You all pushed. Do something for you for your “birthday.” It will be good for you. So I did. I left the hospital and did something for me.
I went to class.
I enrolled in school. I’m going to go every Tuesday night. I’m back in school.
Back at home.
Steve came with me. He wanted to come. This was not an easy thing to pull off. Jacob while on Chemo needs a lot of support, but we pulled it off. Both of us in one place at the same time. Steve sat still for 2 hours. Listening to a lecture. This is not usually something he is capable of. Steve sat! He wasn’t even shaking his leg and checking his phone as he does in parent-teacher conferences or I imagine him doing in his “Monday meetings.” Always waiting to leave. To get to his colored blocks on his schedule. To do. Not to listen.
But, my Steve, was calm and listened for two hours.
I know it may seem like an odd birthday choice. After sitting/living in a hospital for weeks, I choose my first two hours with my husband to be a lecture. Sitting all day to sit again. Taking class, which for most people is the opposite of fun. Not attempting to go out for dinner, go workout, get my nails done or at least a drink date with my husband. Instead, I used this precious time to go to class.
It’s my birthday and I can learn if I want to.
And it was exactly what I wanted to do. Learn. Learn on my birthday.
I went to the class that I always thought about taking but never did. It was a topic that I got a glimpse of once in my late 20’s, but then abandoned, like most things in life that don’t fit perfectly into your schedule. Life was too busy for such things.
So I took that class. You know that one thing you always wanted to know but never gave the time for. Maybe its a pottery class for you? A rock climbing class? Quantum physics? French? I went to my version of that.
And I really enjoyed sitting in a room with strangers. All strangers with one thing in common, we all came to learn. We all came to question. No one knew my story. Just another “kid” in a backpack.
I learned a lot in the class, but like all good classes, it wasn’t from the front of the room, it was from the sides of it.
I think learning is just as much about the who than the what is being taught, or even the why. This is a big statement for me. Even contradicting.
I’ve spent my entire career focusing on the why. Understanding the WHY is the basis of all learning. You can talk all about the right angles (the “what) to a student all day long. Until you are blue in the face. Some will entertain you and listen, take notes, and will regurgitate that information for you in some test or paper a week later, but they will never learn it.
Mastery only can happen when the WHY comes first. If you don’t tell someone the reason what they are learning, it has no meaning. We are all driven by desire, a desire to fulfill our needs and if we can’t understand how it benefits us, then we just go into robot mode and take notes to preoccupy the mind, and for some of you, you just shut down and fill your heads with more exciting visions. Some people call you ADD.
But I’m rethinking this whole idea. I still agree the WHY is important, but the WHO may go first.
The teacher is the ultimate who, but Sally and Jim can who sit next to you can also play an essential role, if not equal in some ways. Don’t get me wrong, the teacher is paramount. A good teacher is important to learning. However, every good teacher knows that the magic of learning is within the whole group. The community built of strangers. The group of random kids that become “starfish” or “Group 504.” The very act of creating the community is learning in itself.
A teaching method that sums this up is the “Harkness” table where students sit in a circle instead of at rows or group tables. A circle has no beginning nor end. There is no obvious seat for the “teacher” and thus you all become teachers. Your peers will teach you just as much as the one with the “answers.” The questions from your peers will be most likely the impactful ones. The things you were thinking but didn’t know you were thinking. As my dear friend and incredible educator, David Dunbar, calls the DKDK zone. The zone where you learn what you didn’t know you didn’t know.That happened to me twice last night. Someone asking a question that I didn’t even know I had.
The learning happens in the center, center of that circle. The learning happens when the collective group focuses on one thing. The power of that moment.
So I sat down in that room next to strangers of all walks of life. Different sizes and different shapes. I sat next to a man who lost both of his parents and two siblings to cancer. One could say this is a coincidence, but I’m keeping track…I’ve written down every random person I have been placed next to recently. All of the strangers that I meet to get things for Jacob (pizza, waffle fries, you name it) and I learn their stories. I don’t ask for them, with the exception of twice. But its as if they know they need to tell me something. And it’s not about me. It’s about them and THEN they tell me something a bit special that is hard to put into words. As each has been so unique. So different.
And then someone walked into the room. Someone I know, but not really. Not a close friend, we have only met once, but I have spent time with his wife. Both being people I’ve always respected from afar. Someone trying to make the world a better place. And this acquaintance and I are only connected through Jacob. Totally random, but not random.
That is what I’m finding. I’m finding the totally random, not random.
I’m learning that there are no such things as coincidences. And that is a hard pill to swallow. Especially when you have two family members diagnosed with rare cancers in one family. It is a BIG and chocking pill. And I’m still chocking on it.
But these acts are confirming.
They are certaining. That’s not a word. I know, but it is now.
I am taking “certain” and making it move.
I am making it a verb, because it is an active process.