Saturday, 3 May 2014

School, Anxiety, and the Yo-Yo

What does yo-yoing have to with school and learning? What is the point of these passion projects? I could write a lot in answer to these questions, but I'll try to stick to one point for this post. Passion projects help remind us that the learning process involves mistakes.

No one picks up a yo-yo and expects to perform amazing tricks flawlessly on the first try. Rookies with a yo-yo expect to try and fail many times before they successfully perform a trick, and even after they perform it, they are not surprised or devastated if they don't nail it every time they attempt it. Often we seem to take a much different approach to learning in school.

Sometimes (often?) in school we fear mistakes, forgetting that they are an integral part of learning. There are many reasons for this, and I don't want to get into them all at the moment, but I think it is clear that fear of mistakes exist in school and that this fear often gets in the way of learning. Recognizing this is an important step to removing fear as an obstacle.

Notice that I said, "removing fear as an obstacle, not removing fear entirely. Learning something new almost always comes with some fear, but that fear doesn't need to prevent you from learning if you recognize it as a normal part of the process. If we can embrace experimentation and mistakes as part of learning in school in the same way we do when learning a skill like yo-yoing, then the quality and quantity of our learning will great improve.

Think about times in your life when you've been nervous to try something, but you did it anyway and experienced something great. You jumped off the high dive, learned to ride a motorcycle, uncovered a love for art or geometry, discovered the scrumptiousness of sushi. Want another example? Check out Sarah's success in overcoming anxiety and finding new and improved learning as she practices the ancient art of yo-yoing. Anxiety, mistakes, and nerves are part of doing almost anything worthwhile. Understanding, and even embracing, them will help ensure that you learn, persevere, and succeed.