At school, I studied Earth Science for a year and it was a dreadful experience.
Why? Because I had a faulty notepad. An exercise book that wouldn’t let me write in pen. None of my pens would work in the book.
I pleaded for another exercise book, but the teacher wouldn’t allow it.
I resorted to writing in pencil, which the teacher reprimanded me for.
I reminded my teacher that the book had a strange dislike for ink, which I demonstrated a number of times. I was told to get another pen. That didn’t work and I continued to demonstrate the problem with other pens.
Yet no new notebook came.
I struggled in the lessons and quickly switched off. A subject that interested me (as most subjects did at the time) quickly became a boring frustration that left me cold.
From that point, most areas of science bothered me. I didn’t realise what was happening at the time.
All this because I had a rubbish notepad.
The importance of attitude
Had my book been accidentally covered in an ink-repelling substance? And why was my teacher so fixed on denying me a new book to write in? Week after week, I was told off for using pencil or for having scrappy handwriting on the odd occasion I desperately tried to make a pen work. Rather than issue another book, the teacher continued to see me as the problem.
This debacle is my overarching memory of the subject. It pointlessly shaped my childhood attitude towards the sciences…well, that and some rather unfortunate teaching methods by another teacher in my first year. But that’s for another time!
Attitude is important. My attitude markedly changed. I gave up. I felt I had exhausted all possible avenues.
Children rarely explore a large number of solutions. Resilient and opinionated we can be as kids, our lack of experience stops us from taking a wider view of what can be done to change a situation.
Looking back, I could have done so much more to sort out the problem. But as a 12 year old? I felt I had already gone much further than a child is reasonably expected to reach. Questioning a teacher’s decisions, proving the point to the extent of getting classmates to try (and subsequently fail) writing in the book, and asking for a new book in every lesson.
Unrelated learning blocks are still blocks waiting to be unblocked
As a result, my interest in sciences practically flat-lined. I continued to participate and pass tests, but I only did what was necessary and I did it with little enthusiasm.
It took years to recover from the situation. Now the experience serves as a reminder that it only takes one seemingly unrelated issue to change attitudes for the worst.
I use this story from my past to consider my current attitudes toward learning. When I face a situation I don’t like, I assess the bigger picture. I think about what is getting in my way, how I could improve the situation, and why I’m struggling to make positive progress.
It may not be a faulty exercise book. It could be the learning environment, it could be that I’ve started at the wrong level to suit my understanding, it could be a tutor or a textbook that doesn’t speak directly to me, it could be all sorts of things.
Sometimes the block isn’t directly linked to what you are studying. But while it’s blocking you, even an indirect link is damaging. Don’t stop looking for the problems getting in the way of your progress.
What surprising blocks affect your attitude to learning? How will you conquer them and achieve the capacity and capability you know you could otherwise achieve?