It’s the end of the first week of semester for me as a lecturer, and almost the beginning of semester for me as a student.
A range of emotions course through me when I allow myself to think about being a student: excitement (yay, I’m going to be learning about writing), and trepidation (I’m going to be learning about writing, and I’ll have to write, and I don’t like writing … except that I do, just not journal articles and conference papers). I read a little from my textbook on writing and realise that I’m doing it all wrong.
I don’t give myself enough time, I expect it to be perfect as I type it, I am impatient for the right words and want them to be the first words that emerge rather than the fifth or seventeenth. I want the ideas to tumble out of me as soon as I sit down to write, and that they will tumble in a logical order. I want insightful, inventive, wow-that’s-an-interesting/humorous/creative/original-way-of-saying-that, phrases and thoughts to roll directly from my imagination to my fingers without the need for agonising over each word, each idea, each choice I know I need to make.
I want it to be easy.
I expect it to be easy.
And then I realise/remember/am reminded that writing is a skill, a process, something to practice and develop, something to take time over, something to learn. And learning is a process – I told my students that last week during Orientation – it takes time and energy and commitment and can be frustrating and challenging and emotional and downright painful. Whoever said learning is fun needs to be sat down and given a good talking to! It isn’t fun. It’s hard. And it’s work. (But obviously worth doing.)
So, I’m feeling in two minds at the moment: me the teacher/me the learner.
As the teacher, I wrote a unit outline for my students, re-worked the learning outcomes, designed the assessment tasks, wrote introductions to each section of the textbook I put together from other people’s works, articulated my teaching philosophy, made my expectations clear, designed my online unit in a particular way (a way that is clear to understand, clear to work through, clear to follow).
Or so I thought.
As a learner, reading a unit outline that someone else has written puts a different slant on the idea of clear. I know what’s in my head (most of the time) and so my unit outline is clear to me. I read it and know what I mean. But I don’t yet know what is in my lecturers’ heads and so I read the unit outlines for the two units in which I’m enrolled and things are not immediately clear to me.
Questions buzz like wasps: where is; what is meant by; when do I; who will; where do I find; how can I; when should I; who should I; how does; why …?
They’re the questions of anxiety which can quickly morph into frustration if the answers don’t come immediately.
There are other kinds of questions though. Questions of excitement and exploration: I wonder how; I wonder who; I wonder when; I wonder what …?
Maybe I should start asking those questions. That would require me to step back, take a few deep breaths, know that I don’t have to do everything (all the readings, all the assignments, all the learning) in my first week. I can give myself permission to learn rather than to worry; I can take my time knowing that learning will happen if I relax a little, ease the tension, free up some space in my mind from the anxiety and allow the curiosity and excitement I know is there to overtake the fear and trepidation.
There are plenty of things I don’t know in relation to the units I’m studying – but that’s why I’m studying: to find out. To learn. To be in that place of not knowing and know that it’s okay to be there. To know that over time, and with commitment and application, I will know.
Over time …
Note to self: learning is a process.
Let the process begin!