they made us reach a new dimension. Learning is a great opportunity that opens up new possibilities and that’s how we should see it. Learning by suffering is very complicated…
Be proud of your progress
Focus on everything that you have improved, on everything that you have learned that you didn’t know about not so long ago. There is surely much to improve and learn, but today you are better than yesterday, and that should be a source of pride and your fuel to keep learning.
Failing is part of the learning process. Trial and error, that’s how mankind’s greatest discoveries have been made. You will fail. Many times. Analyze the reasons for your mistake and after repeating a few times (because that’s how we work), you will have learned your lesson.
Nobody was born wise
Not even the most virtuous person. Some people are better at some tasks that others, but NOBODY is born wise. Accept it and don’t compare yourself with the most experienced person.
Trust your teacher/instructor/professor…
Learn from the most experienced people. They are the ones that best can guide and advise you about your fear of learning.
Ask, do your research, look for information
Whether it’s on the internet, to a colleague, to a teacher… If you have a doubt or a concern, don’t keep it in and take advantage of it to learn.
Accept corrections and criticism
Closely related to the previous points. Most probably, other people have already gone through the same obstacles that are in your way, and they can help you avoid falling into them.
Never make fun of anybody
Treat others as you want to be treated. Easy, isn’t it?
When you become the most experienced person, offer to help others. You can surely learn a lot from their doubts and other areas that this person masters and you don’t.
Shame Won’t Get You Anywhere
You mother or grandmother might have told you that at some point. Keep it in mind.